TheBigRedGuide.com was at FIREX 2011 this year to check out the latest offerings in the fire industry:
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One lesson of Grenfell is how many fire system technicians operate without the appropriate qualifications. Since the Grenfell tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt has called for all relevant trades to hold formal qualifications, and for industry to implement a system in which clients and end users can be assured that operatives are fully competent. Another lesson is that fire service audits of buildings are no longer fit for purpose. For instance, the current system does not require proof that a fire system was installed by a “competent person.” Fire safety in commercial buildings “The general public would be horrified to learn that someone can fit a fire safety system in a commercial building without any proper qualifications or licence,” says Tom Brookes, Managing Director of Lindum Fire Services Ltd., former Chairman of the British Fire Consortium (BFC), and current Chairman of the Fire and Security Association. When it comes to competency, the whole industry needs to up its game" “When it comes to competency, the whole industry needs to up its game,” says Brookes. “Some larger companies are upskilling their staff and moving towards formal qualifications. If small- and medium-sized enterprises do not follow suit, they will fall behind and may be excluded from the marketplace altogether.” Working Group 2 on installer competence Working Group 2 on installer competence was established after the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report last year, under the joint leadership of Build UK and the Fire Sector Federation. The group has discussed extensively the need for systems engineers to be suitably qualified and able to demonstrate their competence. “In my opinion, there is too much focus on rival competency schemes rather than overall industry outcomes, which somewhat muddies the waters,” says Brookes. “However, one thing that has become crystal clear is that all fire and emergency systems engineers will likely need to hold a Level 3 qualification in the future.” Training provided BFC, FIA and IFEDA Although quality training is provided through the British Fire Consortium (BFC), Fire Industry Association (FIA), Independent Fire Engineering & Distributors Association (IFEDA) and others, historically there have been no Ofqual-approved qualifications for the fire sector. (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation [Ofqual] is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests.) Changes are afoot, however. In England, the Fire, Emergency Systems and Security trailblazer apprenticeship attracted around 300 new starts last year. The FIA have replaced their 20-year-old training programmes with a new system that will enable technicians who complete the series to achieve their Level 3 qualifications. Since the Grenfell tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt has called for all relevant trades to hold formal qualifications BS5839-1:2017 Ofqual-approved qualification The awarding organization EAL are launching a BS5839-1:2017 Ofqual-approved qualification in August 2019. This will allow previously trained engineers to sit an exam and gain a Level 3 award demonstrating up-to-date knowledge. Practical skills testing for more experienced technicians, outside of an apprenticeship, is something FSA are currently working hard on with partners including ECA, NET and ECS. “Our aim is for a few options to become available for operatives to gain some sort of practical competence certification,” says Brookes. “More technological solutions are now being considered for competency evaluation, such as uploading video assessments of candidates to a portal for assessors. This is already used for some NVQ type assessments and widely used in the USA. It may be just what our sector needs at this moment in time.” 'Accountable Person' role Latest Government report following Grenfell states they are looking to create a role in commercial buildings The latest Government report following Grenfell states they are looking to create a role in commercial buildings called the “Accountable Person.” This person will have a legal responsibility to ensure people working on systems are competent. While only for high rise and high-risk buildings, like all developments, it will likely spread throughout the sector. “For as long as I have been in the fire industry trade bodies have called upon the fire authorities and Government to legislate to stop unskilled workers installing and maintaining fire safety equipment,” says Brookes. He notes that both independent third-party certification of businesses and CSCS partner card schemes like ECS for individuals are voluntary arrangements. To date, neither Government nor fire services insist either scheme is used by a fire protection company. “If, heaven forbid, we witnessed another tragedy like Grenfell tomorrow, sadly I suspect the outcome would be very much the same,” says Brookes. “However, looking further ahead, I am confident buildings will be safer once new legislation comes into force and effectively eliminates the threat of incompetent and unqualified fire and emergency system engineers.”
When it comes to physical fitness, every fire department’s approach is different. Some have invested in a fitness initiative, others haven’t. Some struggle to create culture change and an environment where physical fitness is a priority and not an afterthought. Other departments don’t know where to begin, or they approach the issue of health and fitness randomly with approaches that may not be based on science. Firefighters physical health Worse, some departments embrace systems that are too strenuous or likely to cause injury. Using heavy weights can cause harm. Sometimes firefighters exercise beyond the point of fatigue. Basketball may be good exercise, but the risk of ankle sprains and other injuries outweighs the benefits. Any exercise program should be science-based and should “engineer out” the likelihood of injury" “Any exercise program should be science-based and should “engineer out” the likelihood of injury”, says Bryan Fass, Founder and President of Injury Prevention Systems and the Fit Responder. He works nationally with departments to reduce injuries and improve fitness for first responders. Need for a fitness policy at fire stations “Some departments have a ‘fitness policy’ that says firemen should work out whenever they can,” says Fass. “Others have no policy at all, and some have to deal with cities, command staff and unions – it’s hard to have a focused goal because everybody wants something different.” Some departments have built a centrally located fitness facility that crews from multiple firehouses can use on a rotating basis. Others may simply have an arrangement with a local health club that is agreeable to a fire truck being parked out front. A principal benefit of a physical fitness program is avoidance of on-the-job injuries Avoiding on-the-job physical injuries A principal benefit of a physical fitness program is avoidance of on-the-job injuries. The number one physical affliction for firefighters and EMTs is low-back injury. Firefighters also suffer shoulder injuries from pulling; or knee injuries from tripping, stepping in a hole, or climbing in and out of a truck. Injuries also tend to be less severe – and to heal more quickly – among physically fit patients. Fit firefighters are less likely to suffer from heart attacks in a high-stress/high-heat environment. Fitness also helps to offset fatigue. Research shows that a “fit but fatigued” firefighter will outperform, have less risk of injury and better cardiac health than an “unfit but fresh” firefighter in a high-stress/high-heat environment. In short, better fitness equates to better work capacity and fewer injuries. Addressing wide fitness level disparities When it comes to fitness, a concern is the wide disparity among fitness levels of firefighters When it comes to fitness, a concern is the wide disparity among fitness levels of firefighters. There are young firefighters who are relatively fit working out side-by-side with an aging workforce that isn’t equipped for the same level of activity. In the middle are some motivated souls who are more health-conscious. An approach that works for all three groups is to introduce activities with a low-risk-high-reward ratio. Regularly scheduled exercises should cater to the lowest-common-denominator participants. Exercise programs should be risk-averse. Importance of physical fitness programs A big need for fire departments is to have more structure in their physical fitness programs. “The need for structure is there, but every department is different,” says Fass. In fact, a misconception about firefighter fitness is that they have to train all the time. Rather, a balanced approach works best. When scheduling exercise routines for each shift, different kinds of workouts should be scheduled about two days apart. One day might be high intensity; another might be a mobility/recovery workout; a third might be primal lifting, squats and deadlifts; and a fourth might be stability/mild cardio (core training). The light schedule assumes that more fitness-conscious firefighters would work out more strenuously on their own time. A big need for fire departments is to have more structure in their physical fitness programs Incorporating high nutrition in firefighters’ diet Some departments embrace the concepts of good nutrition and how they can impact everything from a firefighter’s fatigue to their ability to survive on the fire ground; others revolt and won’t even listen. There are geographical differences, too: The West Coast is more health-conscious than the Northwest or South. Eliminating pain, increasing mobility and fighting fatigue are prerequisites for an exercise program Eliminating pain, increasing mobility and fighting fatigue are prerequisites for an exercise program. Participants should be taught to self-treat pain in the 16 “trigger points” around the body using therapeutic tools, such as a foam roller or tennis ball. There are tools to target each area of pain. Adopting a “mobility program” involves stretching for greater flexibility and mobility. And combatting fatigue means ensuring that firefighters get enough sleep. Incentives for fit firefighters Fears for their job security may be an unspoken but real concern among firemen presented with a new fitness program: “Get fit, or else….” Fitness programs should allow plenty of time for participants to get back into shape,” says Fass. Some departments offer incentives to employees who achieve better fitness, such as a cash award, gift card, or extra time off. Some offer incentives to do tests based on NFPA 1582, which outlines an occupational medical program to reduce risks and provide for the health, safety, and effectiveness of firefighters.
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) is setting the standard for the use of drones in firefighting applications. As one of the first major metropolitan fire departments to have a significant drone program, LAFD has flown more than 175 missions in less than two years, including the Skirball fire that burned the Bel Air neighborhood in December 2017. Since Skyfire Consulting, a drone services and training company, helped LAFD secure a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the drone program, the agency has established a training regimen, secured new products and equipment and grown their program to 17 licensed pilots and a fleet of nine drones. When privacy worries created a backlash in the community, the LAFD met the concerns head-on and ensured their standard operating procedures (SOPs) addressed any privacy issues. Incorporate Drone Technology LAFD started a Pilots Training and Ground School Course earlier in 2019 A report to the Board of Fire Commissioners in March from LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas outlined the program’s progress. LAFD started a Pilots Training and Ground School Course earlier in 2019 to teach flight skills concepts and legal aspects. LAFD Battalion Chief Richard Fields told the commission the LAFD’s drone program has become a national standard. “We are mentioned in literature, we are mentioned in conferences, we are mentioned across the city family as well as outside agencies,” Fields commented, as reported by NBC4 in Los Angeles. In April, drone technology company DJI announced a Solution Development Partnership with the LAFD to create, test and deploy DJI drones as an emergency response and preparedness tool. The agreement will provide the LAFD with access to new technologies, training and support to incorporate drone technology in its operations. Thermal Imaging Cameras LAFD flies DJI Matrice 600 Series and DJI Phantom 4 Pro drones equipped with visual and thermal imaging cameras that provide real-time video and data transmission to incident commanders. LAFD will continue to use DJI drone technology across a variety of situations including hot-spot identification and aerial mapping to help manage wildfire response, as well as incident response for swiftwater rescues, hazmat operations, and urban search and rescue missions. LAFD will continue to use DJI drone technology across a variety of situations “The LAFD has been working through a pragmatic approach to adopting drone technology for several years, including developing policies and procedures that define clear use case scenarios and building awareness among the general public about the positive life- and property-saving benefits drone technology can provide,” says Fields. “[The partnership with DJI] gives the Department access to developments such as drones equipped with thermal cameras that will give incident commanders a real-time bird’s-eye perspective,” he adds. Complex Urban Environments When considering the benefits of drones, departments of any size can be inspired by LAFD’s example “Combining advanced drone technology with new software tools will help bridge the gap between [the capabilities of] helicopters and [those of] firefighters on the ground, allowing us to address life-threatening situations faster and more effectively than ever before.” The LAFD’s drone program is one of 910 public safety organizations in the U.S. deploying drones for life saving activities, according to the Bard Center for the Study of the Drone (May 2018). “While the LAFD program shows how drones can succeed when operated within expansive, urban areas by a large department, drone technology is valuable to municipalities of any size,” says Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI. “Through our two-way collaboration [with LAFD], we will receive valuable insight into the complexities of deploying drones for emergency situations in one of the most complex urban environments in the nation,” says Bill Chen, Enterprise Partnerships Manager at DJI. When considering the benefits of drones, departments of any size can be inspired by LAFD’s example.