Armor Products FIRE RESCUE ACESSORIES(2)
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With Grenfell inquiries continuing to uncover a number of fire safety issues, it’s clear that decision makers must learn from critical mistakes in a bid for better fire safety standards. Karen Trigg of Allegion UK highlights the key lessons that must be taken from Grenfell to help ensure a disaster of this magnitude never happens again. On the 14th June 2017, UK witnessed a tragedy. A myriad of critical issues, whether the result of mistakes, oversights or neglect, led to the largest fire disaster in modern memory - Grenfell Tower. Since then, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has taken steps to uncover what went wrong that morning. But equally important is identifying and learning from the fire safety issues that were in play that day, so as to help ensure an incident like this never happens again. Taking Responsibility With that in mind, decision makers, construction companies, installers and manufacturers are amongst those that, in reviewing the reports, can make clear, steadfast plans to help improve fire safety for everyone. For that, a change in education towards fire safety - and the various solutions that make it possible - must be at the forefront of one’s activity. Because in reality, one is not just talking about ancillary products here, but lifesaving solutions. In November 2020, it emerged that Grenfell Tower suppliers were aware their cladding was dangerous In November 2020, it emerged that Grenfell Tower suppliers were aware their cladding was dangerous, with an inquiry citing, “These companies knew their materials would burn with lethal speed”. Despite the inquiries still bringing issues to light years later, it’s important to move forward on the critical topics that have already been identified. safety hardware manufacturers Aside from cladding, from the viewpoint of fire safety hardware manufacturers, two other key issues stood out from the reports; the failure of compartmentation and flat entrance doors failing to close. Combined, these themes proved fatal. Compartmentation in particular is crucial to containing the spread of fire from one area (in this case, apartments) to another, giving building occupants a safe space and protection from the fire. Commonly, over a building’s lifespan, compartmentation can become compromised with a number of different retro-fitted products. With this, installers (who may not be fully aware of the importance of fire protection) can potentially leave holes where there were none before, thus giving fire and smoke a place to breach the defenses the building once had. On this occasion, learning from the fire doors - which also play a critical part in compartmentalization - is key. ineffective fire doors As stated in Phase I of the Grenfell Inquiry, “The performance of fire doors in the tower, in particular, whether they complied with relevant regulations, their maintenance and the reasons why some of the self-closing devices do not appear to have worked.” In the same section of Phase I, it was made clear that ineffective fire doors allowed smoke and toxic gases to spread throughout the building at a quicker rate than they should have. The market has developed to offer solutions designed to meet the many needs of a building and their users The absence of effective self-closing devices in part led to the failure of compartmentation and was therefore a reason why the doors failed to perform their essential function. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that fire doors (when operating with fully functional hardware) play an essential role in preventing or inhibiting the spread of smoke and toxic gases and are a key factor in preserving effective compartmentation in buildings. delayed closing mechanisms With this information, questions must be asked as to why there was an absence of effective self-closing devices? There could be many reasons as to why there was a lack of self-closing devices, for example, the doors being too difficult to open, or perhaps closing too quickly and were thus removed. Yet the removal of those devices is never the true answer and instead it puts residents at risk. Today, the market has developed to offer solutions designed to meet the many needs of a building and their users, including those with delayed closing mechanisms that can ease access and egress. Yet it’s key to remember that fire doors and their accompanying hardware are there to save lives and property in the event of a fire and can only do so if the correct solutions are present and correctly installed. fire safety education The lessons taken from Grenfell must further prompt an area which is still not as good as it needs to be - fire safety education. It’s fundamental to ensure facility managers, installers and residents all understand the importance of fire safety solutions - from why they’re there to how they operate. The installation process is paramount, too. There are common issues with installation that simply must be ironed out. Aside from this, stricter guidelines need to be implemented as a way of preventing fire incidents such as Grenfell Commonly, the speed to which installers are required to work isn’t leaving enough time for door closers to be fully adjusted and therefore suit the environment in which it’s being fitted. To combat this, suppliers must do what is necessary to support installation - from supplying self-adhesive templates to improve efficiency, to offering spring adjustable door closers which are perfect for time-impaired installers. preventing fire incidents Aside from this, stricter guidelines need to be implemented as a way of preventing fire incidents such as Grenfell. Fire safety solutions such as door hardware are accompanied with certifications but should stricter guidelines be in place for those installing them? Furthermore, when it comes to testing, should higher risk buildings not be treated in the same vein as the everyday vehicles where regular servicing and MOTs are required to ensure they continue to perform? These, amongst others, are the questions that must continue being asked. Finally, a push for improved competence across the board is key. From the product design stage right through to constructing, inspecting, assessing and managing and maintaining all public buildings, including higher risk residential buildings as Grenfell once was. Only when key mistakes are learnt from, and competent bodies placed in the overseeing of refurbishments or new builds of high-risk residential buildings, can everyone truly feel that they are one step closer to complete fire safety
Every day, across the globe, emergency services teams come to people’s aid no matter the situation to ensure their safety. Whether it’s during a natural disaster, or at a significant event, the emergency services are on hand to face any challenge that comes their way. When supporting this crucial workforce, it is essential that they have robust and reliable connectivity. Technology is becoming a vital aspect of public safety and security worldwide, and this trend is only likely to grow. For these new devices to work effectively, full-scale coverage must be in place, and when it comes to people’s safety, there is no room for error. The need for redundancy and high bandwidth Two of the paramount tools at emergency services disposal are video surveillance and communication devices. Constant visibility and communication are often essential to protecting people and saving lives. The benefits range from providing first responders with a clear picture and understanding of the situation they are about to encounter; to providing greater safety during public events by enabling officers to control crowds and manage traffic effectively. Enhancing visibility and sharing information is particularly crucial during fires to guide firefighters and vehicles through flames and smoke, and to allow the central command center to organize resources effectively. Technology is becoming a vital aspect of public safety and security worldwide, and this trend is only likely to grow Despite any potential challenges ensuring network connectivity may create, public safety organizations cannot compromise when it comes to optimizing security. For IP video surveillance and cellphone broadband connectivity to operate effectively, they require redundancy and high bandwidth. Without these connectivity attributes, devices become useless; for example, there are municipalities where as much as 50 percent of the camera network is offline because of poor product choices and inferior network design and installation. Equally, poor quality networking can be just as limiting as it can lead to public safety organizations being unable to receive real-time data. All areas must also have adequate bandwidth to access data, such as on-scene video, aerial imagery, maps, and images, and many existing public safety networks do not have that capacity. Supporting security and safety robotics Robots and drones have seen a considerable increase in popularity this year, with 60 million such machines being deployed according to ABI Research. They offer a wealth of potential to emergency services teams, whether on land, air, or sea. For example, water rescue robots can go where humans cannot, earthquake and fire robots can search through otherwise non-navigable areas, and drones can survey vast regions. However, for these wireless devices to work effectively, they rely on many features. They need low power consumption so as not to heavily burden the onboard power source of the robotic device and, perhaps, a high level of encryption so information cannot be stolen or hacked. There are also benefits to security and safety as robotic devices can communicate with one another peer-to-peer. Directly mounting radios to robots and drones, fosters dynamic self-learning, data sharing, and more wireless paths in the event one or more of the devices in an area do not have a link to fixed infrastructure. Water rescue robots can go where humans cannot, earthquake and fire robots can search through otherwise non-navigable areas, and drones can survey vast regions The main component that security and safety robotics require is redundant and resilient connections. If the connection is lost, the connected device will go into “safe” mode and stop. Creating a high capacity network that supports mobile devices in complex and fast-moving environments is not a simple task. In many cases, it requires a network that supports many wireless connections and allows for many paths in and out, so that if a link is lost, another path is available for data transmission and reception. This type of network is the best way to ensure that police, firefighters, and emergency units can access and send large amounts of data from wherever they are and in real-time making a massive difference to the efficiency of the emergency services. An example of this is Rajant’s private Kinetic Mesh® network, a wireless network ensuring no single point of failure. It offers reliable, intelligent, and secure wireless broadband connectivity that survives and thrives in evolving and mobility-driven environments. It forms a “living” mesh network that can move with and adapt to the evolving communication requirements of public safety organizations. Technology in action Back in October 2019, the heat from the sun, combined with winds gusting through the foothills of El Capitán Canyon in California, sparked a bush fire in the overly dry, desert hills. Despite four hundred and twenty acres being burnt, firefighters used their experience and skills combined with newfound digital technology to ensure that no structures were damaged, and there were no reported injuries. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire, the U.S Forest Service, and other agencies were immediately dispatched to contain the fire. More than 200 firefighters were needed to combat the fire and reinforce containment lines with helicopters and drones in the air and bulldozers on the ground. To operate this equipment, mesh radio nodes, bonded cellular, and satellite technologies were used to link the communication gap in locations where signals are often dropped. Rajant BreadCrumb® nodes were mounted to the fire-breaking, 30-ton bulldozers manned by trained firefighters to uproot vegetation and eliminate the materials that would further spread the fire. Robots and drones have seen a considerable increase in popularity this year, with 60 million such machines being deployed The reliable connectivity allowed the bulldozers to not only easily communicate with each other and the base, but also to send video footage and data to the tactical truck and central command post over cellular and SAT networks. This situational awareness data transfer allowed for greater efficiency, as well as increased safety for the public and the firefighters. Reliability when you need it most Reliable connectivity solutions are being embraced across the emergency services due to the innumerable benefits they bring to ensuring the safety of the public. For police, firefighters, and emergency units, dependable connectivity allows for rapid, real-time response, and the use of technology can save lives in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible a decade ago. Planned and unplanned events can benefit from the new technology being introduced, and emergency services need to make sure they have the network capabilities to support them. For environments that are challenging and hostile, this requires a network available on-demand, which can withstand the demands of harsh conditions and mobility while maintaining a level of redundancy and high bandwidth that allows for accessing and sending large amounts of data from any location.
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.
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