Dame Judith Hackett’s recommendations to the U.K. Government after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 were that the competence of the individuals working in the construction and life cycle of Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) needs to improve and be clearer. Work had already started in many fire protection sectors to create fully recognized qualifications, and these help raise the benchmark. Improving fire safety training A force driving improvements in training is the Fire Industry Association (FIA). As a trade association, FIA is looking at ways to help its members and the broader industry sectors. One way to do that is to improve the training that FIA has provided to fire detection and fire alarm technicians for over 20 years. Having looked at various ways of doing this, FIA’s members agreed that creating nationally recognized qualifications would help add more professionalism to this sector. To offer nationally recognized qualifications, the FIA chose to become an awarding body registered with OFQUAL [Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation]. Initially, training is focused on the FD&A [Fire Detection and Alarm] sector, with future plans to offer training in other fire sectors. The process of becoming an awarding body was rigorous and difficult. It took FIA more than three years of applying and submitting policy documents before the organization finally achieved awarding body status in 2014. Fire system installation roles Training is provided in the four job roles as described in the fire system installation standard BS 5389/1: 2017 Training is provided in the four job roles as described in the fire system installation standard BS 5389/1: 2017; they are Design, Installation, Commissioning and Maintenance. These roles are also recognized within company third party certifications schemes (LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203). The designer designs the FD&A system, and the Installer installs it. The Commissioning technician checks and signs off the installation, and the Maintenance technician will complete the routine maintenance during the life of the system. Training modules Training in FIA’s four qualifications, at National Vocational Qualification Level 3, is broken down into modules. The Foundation is the information that each job role needs and is common to all four job roles, as is the Environment module and the Health and Safety module. These are the core modules. The final job-specific module picks up on the differences among the roles; e.g., what does a maintenance technician need to know that is different to an install technician? “Providing a qualification requires a process of asking the sector what it wants,” says Martin Duggan, General Manager, Fire Industry Association (FIA). “We went through a comprehensive route with ‘voice of the customer’ days and surveys plus syllabus reviews to check and double-check that the qualification reflects what the industry wants.” The base is the BS 5389 standard, although more was added such as Health and Safety and Environmental aspects. National Vocational Qualification Level 3 Level 3 is for supervisors or unsupervised workers and in a lot of cases, the individual will work unsupervised once they are qualified and have gained experience. The work done to create the services standard EN 16763: 2017 Services for Fire Safety Systems and Security Systems identified Level 3 as the appropriate level. The trailblazer aimed at apprentices in this sector also reached a conclusion that level 3 was the right one, as did FIA’s own research. Many electricians and security companies install fire alarm systems as their skills are very similar; however, the Fire Safety Order (England and Wales) states that a responsible person should only use competent persons to install and maintain fire protection systems. But how do you prove competence? Training in FIA’s four qualifications, at National Vocational Qualification Level 3, is broken down into modules Fire Safety Order “One of the worst things we see from all types of installers into buildings is leaving big holes in compartment walls,” says Duggan. (A compartment wall is designed to contain the spread of fire for a designated period of time.) “These should all be correctly sealed up.” The work being done by Working Group 2 (Installers) as part of the industry response group to Government on Dame Judith Hackett’s recommendations includes: Company third party certification (so that the purchasing of services is done through a recognized company). The individuals the companies employ have a relevant recognized qualification. This is backed up on site with a CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card or equivalent. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) or refresher training is introduced A basic knowledge of fire safe building and compartmentation is understood. “It’s this final piece that will help drive cultural change quickly, if we can implement it correctly,” says Duggan. “Can we get all installers to understand why we build compartments and why it’s so important not to damage these and allow smoke, heat and fire to move freely about a building?” LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203 The benchmark for the FD&A industry has been third party certification with the two schemes LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203 The benchmark for the FD&A industry has been company third party certification with the two schemes LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203 being well established for the last 20 years; however, there are many companies that still are not registered, says Duggan. The excuse is based on cost, that customers are not asking for it, and that it’s not mandatory. “The way the current legislation works and is policed, it’s only likely that poor installations etc. will be found after a serious fire when it’s too late,” says Duggan. “Unfortunately, customers do not fully understand their duties to only employ competent people, and the courts will ask: What is the industry best practice and what more could have been done to prove your competence?” Third party schemes “We have company third party schemes for most fire protection disciplines and there are qualifications coming online for most sectors as well,” says Duggan. “These are what the FIA would point to as best practice.”
There is still plenty at the expo even for a seasoned fire detection and alarm pro The Fire Industry Manufacturers Expo (FIM Expo) is coming to Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol. The event is organised by the Fire Industry Association and helps to build the bridge between manufacturers of fire detection and alarm products and those in the services world. The expo is a fantastic place to meet manufacturers and network with other service professionals if you’re working in this niche but still buoyant area of business. The expo’s light and informal atmosphere is renowned for making those close connections and business partnerships due to its small size. Here, instead of wandering aimlessly between stands for hours, you can easily make all the connections you need within a relatively short period of time. A major advantage is that you can see all the products and get answers on how they all work, which is helpful if you’re unfamiliar with a particular area. Expert advice on fire safety There is still plenty at the expo even for a seasoned fire detection and alarm pro. The 17 confirmed exhibitors (and more on the way) will be showing a range of their products and with new ranges being developed, so it’s a good time to find out if there are any new products, or explore other manufacturer’s products that you might not have known much about previously. Aside from the exhibitors themselves, there is the added bonus of two free seminars. The first seminar, ‘BS 5839-1: 2017 – What’s changed?’ is presented by the FIA’s Technical Manager, Will Lloyd, known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of British Standards, and can provide expert advice on a wide range of fire detection and alarm issues. The seminar covers the latest major revision of the standard, BS 5839-1, and the differences between this version and the old 2013 version. Despite it being 2018, there may still be some aspects of the 2017 revision of this standard that one (or colleagues) may be unaware of. The FIA is committed to improving professional levels throughout the industry Fire detection areas The update seminar covers a long list of areas including: Differences between the old version of BS5839-1: 2013 and the 2017 update Unwanted fire alarm signals Multi-sensor detectors in escape routes L3 and L2 systems The use of manual call point covers Places of ‘ultimate safety’ Manual call point locations Communications with the fire and rescue service Staff alarms Video fire detection Types of fire detectors and their selection Spacing and siting of automatic fire detectors Detector spacing and siting on honeycomb ceilings Siting of optical beam smoke detectors Ceiling height limits Cables, wiring, and other interconnections Inspection and servicing This is not a full and complete list but does give an indication of the level of depth that will be presented. The FIA is committed to improving professional levels throughout the industry and this seminar will provide plenty of insight into this complex subject area. Future of the fire industry The second seminar running at FIM Expo will be discussing the future of the fire industry. What levels of competency will be expected or needed in 2018 and beyond? In our current climate, where pressures on responsible persons/duty holders are rising, what will those potential clients be looking for in a fire detection and alarm service company? Entitled, ‘The future of qualifications in fire detection and alarm’, this is a good opportunity to hear from industry experts and ask questions about the movement of the industry over the next few years. This presentation will be presented by the FIA’s General Manager, Martin Duggan. Both seminars are fully CPD accredited and certificates will be available to pick up from the registration desk at the end.
Research undertaken by the Building Research Establishment in association with the FIA and a range of manufacturers of detection products has led to some momentous discoveries in the field of fire detection and alarm: more sophisticated multi-sensor detectors really are more effective at reducing false alarms than the ‘standard’ smoke alarms. The research, undertaken by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the University of Duisburg in Germany, and part-funded by the FIA, used a range of different detectors – both standard and multi-sensor, to find out which detectors were more effective in terms of sensitivity and reducing false alarms. effectiveness of multi-sensors This project may help manufacturers and installation companies may benefit from a raised awareness of false alarm" Martin Duggan, General Manager of the Fire Industry Association, commented: “Four years ago, we decided that we should invest around 100K a year into research projects. Research is important to FIA as it underpins all the professional standards that we strive for and ultimately has an impact on the way standards are created, written, and the way that fire protection is implemented nationally." "This new project into the effectiveness of multi-sensors may help manufacturers develop new products and installation companies may benefit from a raised awareness of false alarm rejection from a range of different detectors.” The project arose from a previous research project called ‘Live investigations of false fire alarms’, which was conducted in conjunction with BRE and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services, which monumentally changed the British Standards to include covers on manual call points to reduce false alarms. multi-sensor detectors The success of this last research project led to this new research project on multi-sensor detectors and their ability to reject false alarms, as one of the recommendations of the last project stated the need to investigate the properties of multi-sensor detectors. In this new study, 12 manufacturer’s products were represented, using a total of 35 different detectors, including two standard detectors – one that was a commercial detector and one that was a domestic detector. The multi-sensor detectors categorized as ‘advanced’ far outstripped others in false alarm tests The detectors were graded according to their different designs into three performance categories: standard, intermediate, and advanced performance. These were then tested against 10 different fire tests and false alarm tests to replicate a range of real-life circumstances. classic false alarm The results showed little difference in sensitivity and ability to detect between multi-sensor detectors and standard detectors, but one key area did come to light: the multi-sensor detectors categorized as ‘advanced’ far outstripped others in false alarm tests, meaning that they offered the same level of protection from fire, but were much better at rejecting false alarm situations, such as the classic false alarm caused by burnt toast. It can be difficult for installation and maintenance companies to know how to solve the issue of reoccurring false alarms and which type of detector to install to solve the issue. It gets even more confusing when the range of effectiveness of those alarms varies so widely from one manufacturer to another. But now, thanks to this new research into the effectiveness of standard detectors versus multi-sensor detectors, there is some clarification at last.