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.

Ambitious steps to further reform the building safety system with the biggest changes in a generation to ensure residents are safe in their homes
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.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

FlamePro Aids On How To Choose PPE That Reduces The Impact Of Heat Stress
FlamePro Aids On How To Choose PPE That Reduces The Impact Of Heat Stress

A firefighter needs to evaporate about 1 liter of sweat per hour to be able to regulate the body temperature when exposed to extreme heat. The human body is designed to function within a very specific temperature range between 36.5 and 37.5 Celsius. However, fighting fires test these limits and can increase a firefighter’s body temperature to over 38 degrees. Selection Of PPE While there are many factors to consider to reduce the impact of heat stress on firefighters – such as hydration and heat acclimatization – a major component of heat stress control is the selection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here, Reece Buchner, technical sales manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of life-saving garments for firefighters, explains what to look for when specifying PPE, to reduce heat stress while fighting fires. Insulation – Friend Or Foe Insulation is an important part of any firefighter kit, as it keeps the extreme heat away from the wearer, however, it also keeps the body heat in. People are aware that sweating is the best way for one's bodies to regulate the temperature, however for sweating to be effective, the air should be dry and moving, like when it’s windy. When it’s humid, there is less capacity within the air for vapor to leave the body and that makes sweating less effective. An enclosed and insulated fire suit without airflow may therefore not promote the ideal perspiration environment. Moisture Barriers Moisture barrier regulates body heat as it allows as much moisture vapor out as possible Moisture barriers play a crucial role in reducing the chance of heat stress. A moisture barrier is a type of material that lets vapor through and in some cases liquid (unidirectionally), making a suit breathable. When it comes to fire suits, this moisture barrier plays an important role in regulating body heat as it allows as much moisture vapor out as possible. Types of Barriers There are three types of moisture barrier product technology used in firefighters’ protective garments: microporous, monolithic, or bi-component. Each of these barrier technologies has a different level of effectiveness: A microporous membrane contains small passages or holes, which allows for air permeability and offers water vapor transfer by air-diffusion. A monolithic membrane is a continuous polymer layer without any passages (holes), and, therefore, does not have any air permeability. However, breathable monolithic moisture barriers use hydrophilic polymers which allow water vapor transfer through molecular diffusion instead. A bi-component moisture barrier product uses a combination of microporous and monolithic technologies and allows no air permeability. Ensure Mobility It’s important that fire suits are designed to be wearer friendly, whilst providing optimum protection. When selecting PPE consider how easy the suits are to move in, and bear in mind the different requirements of the team depending on the job at hand. PPE that is designed to provide increased mobility helps to reduce muscular strain, improves air circulation, and in turn heat stress. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing the risk of heat stress amongst the fire brigade, these are all important factors to consider to ensure the team’s PPE is working to minimize the danger.

Strategic & Creative Firefighter Recruitment
Strategic & Creative Firefighter Recruitment

The recruitment of firefighters is not cheap. While metrics and budgetary line items vary among the size of fire departments, the recruitment of one firefighter from the viewing of your recruitment materials on Day One through academy graduation to one full year on the job is very expensive. For a check up from the neck up, let's begin with two quizzes: The Ultimate Firefighter Recruitment & Retention Quiz Part 1: Is your department having difficulty recruiting qualified firefighters, possibly reaching near-crisis proportions? Have qualified candidates whom you want to hire declined your offer? Is the competition for qualified firefighter candidates in your area overly intense? Have you pondered thoughts of having to pay outlandish salaries, signing bonuses, premium fees to recruitment agencies, or even curtail hiring or raiding your competition? Does your recruitment and human resources departments need to learn how to recruit more strategically and creatively to solve your recruitment problems?   Scoring: If you answered Yes to any of these questions, then your department may need to consider a paradigm shift of its recruitment efforts from the “same-old, same-old” to a comprehensive business model based on creative problem solving, aggressive marketing, and innovative thinking. Part 2: Is your recruitment and human resources staff… Armed with a dynamic interactive presentation that results in responses and interest by qualified applicants? Supported with a superior website, an online presence, and printed materials that actually get read? Regularly trained and exposed to new relationship and marketing strategies no matter how experienced they may be? Provided with one-on-one or small group marketing executive coaching? Mystery shopped or recorded as part of their performance appraisal?   Scoring: If you answered No to any of these questions, then this is your first step to strategically and creatively improve your recruitment metrics.This unique marketing model may be up to an 180 degree reversal from what your department has been doing for decades No matter how good your recruitment and retention efforts may be, they could always be better. There is good news and bad news: The bad news is this unique marketing model may be up to an 180 degree reversal from what your department has been doing for decades. Your recruiters and human resources personnel are going to be reluctant to change. Warning The first words out of their mouths will be, “What! Are you crazy?” How receptive will your recruitment staff be to the task of having to unlearn the old recruitment techniques and replace them with a variety of new creative recruitment strategies based on the principles of behavioral psychology? As for the good news, the change is not painful, though it will feel uncomfortable…at first. More importantly, a shift in strategy will produce the positive qualitative and quantitative results and metrics you are seeking. Firefighter recruitment cost Question: What does it cost your department to recruit one firefighter? Begin with the basic costs incurred reengineering of your recruitment website and printed materials, online presence and social media, educational presentations, advertisements, job fairs, and processing of paperwork of your application materials.The fees associated with tests: drug, polygraph, criminal background, and psychological Next line item: the fees associated with tests: drug, polygraph, criminal background, and psychological. Compute the costs once formal training has begun: education, salaries, uniforms, etc., all the way through graduation. Has your cost for each recruit reached $100,000 yet? What is your reaction when a candidate drops out midway through the training academy, or after one or two years feels being a firefighter is not the career for him or her? The Solution The firefighter recruiter as Marketeer. Fact: If the applicant doesn’t like you, he or she won’t consider your department. Why? We tend to do business with people we like; people who listen and convey they understand our needs, versus  people who “talk at” us with a robotic presentation. Few fire departments actually have a formal strategic marketing plan in writing for its recruitment efforts But, there is a major problem: In the corporate world, recruiters usually receive a base salary plus commission for its placements. As an employee of a city, county, or municipal fire department, your key recruitment employees fall under a different compensation structure. Your employees probably have not received the intensive training in sales and marketing. Few fire departments actually have a formal strategic marketing plan in writing for its recruitment efforts. Recruitment and marketing are among the many hats firefighter recruiters must wear…yet few wear it well. The approach to recruitment follows a “recruitment is marketing” training model based on the business concept of Omnichannelization. Your challenge is to market your department and sell yourself to create your position in the marketplace be it a department with 10 fire stations competing with the nearby department with 40 stations.  Recruitment auditing Consider that many applicants have read the same book as you, the one containing hundreds of interview questions and the answers to each. Somewhere within the interview process the applicant is going to be asked, “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” Follow up that question with ones which reveal deeper information, and questions the applicant has never been asked such as, “What are you most afraid of in becoming a firefighter, your biggest fear?” Your challenge is to develop at least 10-12 of these types of questions testing the critical thinking skills of the applicant.Somewhere within the interview process the applicant is going to be asked, “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” The Recruitment Audit: Identify what you are doing right, what needs improvement, and what you are not doing at all. Strategize to overcome weaknesses Analyze what your department has been doing thus far. Identify and justify your department’s top three strategies to overcome its six weaknesses, ones of which you may be totally unaware. What’s involved? Most of your printed materials are not read. Why? Whether it is your brochure, public relations materials, they “talk at” the reader rather than come across conversationally. Take a magnifying glass to color, font and font size, and voice. Well-written copy functions as one of the best screening tools during the personal interview. Most application forms are a major turn-off with the voice of a drill sergeant. Ask your human resources people how many applications are submitted incomplete, missing required information. Motivation There is a psychology of firefighter recruitment that identifies the “real” forces that motivates the candidate to accept one department over another.  Recruiters need to learn to develop several distinct strategies customized to its variety of vertical markets. One size does not fit all.  A few final words Are you ready to reengineer your department’s recruitment efforts? It all begins by obtaining a total buy-in, involvement, and training from your entire staff to achieve its desired recruitment results.

Avoiding Electrical Fires Through Preventative Technology
Avoiding Electrical Fires Through Preventative Technology

There are many daily risks faced by buildings and their managers, with electrical fires being one of the most common and dangerous. Commercial fires impact occupant health, property and the business itself – with 25% of businesses who suffer a fire never reopening.  Given the often-unpredictable nature of electrical fires, businesses must invest in the latest technologies to prevent irreparable damage. It is the responsibility of the consultant engineer to show leadership and initiative in improving safety to protect the business, its employees and its most valuable assets. Engineers must look beyond simply tackling overloads and short circuits and examine a range of connected solutions that can stop a fire before it even has a chance to begin. This drastically reduces the cost of damages and repairs, while giving building operators unrivalled visibility. Connected protection is crucial at every level of the circuit, from the switchboard to distribution. A centralized system for equipment monitoring and detection provides building managers with all the information they need to keep fire risk under control, and therefore protect staff, property and business. Electrical fire risk awareness During the design and implementation phase, the consultant engineer’s role is traditionally to respect and master the local standards. They should ensure all components and parts of the circuit comply with the latest wiring rules, electrical and building codes. Yet for enhanced safety they should also be willing to look beyond the standards of the day. Given the often-unpredictable nature of electrical fires, businesses must invest in the latest technologies to prevent irreparable damage Today’s regulations do a good job of protecting buildings from the dangers of short circuits and overloads, mostly by mandating the use of circuit breakers. However, consultant engineers should also be aware of the risks posed by circuit deterioration and mistakes made during the installation. Loose cabling and faulty insulation or connections – even something as small as an untightened screw – can significantly increase a circuit’s fire risk. It’s up to consultant engineers to know their market and provide solutions that go beyond the minimum to detect and prevent electrical fires. Why electrical engineers must go the extra mile A stitch in time saves nine. While tackling overloads and short circuits is crucial, engineers must go further, examining a range of connected solutions that can stop a fire before it even has a chance to begin. Acting pre-emptively can drastically reduce the cost of damages and repairs and provide building operators with unrivalled visibility of their facility. Connected protection is crucial at every level of the circuit, from the switchboard to distribution. A centralized system for equipment monitoring and detection will provide the building manager with all the information they need to keep fire risk under control. Connected protection is crucial at every level of the circuit For optimal protection, organisations should employ smart, connected solutions that detect fire and the risk of fire at every level. This means additional protection for the switchboard and the circuit at all levels of the electrical installation, underpinned by a centralised system for monitoring and pro-active action. Using Residual Current Devices (RCDs) against insulation faults triggered by earth leakage currents exceeding 300mA, is a familiar solution. Engineers now have access to more effective earth leakage protection solutions with the same footprint as a classical overload and short-circuit protection. Products can now also offer permanent earth leakage current measurement which, when connected to a monitoring system, allows pre-alarming and monitoring during the time of any drift in the insulation. Identify switchboard vulnerabilities Unprotected electrical switchboards are especially vulnerable to fire risk. The equipment is susceptible to rodent infestation and internal overheating, issues that can often go unnoticed until it is too late. The IEC 61439-2 Low-voltage switchgear and control gear assemblies – Part 2: Power switchgear and control gear assembly’s standard addresses these risks, making compliance a must. However, fulfilling these design and manufacturing rules for switchboards does not eliminate the risk of connection failure. A critical sequence of events can occur. First, increasing electrical contact resistance accelerates further deterioration. This increased resistance induces a rise in temperature – high temperatures deteriorate the connection surface even more. The more deteriorated surface leads to a further increase in contact resistance, and the resulting thermal runaway will cause complete connection failure. Fire, flash-over and explosions become a real risk. Enhanced electrical fire prevention Moreover, final circuits should be protected by an arc fault detection device (AFDD) for enhanced fire prevention. Final circuits should be protected by an arc fault detection device (AFDD) Circuits age unevenly and unpredictably, so persistent monitoring and predictive maintenance are key to limiting fire risk. Cloud analytics can help provide asset health analytics to interpret the status and history of your most critical assets, with preventive notifications and 24/7 support. Fire prevention must be a top priority when assessing all the safety and risk-management of a building. In the case of electrical fires, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, establishing the right approach before crisis strikes will be invaluable. Connected solutions across the entire circuit are an effective solution for consultant engineers to defend buildings from the often-underestimated dangers of faulty installation and ageing components. In short, smart electrical fire prevention provides peace of mind for engineers, facility owners and occupants alike.

vfd