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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.
Extricating collision victims requires advanced medical care After a vehicle collision of significant force - as in the case of high-speed impact - it is likely that the occupants of the car, particularly the driver and front seat passenger, will be entrapped. Brendon Morris, Holmatro Rescue Equipment's Consultation & Training Manager, and a rescue paramedic in South Africa for many years, discusses the need for an advanced level of care for entrapped patients in vehicle extrication rescue. Entrapment in a vehicle accident can be physical, mechanical or both. In other words, the victim can be trapped by his or her physical injuries or by the fact that the vehicle has crumpled in such a way that it is not possible to get out of the wreckage (mechanical). Regardless of whether there is a physical or mechanical entrapment, victims are very likely to suffer significant internal injuries after a high-speed impact. It is these internal injuries that can be worsened due to inappropriate handling and lack of good medical care during the extrication rescue process. Combining technical extrication skills & advanced medical care The specialized discipline of extrication rescue is performed with varying degrees of efficiency across the globe. To reduce the negative effects of moving an entrapped victim (whose condition may worsen due to their already fragile state), specialized extrication tools and techniques are needed. With rescuers in more and more countries becoming aware of this, the overall demand for these tools and techniques has increased over the years. What makes the overall discipline of extrication rescue so successful is that it combines technical extrication skills with advanced medical care of the patient. From the second a crash occurs the medical condition of a trapped victim will continue to worsen From the second a crash occurs the medical condition of a trapped patient will begin to worsen. Approximately 50% of road traffic deaths occur at the crash scene. As we all know, the need for patients to get to a hospital as soon as possible is essential in increasing the chance of survival. To this end, we tend to invest much time and money developing well-run ambulance services that can carry the patient to a hospital safely and efficiently. What is often forgotten, however, is the importance of ensuring that we do not harm the patient any further when freeing him from his position in the vehicle. Extrication rescue should not only be used when it is physically impossible to remove a patient. It should also be routinely used to make sure that the patient is not moved or handled in a way that could further compromise his or her already delicate medical condition. Techniques such as a side and roof removal help to ensure that the patient can be removed from the vehicle in an in-line movement to protect him against the aggravation of potentially dangerous spinal injuries. This technique is just one example of how simple procedures can significantly increase the possibility of full recovery from a motor vehicle collision. Challenges with extrication rescue efforts Research in the field of extrication rescue, as with pre-hospital care, is extremely limited due to ethical and practical issues. Extrication rescue efforts are even more problematic to prove. What has been shown is that, of the high percentage of deaths occurring in the pre-hospital stage, many can be avoided. Moreover, many complications resulting in disability in the pre-hospital phase could also be avoided. Rescuers must use tools designed to cope with New Car Technology Unfortunately, we can see a large difference between the likelihood of surviving the pre-hospital stage in more developed countries as opposed to low and middle income countries. Perhaps this can be attributed not only to the lack of emergency medical services in these countries, but also to the lack of expertise and equipment for the extrication of victims from their damaged vehicles. Another important consideration is the advent of new stronger vehicle constructions on the roads today. To deal with these, rescue tool manufacturers constantly have to develop stronger tools (especially cutters). New Car Technology often introduces the paradox of safety vs. accessibility. In other words, the very construction that makes it possible for a driver of a car to survive the impact may well be the reason why it is impossible for a rescuer to free the victim when working with old, out of date rescue tools. Basic first-aid training is not enough In low and middle-income countries, patient transport by ambulance from the crash scene is rare, with most patients being transported by commercial vehicles having been "rescued" by the general public. Some programs are being developed to provide basic first-aid training to those most likely to come across vehicle collisions. Hopefully this will decrease mortality rates. It may also be worth further investigating whether providing more extrication skills to those responsible for the rescue of patients from their damaged vehicles may also decrease mortality rates. Providing only first aid skills may even prove to be harmful where there is no formal system in place to control the extrication process. Teamwork is critical to extrication rescue success Extrication rescue not only equips rescuers to aid victims, but also to maintain their own safety on scene The scene of a motor vehicle collision is not the controlled environment of an operating or consultation room. The rescue scene has many dangers and risks associated with it and these have to be controlled. Extrication rescue does not only provide knowledge to rescuers on how to safely extricate patients, it also equips them with the skills to ensure that they do not become injured themselves during the rescue. Extrication rescue techniques also include the various activities that must be done to ensure that all personnel involved in the rescue scene are working in a safe environment. A perfect example of this is the importance of ensuring that the vehicle's battery is disconnected in order to remove the chance of an electrical short circuit starting a fire. In terms of safety, the other matter to consider is the fact that many different services have to work together on a rescue scene. The only way to ensure safety for all involved is for the services to work together as one team: each knowing exactly what their responsibilities are. Brendon Morris - Consultation & Training Manager, Holmatro Rescue Equipment