PSI MAGAZINE COLUMN: MAY 2016

This month Simon Banks talks to Ian Moore, the newly appointed CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), the largest fire protection trade association in the UK. Their objective is to promote, improve and perfect fire protection methods, devices, services and apparatus.

What is the primary focus of the FIA?

We achieve our objectives through the representation of our members by providing technical support, guidance and opportunities for professional advancement through education and appropriate regulation. 

We promote and shape legislation and the professional standards of the fire industry through close liaison with government and official bodies, as well as other key stakeholders. With nearly 700 members we hold a wide spectrum of views therefore giving us great influence. In addition we are a major provider of fire safety training.

How can FIA as a training organisation do more with Apprenticeships?

I personally support and attend the Government’s Trailblazer meetings and contribute where I can. There are some overlapping areas with the training we provide but we believe they are worth promoting. We are about to open a branch in the Manchester area to train Apprentices, one of the key activities will be ‘hands-on’ training such as installation techniques. 

Every 6 months the FIA conducts a market conditions report where we ask our members (and some non-members) some pertinent questions on our industry. One regular question is ‘Have you recruited an Apprentice in the last six months?’ Although the report has not been released yet, I can share that it shows a 5% increase in companies saying that they have recruited an Apprentice in the last 6 months. 

Only 5% of fire signalling is monitored. What can the industry do to change that?

I think that the starting point is to ask questions about what motivates people to connect to a fire alarm monitoring service or not. The basic answer is usually that a fire alarm is an overhead cost and often a begrudged buy to a business doing what is necessary to make their property safe to occupy. The main purpose of the fire alarm is to commence an evacuation with a secondary purpose of calling the fire and rescue service. Bear in mind that the fire and rescue service do not officially have a role in evacuating people, although of course they do help if required. Fire alarm services can be seen as unnecessary as most businesses will never be involved in a fire. 

The 5-10% of businesses that request a connection to an ARC normally either have a property with a high risk to the occupants, such as a care home or hospital, or they have an interest in property protection, often encouraged by their insurance company fees. This will be requested when there is a need for property protection even when the building is unoccupied. Perhaps these services need to offer better value to a customer. With more sophisticated fire alarm systems, service providers are able to introduce more comprehensive services such as remote monitoring of a site. This will allow more efficient maintenance and alerting of possible problems on a site. This can even be of interest to large businesses that would like to have a centralised monitoring of their portfolio of properties.

Is the Fire Industry in need for reform, if so what part can FIA play in this?

For years it has been well known that the Fire Industry has been very slow to evolve. Critically installers are providing life safety systems; this makes users reticent about using latest technologies in case they go wrong. There is of course the endless work and money in getting products approved for use to factor in. 

The Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005 (the clue’s in the name!) was a big step forward in my view, with the ethos that most fires are preventable. The Order states that those responsible for workplaces and other buildings to which the public have access, can reduce the occurrence/severity of fires by taking responsibility for and adopting the right behaviours and procedures. Members of the FIA were instrumental in formulating this Order. The latest reforms will come with the Government’s push for the merging of the ‘blue-light’ services. The FIA are heavily involved with the Home Office, as fire has now moved from Local Government to the Home office as part of this reform to ensure our industry is kept up to date with the plans and to influence and help where necessary.

Can you provide an example of how a recent FIA project has been beneficial to the public?

The FIA provide funding for research projects in line with our principal objectives. We are a not-for-profit organisation so re-invest every year into a number of nnovation, R&D and nvestigation projects. 

In partnership with the industry we have recently paid for a consultant to ride aboard a fire engine in Scotland, as the Scottish Fire and Rescue service respond to all calls, in order to investigate the cause of an activated alarm. The issue to date is that anything that isn’t a fire is labelled as a false alarm. Fully understanding what these false or unwanted alarms are helps us with product design, detector types and the operational sequences of fire panels. As a result the reduction in call outs is drastically reducing which in turn makes the Fire and Rescue service more efficient and increases confidence in the benefits provided by fire systems.

 

You Said It!

2 DigiAirs & 1 GradeShift G3 to go in tomorrow! @CSLDualCom
Tweeted by @rossg6 - Mar 3

 

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