PSI MAGAZINE COLUMN: MARCH 2015

This month Simon Banks talks to Rob Harris, Managing Director of Astral Fire & Security. Based in Staffordshire, Astral is dedicated to delivering the highest quality service in Fire and Security system installation and maintenance.

This month Simon Banks talks to Rob Harris, Managing Director of Astral Fire & Security. Based in Staffordshire, Astral is dedicated to delivering the highest quality service in Fire and Security system installation and maintenance.

Although your business offers Fire & Security solutions, 90% of your contracts are for Fire. What’s the reason for this?

I previously owned a company, which I sold to Tyco some years ago, that focused on intruder contracts and I wanted a new challenge from my second business. Focussing on fire also makes good business sense as fire detection is mandatory on most buildings under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (RRO). I also believe that the Fire Industry has a solid future; installing fire systems is a specialist skill from which electrical contractors and non-inspectorate recognised installers shy away from. There are no grey areas and if a system fails a life could be lost. Intruder and CCTV are ‘nice to have’ in the portfolio, especially when you consider the recurring revenue stream offered by monitored alarms.

Why aren’t more Fire systems monitored?

The main focus of a Fire system is to preserve life ahead of protecting a property and its contents although you do get property “P” systems. The idea of protecting a property once the people have left it is less relevant unless insurance driven or if adjoining properties are at risk. If there is an existing monitoring system in place this can be utilised in certain circumstances. It can reduce standby battery calculations which could save money at install. In addition, many of our contracts on care homes and hotels will often have 24 hour manned premises instead of remote monitoring and they become the first response to an activation. Retailers that are 9-5 tend not to push for a monitored system; perhaps they could be persuaded for many good reasons.

Have you seen any evidence of convergence, such as an increase in Building Management Solutions in the Fire sector?

In the Fire sector you will most commonly see carpentry-based services such as doors, door closers, intumescent strips etc. being offered alongside fire systems. This is primarily because the RRO puts the onus on the property owner to carry out a fire risk assessment and safely get people out of a building in the event of a fire, rather than the fire brigade. Therefore, products that compartmentalise and slow down the spread of fire are attractive to end-users. Training staff for evacuation procedures and risk assessment is also a commonly requested additional service.

Although you are based in the Midlands you take on National contracts, how practical is this?

We have national coverage with remote Engineers throughout the country and supplier branch networks to restock our teams efficiently. Our risk assessments and software give us a measured approach across a large estate. There is a well-known case where a Fire Risk Assessor and Engineer both received custodial sentences for loss of life, which resulted from a lacking fire risk assessment and incorrectly installed/maintained Fire system. It is because we are dealing with life safety that we have to be 100% competent in the work that we carry out. We have a robust testing procedure for all staff and monthly training updates on legislation and standards. Picking the right Fire Contractor is imperative as life safety is always the focus in the Fire sector.

You Said It! 

"Great to meet you this morning @GavinWilsonCSL looking forward to installing the new CSL DigiAir® UDL unit! @CSLDualCom #Sevenoaks"

Tweeted by @ViperSecurityUK – Jan 29

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