Tag Archives: Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

BRE schedules Workshop to explore reduction of false fire alarms

Across the past 12 months, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) has been working with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to investigate the underlying causes of false fire alarms. The live investigations of false fire alarms research work is now complete and a briefing paper detailing the findings is available from www.bre.co.uk/firedetectionresearch.

The work has identified 35 recommendations for nine Stakeholder Groups that could lead towards a reduction in UK false alarms.

With the support of the Fire Industry Association and BAFE, the BRE is now scheduled to host a Workshop aimed at promoting the study’s findings, and is inviting key individuals that will adopt the recommendations from the Briefing Paper and reduce false alarms in their sector.

The Workshop is being held at the BRE’s Watford site on Monday 8 February. The overriding aim is to discuss and develop actionable methods for implementing the research findings as quickly as possible.

“Over the past ten years we’ve seen a reduction in false alarms,” stated Raman Chagger, principal consultant in fire detection at the BRE. “However, this is starting to plateau. The Workshop is aimed at reducing the more difficult false alarm causes.”

*For further detail send an e-mail to: conferences@bre.co.uk

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Scottish Fire Stations opt for C-TEC’s EN54-4 power supplies to support remote monitoring of systems

C-TEC’s VdS-certified EN54-4 power supplies are performing a vital task at 22 fire stations north of the border.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service called on Safe Services to install CSL DualCom fire units powered up by C-TEC’s BF360-24 power supplies to add remote monitoring to fire systems at its stations. As a result, any faults are now reported to a 24-hour Alarm Receiving Centre to ensure additional protection at the sites located across the Scottish Borders, West and East Lothian.

Graeme Millar (director at Safe Services, a Galashiels-based SP203-1 accredited company) commented: “As fire legislation in most European countries now states any power supply performing a mandatory function of a fire alarm system must comply with EN54-4/A2, C-TEC’s power supplies were the obvious choice for this project.”
C-TEC is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of life safety electronic systems including fire alarm control panels, detectors, call systems, disabled refuge systems, induction loop amplifiers and power supplies.

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What does the future hold for Fire and Rescue Services?

Everyone engaged in the Fire and Rescue sector will be acutely aware that fundamental changes are already taking place to the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services, prompted largely by the need to deliver a more cost-effective service, reports the Fire Industry Association.

What’s clear is that the Fire and Rescue Services’ collective mode of operation will be very different in just a few years’ time than it is now, and that several key strands of this evolution will be determined by a co-operative partnership between the Fire and Rescue Services and the suppliers to the sector.

Following the publication of Sir Ken Knight’s ‘Facing The Future’ report in 2013, which highlighted a number of options for change, central Government has made clear its support for some strands of the thesis detailed including collaborative procurement, infrastructure sharing, mergers and a greater proportion of on-call fire fighters.

Material support has come from Government in the form of a £75 million ‘transformation fund’ that has been apportioned towards 37 efficiency-generating projects and, within this, £5.5 million to help fund the forthcoming merger of the Wiltshire and Dorset Fire and Rescue Services.

What has been apparent for some time, however, is that change is to be sector-driven and delivered and that this truism will require fire-fighting equipment suppliers to be fully engaged in relevant aspects of the evolution.

Sir Ken Knight

Sir Ken Knight

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and FIRESA Council earlier this year has proven timely. Among the commitments that have already been realised was the convening of a joint seminar that has provided an indispensable focal point for the collaboration of fire and rescue practitioners with their product and service providers.

Taking place at the Fire Service College on 2 December, the seminar allowed delegates to enjoy an informative and thought-provoking agenda that brought the salient issues into focus and will empower both Fire and Rescue Service personnel and industry suppliers to be active participants in the future of our Fire and Rescue Services.

Chaired by CFOA president Peter Dartford, the programme began with a welcome from the host, Fire Service College CEO Jez Smith, who set the background for the day, duly noting the need for avoidance of duplication among the Fire and Rescue Services and the creation of economies of scale wherever possible.

The Fire Service College itself has a vital role to play in partnership with other stakeholders, and Smith called for bold leadership within the Fire and Rescue Services that will challenge existing disparate practices.

New ways of thinking and resourcing

Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt provided the Keynote Address, welcoming the CFOA/FIRESA Council Memorandum of Understanding before stating that the public sector has to exist within its means and that there must be new ways of thinking and resourcing.

Mordaunt is adamant that the need for change is overwhelming and that the pace of change must gather momentum and address issues such as product standardisation, collaborative procurement and equipment testing through the CFOA/FIRESA Council axis.

Penny Mordaunt MP

Penny Mordaunt MP

The MP also touched on Fire and Rescue Service personnel issues such as on-call fire-fighters and volunteers, and also looked to the fire protection industry to continue driving down the number of unwanted automatic fire alarm signals.

CFOA vice-president Paul Hancock encapsulated the theme of the day in his presentation entitled ‘The Importance of Working Together’, voicing strong support not just for Fire and Rescue Service collaboration but also for ‘Blue Light’ cross fertilisation (which we know to be a longer term vision of the present coalition Government).

Hancock suggested that, with less than half of the austerity measures currently implemented, the way ahead will require close working partnerships that promote a clear vision with or without direct Government involvement.

CFOA Board member Ann Millington offered a strident and entertaining view on procurement in the future, conceding that the Fire and Rescue Services need to be better clients and grasp opportunities to work together. The Fire and Rescue Services, said Millington, must achieve reward for collaboration rather than for separatism.

Importantly, Millington welcomed the creation of a ‘national back office’ that presently enjoys representation from 30 Fire and Rescue Services.

Ann Millington is firmly behind product standardisation, greater visibility of equipment innovation requirements and a whole new approach to procurement that begins with agreed specifications and proceeds towards tender with sufficiently flexible contracts via a lead authority for each product type.

In Anne’s words, repetition of these processes over 46 Fire and Rescue Services is immoral. Indeed, Millington was especially scathing of the ever-growing number of contract providers and the duplicate frameworks that emerge which are so costly and time-consuming for suppliers to address.

Creation and development of strategic partnerships

Pivotal to the proceedings was the presentation from the suppliers’ perspective given by FIRESA Council’s chairman Derek Gotts and vice-chairman Ian Callaghan. Following an introduction to the composition and work of Council, Gotts noted its primary objectives which focus on strategic partnerships with CFOA and the Fire and Rescue Services, the Fire Sector Federation, the Fire Service College, central and local Government in addition to a range of event organisers.

Gotts then moved on to the suppliers’ experience of the market over the last ten years which has seen the ultimately failing National Procurement Strategy (introduced by the then ODPM in 2005), through the austerity measures since 2010 and via Sir Ken Knight’s report to the present time of tangible moves to make substantive changes that must preserve Fire and Rescue Service capabilities with less financial resource in play.

The National Procurement Strategy brought uncertainty and a hiatus in orders and, contrary to its intentions, led to a market that sees a growing profusion of frameworks and tenders, mini competitions and framework call-offs that are as onerous as new tenders. What remains is a disjointed approach comprising elements of regional and local procurement. There’s clear evidence of duplication in many aspects of the Fire and Rescue Service/supplier interface and unnecessary waste in terms of both personnel and financial resource that must be rectified.

Graham Ellicott: CEO at the Fire Industry Association

Graham Ellicott: CEO at the Fire Industry Association

Ian Callaghan went on to detail the FIRESA Council/CFOA Memorandum of Understanding and some specific issues that Council wishes to address, among them support for product innovation, collaborative procurement (including visibility of medium-to-long term requirements), equipment specification and standardisation and remaining influential in coalition and opposition fire safety policy stretching to proposals for joint ‘Blue Light’ operations.

In particular, Callaghan emphasised the equipment evaluation scheme which seeks to eliminate what is a frankly ludicrous situation, and a prime example of duplication whereby each Fire and Rescue Service carries out its own independent assessments. Backed by output-based national specifications, suppliers envisage an open and transparent model that’s divorced from any specific procurement processes and, importantly, is dynamic, in turn enabling modified and new equipment to be evaluated as required.

Perhaps headed by a Technical Committee and with work carried out by product type by appropriate lead organisations, the aim is to establish a library of rigorous test reports that, rather than promoting a ‘winner takes all’ link to procurement, enables each Fire and Rescue Service to reach its own judgement on its preferred product from a technical and users’ standpoint.

Perspective from local Government

An Open Forum following the morning session proved lively and impassioned. While it’s not possible to recount the discussions in detail here, what became evident to all in attendance is that if, being in the real world, there will be significant challenges in getting to that better place we anticipate, there’s both the will and the vision to lead us there.

The agenda for the afternoon began with Councillor Mark Healey of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee offering a local Government perspective and a fascinating view on the realities of what the Authorities have to do in response to funding cuts. He suggested that a lack of central Government direction has created a policy vacuum that’s being filled with individual solutions.

Healey’s Devon and Somerset Fire Authority enjoys a good relationship with its Fire and Rescue Service and has already made a number of changes, including moving towards more on-call fire fighters, investing in light rescue pumps and, following the merger, making long term revenue-generating use of its unoccupied sites.

Given the likelihood of further Fire and Rescue Service mergers in the future, the address from ACO Robert Scott of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service proved an invaluable insight into the amalgamation of the previously separate services north of the border.

While its capital budget has grown from £15 million to over £22 million (although VAT can no longer be reclaimed), there were significant criteria attached to the merger including no front line redundancies or station closures, no alterations to personnel Terms and Conditions and no carry-over of financial reserves.

Scott was able to report, however, that many duplications have been eliminated and that the combined Fire and Rescue Service is proceeding with future business planning and restructuring that will achieve further efficiencies. His message to the audience was that, while the positions of the English and Welsh Fire and Rescue Services were their own to evaluate and respond to as they see fit, they would do well to shape their own futures before Government imposes its will upon them.

David Matthews, a renowned expert in the field of global standards in fire and rescue, offered an appraisal of the current position and called vehemently for greater Fire and Rescue Service involvement in the various Standards Committees.

The formal programme was completed by CFO Paul Fuller who spoke of the work of the Fire Sector Federation (which is achieving notable outputs through its various work streams).

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BAFE supports Scottish Fire and Rescue Service research on causes of false fire alarms

A multi-agency partnership is set to study the causes of false alarms from fire alarm systems in buildings and their frequency of occurrence which will result in proposed solutions being developed to prevent recurrences in the future.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is teaming up with partners from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE), the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the CBRE Group, CS Todd & Associates, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and Glasgow City Council to undertake this groundbreaking research.

Due to the universal nature of fire alarm systems, the outcomes of this work will have the potential to impact within the UK and across Europe, including the possibility of influencing future standards and Codes of Practice in respect of automatic fire alarm systems.

Fire-fighters throughout the UK are frequently called to attend incidents resulting from false alarms generated by fire detection and suppression systems usually installed within commercial premises and often monitored remotely. The cost of these unwanted false alarm signals to both businesses and Fire and Rescue Services is estimated to be around £1 billion per annum.

Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) Lewis Ramsay, director of prevention and protection at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Unwanted false alarm signals are a significant issue for Fire and Rescue Services so it’s important we join with our partners to see them reduced. The scale of the problem is clear. Over the past three years Scotland’s fire-fighters have been called to in excess of 100,000 such incidents, which equates to over 40% of all the incidents we attend. Not only is there a substantial financial cost attached to this but attending needless incidents also means fire-fighters and resources are taken away from their communities.”

Ramsay outlined: “In a real emergency every second counts. The time taken for fire-fighters to travel to a house fire, a road traffic collision or any other incident can be absolutely crucial when it comes to saving the lives of people in danger. By working together with our partners we can gather information on the common causes of false alarms and identify approaches to reduce the number that occur.”

Each unwanted false alarm signal costs businesses around £2,900 with an estimated £300 burden also falling on the Fire and Rescue Service.

A multi-agency partnership is to study the causes of false alarms from fire alarm systems in buildings and their frequency of occurrence

A multi-agency partnership is to study the causes of false alarms from fire alarm systems in buildings and their frequency of occurrence

Benefits of automatic fire alarm systems

As well as researching false alarms, the project will also promote the benefits of having automatic fire alarm systems installed in buildings. This will be done by studying fires where systems have detected them and raised the alarm. Such occurrences will be used to highlight the benefits of automatic fire alarm systems in alerting people to safely evacuate buildings and summoning assistance from the Fire and Rescue Service such that fires can be tackled in their early stages, thereby reducing the damage caused.

The project will involve two Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Watch Managers seconded from Glasgow’s group of Fire Safety Enforcement Officers who will work alongside a fire alarm industry expert to gather live intelligence on incidents that involve the actuation of fire alarm systems. In this regard the project is unique, as previous studies have involved the use of historical data.

Glasgow was chosen as the focus area for the project as the city is considered to be geographically suitable and has a sufficient number of incidents to enable data to be captured relatively quickly.

ACO Ramsay continued: “This is a joint project overseen by an executive sub-group of the Business Engagement Forum, bringing us together with Glasgow City Council and other partners including representatives from the insurance and fire protection industries. Our designated officers and the researcher will attend incidents in the city to gather data and gain an accurate understanding of false alarm causes which is crucial for developing effective strategies to prevent recurrences. Where appropriate, the team will also attend incidents where fire alarms have detected an actual fire. This will enhance the understanding of potential consequences had the alarm system not been in place, in turn demonstrating where such systems do provide value.”

When the team has completed its research a formal report will be produced by the Business Engagement Forum sub-group. It’s expected to include recommendations useful to businesses, the fire protection industry, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other Fire and Rescue Services as they develop practical measures to reduce the problem caused by unwanted false alarm signals.

ACO Ramsay added: “The project involves the same partnership that helped develop the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Unwanted False Alarm Signals Policy which will replace the eight different policies used by the antecedent services. Under this single nationwide approach, fire-fighters across Scotland will engage with duty holders and advocate a multi-stage action plan in response to the actuation of a fire alarm system.”

The cost of unwanted false fire alarm signals to both businesses and Fire and Rescue Services is estimated to be around £1 billion per year

The cost of unwanted false fire alarm signals to both businesses and Fire and Rescue Services is estimated to be around £1 billion per year

Ramsay asserted: “Cutting the number of unwanted false alarm signal incidents will reduce financial costs to ourselves and businesses, and also cut the demand placed on a community’s fire and rescue resources. One clear and immediate benefit will be to reduce the number of times our appliances have to travel under blue lights, which will lower the risk to our crews and other road users. We want to build on this work, and the research project will help Fire and Rescue Services and businesses to tackle the issue.”

Main objectives to be addressed

There’s no fixed timescale for the research to be completed, although it’s anticipated that the project may take around a year to produce a report.

The main objectives are:
• The collation of comprehensive data in relation to unwanted false alarm signal incidents
• Identification of the common causes of unwanted false alarm signal incidents, including appropriate classification
• Improved engagement between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the fire industry and businesses in relation to unwanted false alarm signal incidents
• A reduction in the volume of unwanted false alarm signal incidents within the Glasgow city area
• Provision of intelligence to help reduce the volume of unwanted false alarm signal incidents across Scotland

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Unwanted Fire Alarm Signal Policy ‘go live’ date was 1 December 2014. It replaces existing policies which varied between the eight Fire and Rescue Services that operated in Scotland prior to April 2013.

A previous study undertaken by the BRE entitled: ‘The Causes of False Fire Alarms in Buildings’ is available at: http://www.bre.co.uk/podpage.jsp?id=1752

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Scottish Parliament debates fire risk assessment procedures ten years on from Rosepark Care Home tragedy

Ten years after the fatal fire at the Rosepark Care Home in Lanarkshire, Scotland, MSP Michael McMahon has tabled a Parliamentary Motion (debated in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 29 October) recommending that all fire risk assessors should be qualified and, preferably, third party certificated.

The fire at Rosepark on 31 January 2004 claimed the lives of 14 elderly residents after flames broke out in a cupboard and subsequently ripped through the building. In support of his Parliamentary Motion, McMahon pointed out that one key finding of the fatal accident enquiry into Rosepark was that the fire risk assessment had been inadequate and the person who carried it out wasn’t qualified to do so.

The MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill in Glasgow believes an awareness campaign would help Duty Holders responsible for care homes to understand the contents of the guidance and those at commercial premises to appreciate the requirements placed on them by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005. McMahon’s Parliamentary Motion also highlights the contents of the Scottish Government’s Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Care Homes, published back in March this year.

McMahon acknowledges that there has been progress since the fatal Rosepark fire, but added: “Fire risk assessments in complex buildings such as care homes are challenging exercises. The Duty Holder has to rely heavily on the capabilities and competencies of the fire risk assessor. How can the Duty Holder be confident that the fire risk assessor is competent and the advice given is up to standard and up-to-date?”

The fire at Rosepark in January 2004 claimed the lives of 14 elderly residents after flames broke out in a cupboard and ripped through the building

The fire at Rosepark in January 2004 claimed the lives of 14 elderly residents after flames broke out in a cupboard and ripped through the building

According to the MSP, third party accreditation is the only way forward and McMahon is now urging the Scottish Government to take immediate action by:
*Launching an awareness campaign (including direct contact through leaflets and via the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service) demonstrating to businesses the need for fire risk assessments
*Embracing and advocating third party certification
*Consulting the industry and stakeholders to make third party certification mandatory before an assessor can offer fire risk assessment services

Acting decisively to prevent further fires

McMahon feels that much has been done since the Rosepark tragedy, but stresses that more needs to be achieved in the area of fire risk assessment. “We owe it to the memory of those who lost their lives in Rosepark ten years ago, and their friends and relatives, to act decisively and prevent further fires,” urged the MSP.

The Parliamentary Motion was supported by Margaret Mitchell MSP, who commented: “Ten years on from Rosepark, it’s appropriate to evaluate whether or not there are sufficient requirements placed on care homes to prevent such an accident from happening again.”

MSPs Kenneth Gibson and Siobhan McMahon have also supported the Motion, stating that more can be done and that there’s no room for complacency. They agree that third party certification is the best way forward.

Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham responded by saying that much had already changed. The minister added that the Regulatory Review Group is currently looking at fire safety legislation and is due to report back early next year. Cunningham has promised to write and ask the group to look at fire risk assessment as part of that extensive review.

In a bid to remove potential fire hazards, commercial buildings and non-domestic premises in Scotland are already forced to carry out a fire safety risk assessment under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 in conjunction with the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. If the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the enforcing authority has the power to prosecute the Duty Holder.

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