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The fire industry has made it absolutely clear, led by authorized bodies including the BAFE Fire Safety Register, that the current pandemic does not remove the need to comply with any fire safety requirements under the Building Regulations. As we now look beyond the lockdown period, John Allam, Operations Director at Amthal Fire and Security reviews the raft of new proposals demonstrating the Government and industry’s commitment to compliant fire safety and new immediate demands placed on responsible persons. Multi-Occupancy residential buildings Whilst the second phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been put on hold until July at the earliest over coronavirus restrictions, the government has continued its quest to effect change and bring the Fire Safety Bill and Building Safety Bill into legislation. While the Building Safety Bill will ‘place new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products’, both bills aim to strengthen the ‘whole regulatory system’ for both building and fire safety. The Fire Safety Bill will apply to England and Wales, to amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 and seeks to clarify responsibility for reducing fire risk in multi-occupancy residential buildings. The details of the Fire Safety Bill, which has now had its second reading in the House of Commons, includes recommendations of regular inspections of lifts and sprinkler systems for buildings over 11m tall. Quarterly fire door inspections Building owners will now face ‘enforcement action’ from emergency services if they do not manage fire risk Significantly, it also introduces compulsory quarterly fire door inspections, which is a hugely significant development in its own right, to influence an industry where this is no specific legislation that requires fire doors to be checked. The Fire Safety Bill intends to ensure evacuation plans are reviewed, regularly updated and communicated to residents in a ‘form that they can be reasonably be expected to understand.’ And it highlights the importance of individual flat entrance doors, where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding, comply with current standards. This will play a key part in increasing residents’ fire safety, whereby building owners will now face ‘enforcement action’ from emergency services if they do not manage fire risk in a building’s structure. Improving the fire safety of buildings In addition, the government is consulting with the National Fire Chiefs Council to begin testing evacuation alert systems for high-rise blocks of flats, which could support fire and rescue services’ operational response by alerting residents if they need to escape. The National Fire Chiefs Council to begin testing evacuation alert systems for high-rise blocks of flats The new program will be governed by a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) that will initially be led by Dame Judith Hackitt during the set up phase, who will be tasked with improving the fire safety of buildings. Launched by The RT Hon Robert Jenrick MP Secretary Of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, he cited the new program as taking, “Ambitious steps to further reform the building safety system with the biggest changes in a generation to ensure residents are safe in their homes.” He added: “This new regime will put residents’ safety at its heart, and follows the announcement of the unprecedented £1 billion fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings in the budget.” Major regulatory decisions The BSR will be responsible for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during design, construction, occupation and refurbishment of buildings. And such decisions and obligations must be upheld and maintained throughout a development’s life. The new safety case regime will apply not only to new buildings, but also to buildings that are already in use" In Dame Judith’s own words: “When introduced by the new regulator, the new safety case regime will apply not only to new buildings, but also to buildings that are already in use and occupied. If those buildings were built to poor standards in the past, it will not be the case that you can simply say ‘well it complied with building regulations at the time’. The test will be different. The test will be ‘is this building safe to be occupied?’ and, if not, what are you going to do to improve it?’ … People will be asked to think about what they can do, what is reasonable and what is practicable to do in order to improve the safety of a given building.” Regulating the fire safety industry Both Hackitt and the Government want the BSR to be set up in shadow form before the Building Safety Bill becomes law. The plan is to put the bill before Parliament by the autumn, despite the challenges thrown by the Pandemic. The new legislation proposed by Government will undoubtedly ensure that buildings and those that live and work in them are maintained to be fire safe. In the words of BAFE CEO Stephen Adams: “The time is right to help better regulate the fire safety industry to change end user behavior and create a UK that's safer from the devastating effects of fire.” As BAFE further attests, as lockdown measures begin to be lifted, there will be a need for the competent maintenance of fire safety systems/provisions and fire risk assessment work. Fire doors and risk assessments Amthal is working closely with building owners and managers across the UK to deliver the benefits of safer environment This means for those who own or manage residential buildings, will soon be ‘held into account’ if they do not ensure fire safety in their buildings, and the requirements will impact further on costs and resource allocation, for investigating buildings and ensuring compliance. There is a definite sense to be proactive in acceptance of the new impending legislation. But the concern cited amongst building owners is the industry’s ability to undertake the volume of assessments required, given the lack of current lack of specific legislation on specific elements such as fire doors and risk assessments, together with the steep expectations for fire strategy and evacuation plans. Amthal is working closely with building owners and managers across the UK to deliver the benefits of safer environment within a holistic fire safety approach. Working in partnership, means taking the time to understand the implications of the Government’s Fire Safety Bill, alongside the implications of the Building Safety Bill and BSR program. This way, we can ensure responsible persons confidently achieve all operational requirements for the ultimate benefit of residents’ peace of mind.
New government legislation due to come into force in the United Kingdom on July 1st will require electrical installations in privately rented properties to be tested and inspected at least once every 5 years. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations (2020) will require landlords to enlist qualified electricians to complete inspections and provide certification to tenants – or face fines of up to £30,000. While the risk of fire can never be entirely eliminated, the new legislation will introduce higher levels of safety and ensure that one of the primary causes of fire – electrical malfunctions – is regularly tested for. There are a number of procedures and regulations in place for when a fire has already started, but this new law will help to reduce the chances of it getting to that point. After all, prevention is the best form of protection. No safety procedure or response plan will ever fully prepare someone for the reality of a fire. However, a comprehensive prevention strategy and use of the latest technologies to quickly detect and respond to a fire can at least reduce the potential risk to both life and property. Defensive detection A fire can spring from many sources. Current standards do a good job of ensuring properties are well equipped to defend against fires created by overcurrent caused by overloads and short circuits. A comprehensive prevention strategy and use of the latest technologies to quickly detect and respond to a fire can at least reduce potential risk However, electrical fires can also result from mistakes made during the installation process, namely loose cabling or aging circuits that will not be detected by overcurrent protection. Indeed, a defective or worn insulation is the cause of 14% of all electrical fires in buildings. The danger of landlords only performing the bare minimum to protect their buildings is that, should a fire start from a source they haven’t accounted for, the loss and disruption to property could be devastating. For maximum protection, individuals need reliable, innovative products that excel beyond the minimum standards to prevent a fire from starting in the first place. The pending legislation will add to this safety from the start. It will require landlords to use qualified electricians when installing, repairing and maintaining systems, benefitting both landlords and tenants by mitigating electrical issues and instilling greater confidence. Protection against insulation faults The risk of cable insulation faults grows over time and the consequences can be severe. Low-intensity arc faults are more likely to occur in humid, dusty environments, causing injury and deadly fires if precautions aren’t taken. Protection against insulation faults within cables can be assured by residual current devices (RCD), which are triggered by earth leakage currents exceeding 300mA. For maximum protection, individuals need reliable, innovative products that excel beyond the minimum standards to prevent a fire from starting Additionally, final circuits in critical locations (as recommended in IEC 60364), should be protected by an arc fault detection device (AFDD). This is a circuit breaker that automatically cuts off the electricity supply when it detects an arc fault in the circuit. By immediately stopping the supply, AFDDs stop arc faults from reaching temperatures where fires can break out. As well as ensuring that private tenants feel more safe and secure, the new legislation represents an opportunity for electricians to secure more work and develop their skills. Going forward, as the demand for electricians in the private rented sector rises, we expect to see greater opportunity for electrical engineers to win long running contracts with landlords and property managers. Fire may be a risk, but it is not unavoidable. This new legislation promises greater peace of mind for private tenants by ensuring that electrical standards are met and hazards reduced. With expert knowledge and the correct approach to electrical fire prevention, a fire can be extinguished before any damage is done.
There have been challenges with completing fire safety maintenance and installation projects during the current Covid-19 crisis, most notably as a result of the difficulties for installers in safely accessing sites. Many construction projects halted for lockdown and this resulted in approximately 50% of the British installers we work with having to furlough staff. The challenges, however, are not just restricted to the UK. With Kentec panels sold in more than 90 countries across the world, we have seen varying challenges on a global scale. Throughout this crisis, fire safety continues to be paramount and as such key players, such as Kentec, are rightly considered essential businesses. We have continued manufacturing life safety systems throughout the current difficulties and it has been our mission to ensure that where new installations can take place, our panels are readily available to installers, as well as the expertise and technical support that goes with it for ongoing maintenance. Orders for spare parts have also, in fact, been consistently high during this period, as installers have been able to complete minor upgrades safely and end users have taken advantage of the period to do so. Adapting manufacturing processes to align with government guidelines so that customers have not experienced any supply issues with any life safety systems or parts has been a major success. Critical Infrastructure We’ve personally seen an increase in sales for our industry-leading Sigma XT extinguishant panels during this crisis as it is widely used within critical infrastructure, in sectors such as telecommunications, data centres and healthcare. Adapting manufacturing processes to align with government guidelines has been a major success During lockdown, with a vast proportion of the population working from home and relying on the internet to conduct their business and virtual meetings, it has been more important than ever that there is no loss in service in broadband and telephone services. This means that highly reliable and robust fire extinguishing systems are essential to protect essential workers and vital equipment – not only from the risk of fire, but also from the catastrophic damage that false alarms and the release of extinguishant could have, for example, on server room equipment. Understandably, this has resulted in considerable investment in fire systems in these sectors. Glasgow’s Louisa Jordan NHS Facility The recent fire safety installation at the Louisa Jordan NHS Facility Glasgow – located at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) which provides more than 500 COVID-19 beds – is just one example of essential fire safety work being completed during lockdown. Vipond Fire Protection Ltd installed a total of seven Sigma XT gas suppression panels, and 32 detectors located within the electrical room that serves the 10,000m2 facility. The project was completed in what was an extremely tight seven-day turnaround, delivering proven reliability within a crucial healthcare facility. Kentec's Experience Operating Through Covid-19 We have learned that operating through this crisis and supporting installations that are going ahead is best achieved through detailed planning, communication and collaboration. For example, we’re supporting our distributors by shipping directly to their customers, when it is not safe or feasible to open their warehouses. Operating through this crisis is best achieved through detailed planning, communication and collaboration Our own workforce is also adapting to changing work patterns and demands. In the factory, at a practical level, this has meant implementing new shifts schedules starting from six o’clock in the morning to ten o’clock at night to ensure there are never too many people on site at one time. We have staggered arrival, leaving and break times to mitigate any risks involved at entrances, and we were lucky that space allowed us to make the canteen area bigger and increase the number of toilets from three to ten. We have moved work benches to ensure a safe distance between each employee, and where workflows make two-metre distancing impossible we have installed six- and eight-foot screens. Face masks have been provided to all staff and we are also trialling face shields for further comfort and protection. Our office staff have worked from home, and where going to the office has been necessary, they have similarly adhered to staggered arrival times. Internal communication has been essential and I’m immensely proud and extremely thankful for the positivity, proactivity and support that employees have shown through this process. We have also adapted our Kentec Installation Partner (KIP) scheme to be fully remote to ensure training and support is there when it is needed for our installers. We are hosting webinars as another forum to solve installer queries remotely, and our new range of Taktis panels have highly advanced networking capabilities and a vast suite of communication tools that support remote monitoring. It is therefore critical that our installers fully understand how to help end users realise the benefits such panels can deliver and to ensure their installations are completed successfully. Looking Ahead To The New Normal Remote monitoring will become increasingly important beyond this crisis We feel that remote monitoring will become increasingly important beyond this crisis and the advanced communication capabilities of panels will be essential for both installers and end users alike. For installers it reduces the amount of time required on site, because they can access the system remotely to find out what equipment or parts they need to take with them. Similarly, for end users they can access systems remotely to check any alerts or queries off site if necessary. It remains to be seen how the rest of 2020 will pan out, but where projects have been necessarily put on hold, because of the essential nature of our industry we are confident that installers will be able to quickly and easily return to these projects when it is safe and feasible to do so. Communication, collaboration and support will continue to be essential in mitigating the challenges in our future ‘new normal.’
The next Fire Industry Manufacturers’ (FIM) Expo which will take place Wednesday 16th October, 2019. This time the FIM Expo will take place at Sheffield United Football Club. Organized by the Fire Industry Association (FIA), FIM Expo features many of the UK's pioneer fire detection and alarm manufacturers and focuses on showcasing the latest products and developments in this sector of the industry.A wide range of exhibitors are confirmed so far: Advanced Global Fire Equipment Ampac Haes Systems Apollo Hochiki Baldwin Boxall Kentec BAFE Lan Control Systems C-Tec Morley-IAS Eaton Nittan Eurotech SSAIB Everlux Sterling Safety Systems FFE Vimpex FirePro Xtralis Fire protection systems Fire protection systems The FIM Expo is for anyone working in this area, whether as an installer or maintainer of fire detection and alarm systems, a manager of such systems in commercial premises or as an architect or person specifying what type of fire protection systems should be installed in a building. The FIA will also be hosting two free, CPD accredited, seminars at the Expo. Both sessions will focus on key topics affecting FD&A world. Those interested can meet the Membership Manager and enquire about the benefits of FIA membership First session will start at 10am and Will Lloyd, Technical Manager at the FIA will present the ‘Overview of the Changes to: BS 5839-6:2019’. Second seminar will start right after lunch at 1pm and Ian Moore CEO of the Fire Industry Association will give an introduction to the Interim Report of the Industry Response Group following on from Dame Judith Hackitt’s post Grenfell Tower Review. Fire protection training and qualifications The Fire Industry Association will also have a stand, so that those interested can meet the Membership Manager and enquire about the benefits of FIA membership (which includes discounts on fire protection training and qualifications, and the possibility of a stand at FIM Expo).Chris Tilley, FIA Membership Manager comments that: “Competency and how you prove it is at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now, and if it’s not then it should be. At FIM Expo this October the FIA have invited BAFE and leading certification bodies to offer you a one stop shop solution. Come and visit us to get expert industry advice on how best to achieve competency for your company and engineers”. With an average of 25 exhibitors over the last few years, FIM Expo has grown to become the best local expo for the fire industry. FIM Expo is open from 08.30 to 15.30 on Wednesday 16th October and is free to attend. Parking and refreshments are also available free of charge, including a buffet.
Also, Honeywell D1 system and All-Spec air sampling device were installed at the zoo In 1930, George Mottershead bought Oakfield House in Chester, along with seven acres of land, for the grand total of £3,500. He then visited a zoo in Manchester and what he saw that day inspired him to create ‘a zoo without bars’. George opened Chester Zoo in 1931 with his family and a small group of animals, never forgetting the vow he made. By the time he died in 1978, aged 84, Mottershead’s dream of a ‘zoo without bars’ was well and truly flourishing. Fast forward to 2015 and with more than 12,500 animals in 125 acres of award-winning zoological gardens, Chester Zoo is one of the world’s top attractions of its kind. 1.4 million people visit every year and its mission is to be a major force in conserving biodiversity. The latest attraction is Chester Zoo’s Islands, which aims to transport visitors to the South East Asian islands of Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumba, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Work began on the £40m, 60,000m² development in 2013 and it has taken almost two years and thousands of working hours to build. The largest indoor zoo exhibit in UK history, Monsoon Forest is the centrepiece of the Islands and the second phase of the project to be completed. Islands gives visitors the chance to take a walk or boat ride past turtles, Sumatran tigers, cassowary birds and many other species, as well as through bamboo copses and rice paddies. It is also home to the Sundra gharial, one of the world’s largest crocodiles, whose habitat is cleverly set out so these remarkable creatures can be seen both above and under the water through spectacular glass viewing windows. An advanced PA/VA and fire detection solution Crown House Technologies (part of Laing O’Rourke) is the M&E contractor for the Islands project and sub-contracted Morecambe based Cook Fire & Security Ltd to provide the fire detection system for the Monsoon Forest. Joe Weiss, Technical Director at Cook Fire & Security, states, “Over the last 14 years we have become one of the leading installers of state-of-the-art solutions throughout the north-west of England and beyond. We have been involved in some highly prestigious projects but the Monsoon Forest was a unique environment and required some significant thought about the best way to protect, staff, visitors and, of course, the animals.” A Honeywell D1 system allowed Cook Fire & Security to combine advanced audio management with a flexible architecture to deliver an advanced PA/VA solution at Monsoon Forest. Generally, this type of technology is utilised in public or larger buildings and, following the detection of smoke or fire, automated messages control the flow of people, allowing an orderly evacuation without panic. However – as animal welfare is at the very heart of Chester Zoo’s activities - one of the key priorities was to have a PA/VA system that could alert staff and visitors without causing distress to the creatures living there. Joe Weiss comments, “Obviously, the animals are used to the sound of human voices, so we felt that a PA/VA system would be more appropriate than the type of loud siren commonly used.” Monsoon Forest is entirely enclosed and with temperatures reaching highs of 80°F, this level of humidity meant that a great deal of consideration had to be given to the most suitable fire detection system. A solution based around the Morley-IAS ZX5SE control panel was installed in the keeper’s section, as it is intuitive to use and easy to install, network, configure, maintain and expand. The public areas, however, required a solution that could offer high levels of false alarm prevention while blending in with the tropical surroundings. An aspirating smoke detection system Explaining the thought process, Weiss says, “Due to the height of the roof, access for installation and maintenance of a conventional or addressable system would have been problematic. Also, the high levels of moisture would have also been a problem and could have triggered false alarms. Therefore, an aspirating smoke detection system was the most suitable option.” A Honeywell All-Spec system was chosen and Martyn Keenan, Business Manager (North West) for Morley-IAS says, “As a universal air sampling device for a broad range of applications, All-Spec makes it possible to achieve a cost effective solution in accordance with EN 54-20. This allows the devices to be used in areas where other smoke detectors and air sampling smoke detection systems are no longer suitable, such as Monsoon Forest. By putting water traps on all pipework going back to the control panels, an extra level of false alarm detection has been achieved.” A highly innovative way of installing the system was employed, as the pipework was fitted when the roof interior was on the ground and then hoisted into position. This eliminated the need for access equipment and ensures that the environment will not need to be disturbed during any planned maintenance. Aesthetics were also important and white plastic was used to ensure that the system blended into the overall appearance of the roof structure. Ian McIntosh, health & safety manager at the zoo at Chester Zoo is delighted with the fire detection system that has been installed, and concluded, “The response to Monsoon Forest since it opened has been terrific and it is now a key part of the Chester Zoo experience. However, we also value the role that technology plays in keeping our staff, visitors and animals safe, which is why having Honeywell fire detection technology installed by Cook Fire & Security gives us peace of mind.”
Security alert buttons have been installed at first-floor staff entrance along with a fire microphone The 1,000 pupils and staff at the 570-year-old City of London School – one of Britain’s most photographed educational establishments – are now protected by a Morley-IAS by Honeywell voice alarm system. Installed by Ardent Fire & Security in a major overhaul of voice alarm and public address technology, the school, which is on the Thames embankment near St Paul’s Cathedral, now has a highly customised system that provides safety cover throughout its prominent site. A highly-customised Honeywell voice alarm system Replacing the previous obsolete system, Ardent, a Morley-IAS distributor, installed the Honeywell D1 rack and amplifiers along with 32 new speakers and new alert buttons. The buttons can be pressed to trigger specific public address messages in locations such as the swimming pool area and playground, while announcements can be made from both the reception desk and the office of the head teacher’s personal assistant. In the event of an alert, one of 18 separate safety messages is issued over the system, each of which is tailored to the school’s particular requirements. This allows disruption to be kept to a minimum, without compromising safety. In addition, security alert buttons have been installed at the first-floor staff entrance along with a fire microphone for the use of emergency services. As well as installing new speakers to ensure coverage is provided throughout the school, Ardent also optimised the operation of the in situ public address speakers. With its origins in the reign of Henry V, the school occupies a prominent site close to the Millennium Bridge, making it possibly the most photographed school in the UK. An independent day school owned and governed by the City of London, its former old boys include Sir Walter Raleigh and long-serving 20th Century Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Integrated existing fire protection system, Morley-IAS control panel, and PA system The work was completed in two-and-a-half weeks during the Easter holidays and followed Ardent’s successful upgrade of integration between the existing fire protection system, a recently installed Morley-IAS ZX5Se control panel and the public address system. “The D1 system has amazing software with incredible flexibility – meaning it could do all that the school required,” said Adam Sutherland, Ardent director. “Any other system would have required a huge amount of re-cabling, but the D1’s sensitivity means it can work superbly with the existing infrastructure.” Currently based in Chelmsford, Ardent Fire & Security has staff with long industry experience, providing a full range of fire system expertise including PA systems and large network panels.