It makes perfect sense that a horrific wildfire season would come in the year 2020 on the heels of a pandemic. Dozens of major fires burned across North America in September, including 85 large uncontained fires and six contained fires across 12 states. Active fires have burned more than 3 million acres already, and 41,417 fires have burned almost 5 million acres year-to-date. The severity of the wildfire season is on track to surpass the 10-year average. Better understanding wildfires Globa...
Should firefighters and other first responders be exempt from requirements that they wear face masks to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? The City Council of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, seems to think so. They are proposing an amendment to exempt first responders from complying with the city’s face mask ordinance. Amendment to Exempt first responders from face mask rule Specifically, the proposed amendment states, “Exempted from the requirements of the ordinance r...
The organizers of Milipol Qatar, the international event for homeland security and civil defense, have announced force majeure has prompted the postponement of the event for six months to March 2021. Over recent weeks and months, they have been in constant discussions with key industry authorities and partners to stay abreast of the challenges in the face of disruption due to COVID-19. In the light of the latest developments of the health situation worldwide and especially in Qatar, as announce...
As fire safety continues to make the headlines, Karen Trigg of Allegion UK outlines the importance of hardware selection and reminds decision makers of how routine checks can save lives. Door hardware plays a role in the operational integrity of a building, and more crucially, is a key element of a facility’s fire safety and security. Putting fire safety measures at risk Fire doors, and their accompanying hardware in particular, require special attention from facility managers and insta...
With more than two dozen major wildfires as well as over 12,000 emergency incidents, and over 1.1 million acres burned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a thick blanket of smoke continues to hang low in the skies in Northern California. NasalGuard® Airborne Particle Blocker responds to the devastating fires raging across Northern California with the launch of the ‘Breathe Easier Smoke Inhalation Donation’ program. NasalGuard® Airborne P...
New aerial ladders that are more responsive to drive, faster to set up and with greater rescue capabilities are soon to hit the streets of London as the Brigade continues to improve its ability to deal with high rise incidents. Twelve new 32 meter appliances known as turntable ladders are part of the aerial replacement project and have many improvements on the existing fleet, the biggest being that the ladder articulates, allowing for greater maneuverability. The articulating top section means...
DripDrop ORS (DripDrop Hydration), a globally renowned rehydration therapy company, announced partnering with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) to provide the nation’s volunteer firefighters with dehydration relief. DripDrop Oral Rehydration Solution The company pledged to donate 100,000 sticks of DripDrop Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) this summer to assist volunteer firefighters during extreme heat, wildfire season, and the COVID-19 pandemic. When this donation was met within two days of the campaign’s launch, DripDrop increased the amount by an additional 100,000 sticks. “The speed with which the initial donation amount was reached proves how needed rehydration therapy is in volunteer fire departments across the U.S.,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chairman, Steve Hirsch. Rehydrating firefighters working in extreme conditions Firefighters work and train in extreme conditions, losing a significant amount of water" Steve adds, “Firefighters work and train in extreme conditions, losing a significant amount of water. The generous donation of 200,000 sticks of DripDrop ORS will help make sure these firefighters receive the relief they need so they don’t suffer the negative consequences of dehydration.” “No one is immune to dehydration and the effects it can have on our bodies, particularly those who work in extreme conditions like firefighters,” said Eduardo Dolhun, Managing Director and Founder of DripDrop ORS. Eduardo adds, “We are proud to partner with the NVFC and provide these brave heroes with DripDrop’s ORS to help them stay healthy and maintain proper hydration levels.” DripDrop – NVFC partnership The partnership between DripDrop and the NVFC coincided with the expansion of DripDrop’s popular ORS lineup to now include an 80-count, multi-flavor box of berry, lemon, watermelon, and orange flavors. This product is the latest in DripDrop’s arsenal aimed at combating dehydration, a condition affecting up to 75 percent of the U.S. population at any given time. DripDrop ORS improves on the World Health Organization standard for an ORS with medical-grade electrolytes, making it both the ideal rehydration therapy for the general population and a mission-critical tool for firefighters and other public safety and emergency workers.
Dräger, a pioneer in medical and safety technology, is launching its ‘Health for the Firefighter’ campaign to support fire services in driving the cultural changes that are required to protect firefighter health. Impact of exposure The launch follows a survey of UK firefighters that found considerable concern over the impact of exposure to contaminants on long-term health. Some 84% admitted they were concerned about the risk of cancer – a disease highlighted in some scientific reports to be the cause of death within the service. The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) reports that nearly two out of three (61%) firefighter line-of-duty deaths between 2002 and 2017 were caused by cancer. Embedded carcinogens in any equipment can easily be absorbed by the men and women using it. Robust hygiene processes We need to move away from firefighters wearing dirty kit like a badge of honor" The survey by Dräger also found that more than two thirds (68%) of firefighters fear the impact of COVID-19 on their long-term health, a point picked up by Brian Hesler, Consultant and Specialist Advisor at Draeger Safety UK and former Chief Fire Officer for the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service: “The COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing fears over cancer, have highlighted the critical importance of hygiene, and a significant cultural change is required. We need to move away from firefighters wearing dirty kit like a badge of honor that proves their hard work and value, to understanding that clean and well-maintained kit supported by detailed and robust hygiene processes that mitigate every contact with contaminants are essential. One firefighter surveyed said ‘they had always been a bit blasé about invisible contaminants’. This has got to change.” Detailed hygiene processes The Health for the Firefighter campaign will support the fire services in helping to communicate and provide training on the importance of detailed hygiene processes; from the handling and storage of masks and breathing apparatus (BA) equipment through to the subsequent cleaning of the kit after an incident has occurred. It will also provide bespoke workshop solutions that guide the potentially contaminated kit from entering the station, to washing and drying processes through to leaving the station to be used again. In addition to providing detailed advice for manual washing processes including on detergent use and drying techniques, Dräger is the first company in the Emergency Services space to launch specialist BA and mask cleaning equipment and dedicated solutions, including mechanical washing systems that provide complete consistency in washing temperatures, the amount of detergent used, speed and temperature of drying – which can all work together to disinfect contaminants and to protect the longevity of the kit. Mechanical equipment washing However, only 23% said that the pandemic had significantly changed their approach to cleaning equipment Support also encompasses logistical support for installation, the ongoing maintenance of equipment and the quantity of stock required. The survey revealed the most important factors in combating firefighter concerns over contaminants were the cleaning of masks with 97% rating this as very or extremely important, closely followed by the cleaning of BA equipment (95%) and cleaning of PPE (94%). While manual cleaning of equipment is still generally the norm within UK Fire Services, the survey revealed three quarters (75%) believed that mechanical equipment washing would improve their health, and 80% agreed that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic more emphasis should be placed on cleaning equipment and hygiene control. However, only 23% said that the pandemic had significantly changed their approach to cleaning equipment. Responsibility to innovate solutions “There is obvious concern over cleaning of equipment following the pandemic,” adds Brian. “One surveyed firefighter said ‘they clean to the best of their ability’ – the point is that a person’s ability should not be a factor in the cleaning process.” “Consistency has to be key and manufacturers of medical and safety technology products have a responsibility to innovate solutions that support change. We are not here to tell brigades how to operate, rather to provide a range of solutions that support them and their firefighters’ health.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic expanded earlier this year, there was an overwhelming demand for PPE to protect the brave workers battling on the front lines. To meet the growing need for critical protection and supplies for PPE, DuPont launched the #TyvekTogether program to partner with additional converters to increase the supply of Tyvek garments to the marketplace. In parallel, Ansell launched the #NetworkofHeroes program, offering support to non-PPE manufacturers with the capacities and necessary equipment, to produce coveralls or gowns for use against infective agents, such as COVID-19. And as Ansell was working - like DuPont - to facilitate the manufacturing of PPE but also maximize their own production across their portfolio to meet the huge increase in demand, they were facing a shortage of material for their gown production. existing converter network The commitment to safety and responding to the needs for protection for the frontline workers came first and DuPont and Ansell aligned to work together to help increase the availability of isolation gowns for the COVID-19 response for the North America market. “It’s vital we come together as an industry to help the front-line heroes get the PPE that they need to stay protected. We had maximized our production of PPE through our existing converter network, and we believed that working with other companies to convert their PPE production to Tyvek would be the fastest way to protect more people. We began producing a new style of Tyvek fabric, Tyvek 1222A, to help support the needs for additional Tyvek PPE, but we needed additional partners with converting capacity”, says David Domnisch, Global Business Leader of DuPont Personal Protection. soaring demand for PPE As a safety company, we are committed to protecting our communities and frontline workers" Through this collaboration, Ansell will be producing 600 000 isolation gowns made of Tyvek fabric. The gowns are supplied to front line workers via Henry Schein, a leading U.S. distributor to healthcare providers in the U.S. “As a safety company, we are committed to protecting our communities and frontline workers. We knew we could not meet the soaring demand for PPE alone. So, we naturally decided to combine our respective know-how in the unique AlphaTec gown with Tyvek fabric and protect North America frontline workers fighting COVID-19,” Paul Bryce, Ansell Chemical Solutions SBU VP & GM. protective glove portfolio Both DuPont and Ansell are committed to helping to protect those who protect others and the companies are proud to work together to make a difference and maximize the supply of PPE for the COVID-19 response. Ansell and DuPont have had a long-term relationship working together. DuPont supplies Ansell with DuPont Kevlar fiber and engineered yarns for many products in their protective glove portfolio. DuPont also is a customer of Ansell’s as they supply cut resistant gloves for many of our DuPont facilities. They are proud to come together to solve a humanitarian challenge by combining their own unique capabilities and capacities in what is typically a competitive space.
The Kentec Installer Program (KIP), launched by the manufacturer of life-critical control systems at last year’s Firex, is now expanding to include Kentec’s vast international installation customer network. To date it has registered more than 100 installers, making it one of the largest partner programs in the fire industry. The scheme provides Kentec’s registered customers with a wide-ranging program of bespoke training and best-in-class technical support, as well as dedicated software and enhanced product functionality. Advanced and sophisticated panels It has been designed to further professionalism within the industry and assure end users that their installations take best advantage of even Kentec’s most advanced and sophisticated panels. It also provides access to Kentec’s protected partner site, Virtual Resource, as well as Taktis LE2 commissioning software and enhanced Bridge Functionality – the solution for migrating Syncro panel networks to the latest Taktis technology. A dedicated KIP technical support helpline provides installers with access to Kentec’s experienced team A dedicated KIP technical support helpline provides installers with access to Kentec’s experienced team, training is providing on Kentec’s full fire product range and all KIP members can promote their Kentec product expertise with the KIP logo on their websites and marketing collateral. Kentec also features a list of its KIP partners on its own website. Higher industry standard Kentec’s approach is about considering the evolving market place and the requirements of installers to demonstrate competency on the manufacturers’ equipment, whilst not leaving its core values of being ‘open protocol’ behind. Mark Wheeler, Managing Director of EA-RS Fire Engineering Ltd, says the COVID-19 outbreak has been a good opportunity to invest in training: “We predict there will be a surge in business in coming months with projects that were put on hold due to COVID-19 being re-scheduled. It therefore makes sense to use training to put the company in the strongest position to meet additional demand,” he says. “Creating the KIP scheme was a bold step for Kentec, acknowledging that a higher industry standard was required. It has been an important step in furthering the assurance we provide end users that critical life safety systems are only being installed by fully-competent firms, that have received training on the latest industry innovations. This ultimately ensures that life safety systems are optimized.” Range of critical sectors Taktis has become one of our preferred panel choices for its networking capabilities and easy-to-use interface" Daren Pool, Managing Director of Triple Star Fire & Security Limited, joined the scheme as his business saw Kentec’s Taktis panel becoming increasingly prevalent: “Taktis has become one of our preferred panel choices for its networking capabilities and easy-to-use interface.” “As we are installing the panel into more and more customer sites, across a range of critical sectors, I felt it was important that myself and engineers fully understood the latest developments and full capabilities of the panel in order that our customers are able to realize its full potential. The scheme has worked very well in providing us with full confidence that we are providing all our customers with this service.” Derrick Hall, Director of Sales at Kentec, says he is proud of what the KIP scheme has achieved so far: “Our KIP partners have been carefully selected based on their skill, expertise, experience and accreditations. We are proud to have developed a system that installers find useful in optimizing installations of our highly-sophisticated fire panels. We’ve adapting to lockdown to make sure training can be delivered online and this has worked very well.”
MSA, DuPont, and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) are helping volunteer fire departments obtain much-needed gear through MSA’s and DuPont’s Globe Gear Giveaway. In 2020, 13 departments will each receive four new sets of turnout gear and four new helmets to help enhance the safety of their firefighters. The first 500 applicants also received a one-year NVFC membership, courtesy of MSA. The latest recipients of MSA’s and DuPont’s 2020 Globe Gear Giveaway are the Strykersville (New York) Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. and Gilt Edge Volunteer Fire Department (Burlison, Tennessee). Strykersville Volunteer Fire Company The Strykersville Volunteer Fire Company (SVFC) protects 52 square miles of rural upstate New York. Even though they have 21 active members responding to over 200 calls annually, all of their turnout gear is over 10 years old and thus non-compliant with NFPA and OSHA safety standards. Over the past year, members have even been turned away from basic and higher-level trainings due to the condition of their turnout gear. SVFC is unable to purchase new gear due to financial constraints, and restrictions enacted to stop the spread of COVID-19 have limited their traditional fundraising methods. Facilitating quicker response times The new gear will have an immediate impact on the safety and effectiveness of the department Despite these challenges, SVFC maintains a positive reputation as a highly responsive, fiscally responsible fire company dedicated to serving their community. The new gear will have an immediate impact on the safety and effectiveness of the department. “Without grant assistance, we risk delayed responses, putting firefighters, the community, and property in danger, none of which are risks we would like to take,” said Secretary Mary Gibson. “The addition of four sets of turnout gear will help bring active members into immediate, full compliance with NFPA 1971 and 1851 [and] facilitate quicker response times with fully-staffed equipment, bringing the department closer to 100 percent NFPA 1720 compliance.” Gilt Edge Volunteer Fire Department The Gilt Edge Volunteer Fire Department (GEVFD) serves a community of 4,200 over a 52-square-mile area of rural western Tennessee, responding to around 400 calls annually. Despite having 20 active members, only eight sets of turnout gear are less than 10 years old, and budget constraints make it difficult, if not impossible, to purchase new gear. Even though GEVFD faces many challenges, the volunteers are dedicated to serving their community. They lowered their Insurance Services Office rating, were recognized by the State Fire Marshal’s Office for excellence in community risk reduction, and haven’t missed a dispatched call in the past 17 months. “Receipt of [this gear] will move us forward in ensuring that all of our members entering an IDLH environment are doing so with the best PPE possible and that meets the current NFPA 1971 recommendations,” said Fire Chief Brandon Fletcher.
As front line fire fighters and first responders strive to keep their work areas free from bacteria and viruses, one company has introduced several cost effective ways to help keep them and their patients safe. Neu-Tech Energy Solutions, LLC provides an assortment of Bacteria Killing Blue Lights and UVC lights to help them fight MRSA, Staph, Strep and now the COVID-19 virus in their vehicles and firehouses. Initial cleaning methods Before the COVID Virus, Firefighters and EMS personnel were more concerned with fighting the deadly MRSA bacteria. Traditional cleaning is not doing the job anymore. Studies have shown that even after initial cleaning methods have been done, dangerous bacteria have been found to linger throughout the nooks and crannies of firehouses and EMS vehicles. MRSA has been found on oxygen tanks, brake pedals, door handles, seats and even brake pedals. Blue disinfecting light is safe and can be used around humans and animals Blue Lights have decontaminating potential, since various wavelengths in the blue spectrum are anti-microbial against a wide range of bacteria. Blue disinfecting light is safe and can be used around humans and animals. Firefighters are using them in their vehicles, decontamination rooms, laundry room, bunk rooms, lounge areas, bathrooms and other places in the fire house. Developing safer UVC lights The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has brought on a new dilemma for EMS workers. While Blue Light has been proven to kill bacteria the COVID-19 is a virus. In order to kill the COVID-19 virus one must use UV or Ultraviolet light to deactivate the virus. UV light is a lot more dangerous to use and can harm eyes and burn skin. Absolutely no one may be in the room when these lights are sanitizing the area. Neu-Tech is developing safer UVC lights that have remote starts, timers and motion sensors to turn them off when someone enters the area. Neu-Tech has been in the LED lighting business for over 10 years and has been developing new LED bacteria killing lights for over 4 years.
With many businesses and facilities re-opening sites following the Coronavirus lockdown, fire safety may not seem high on the list to other worries and responsibilities. But here, Mandy Bowden, Fire Business Development Manager at Comelit Group UK, led by fire industry bodies, demonstrates why it must be a priority, ensuring installation of systems is guided by best practice in accordance with the development, and fire safety measures are maintained and regularly tested to ensure compliance. Fire safety is too often neglected. And in the midst of returning to work and implementing necessary fever screening solutions and social distancing policies, it may even fall further down the necessary requirements, for businesses who are naturally eager to open and ‘get going.’ Providing Fire Safety But the Government and leading authoritative fire industry bodies have made it absolutely clear that, “Coronavirus is not an excuse for disregarding your responsibilities and businesses must ensure that they have an adequate amount of competent people to help in the implementation of both preventative and protective fire safety measures.” Above all else, fire detection is there to save lives; but the way in which systems are presented, will depend on their surroundings. For many facilities it involves more than the best choice of products and services. It also requires compliance to standards, currently changing in light of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and a need to consider the environment that it serves to keep safe. fire detection technology It is crucial that buildings are fitted with the highest quality life safety systems to ensure ultra-reliable protection Style of a fire detection system would be considered a priority for a hospitality environment, including hotel and restaurant facilities, to blend with the aesthetics and not impact on the ambience created. In any leisure facilities such as a Gym, it is essential fire detection measures and systems are in place that will provide customers, employees and the premises itself, with sufficient prevention against fire at all times. To keep up with demand, a system needs to be simple to install and operational as quickly as possible for the benefit of members and staff. However, a manufacturing vicinity will require latest fire detection technology to ensure the safety of its building, its specialist products and all personnel who operate on site. Similarly, an art studio is a specialist consideration when it comes to fire safety, especially with the use of different materials and substances in every day works by the artists on site. ensure ultra-Reliable protection Both temporary and permanent healthcare facilities in this period have undoubtedly been key to fighting the Coronavirus pandemic, and experienced an expediential increased demand for patient care. With more people to treat and protect, those working or residing within these spaces have to be considered at greater risk in the event of a fire emergency. It is crucial that these buildings have been and continue to be fitted with the highest quality life safety systems to ensure ultra-reliable protection. And the same is true for care homes, a vulnerable group in the fight against coronavirus. They require critical and reliable, functioning fire detection equipment that presents high performance protection, avoiding false alarms to prevent moving elderly residents unnecessarily. In each of these scenarios, the need to act quickly is paramount. Fire Detection Operations Fire safety must be kept a priority to ensure a return to work can occur seamlessly and successfully In healthcare, immediacy is a common theme through the industry, be it providing treatment or responding to a patient’s symptoms. This is no different in fire safety, with detection systems requiring an ease of use, by anyone operating on site. In businesses returning to work ‘post-lockdown’ the appointed Fire Marshalls and responsible persons may not be the ones returning to office locations, so others need to be trained with simple to operate solutions. In summary, fire safety must be kept a priority, arguably now more than ever to ensure a return to work can occur seamlessly and successfully, and with an obligation of care to workers coming back to operating establishments. By understanding these environments and choosing systems accordingly, duty holders can ensure they reduce risks across their premises and maintain a safe ‘new normal’. multi-Sensor detectors Comelit presents its third-party accredited family of ATENA and ERACLE fire detection and fire alarm systems, which offers a diverse portfolio of intelligent, addressable products that are feature-rich, easy to install, simple to operate and offer incomparable reliability. Tested to rigorous standards, the range encompasses smoke, heat and multi-sensor detectors as well as IP rated devices including sounders and callpoints, alongside accessories to complete installations. To support the installer, we have product specific basic and advanced commissioning training courses, together with a full suite of calculation tools for our ATENA addressable systems for both loop loading and battery standby calculations, helping to identify possible issues prior to installation. Comelit is a proud member of the Fire Industry Association (FIA) that insists on third-party certification; as a clear sign of a company’s quality. All demonstrating that we want to work in partnership with our customers to ensure manufacture, design and install of stylish (often bespoke) fire detection systems are a smooth operation for the benefit and peace of mind of businesses and facilities across the UK. All signs that we want to work in partnership with our customers to ensure manufacture, design and install of stylish (often bespoke) fire detection systems are a smooth operation for the benefit and peace of mind of businesses and facilities across the UK.
As we continue to settle into our new norm brought on by COVID-19, it’s become hard to imagine what the world will look like on the other side. If ever there were a clearer definition of a paradigm shift in the making, it’s this time. Yet, it’s not the only paradigm that has shifted in the last few years. As the climate has continued to change, helping to create more fuel for wildfires, we’re experiencing compounding changes at a global scale. And, the light at the end of the tunnel for COVID-19 might just be another big fire season. Yet, this fire season will be different. New ways to respond Although we’ll almost certainly continue to act as communities, helping each other through the next calamities, what’s clear is that we’re going to require new ways to respond. Knowing what we know now about natural disasters, like fires, floods, and hurricanes, as well as our current experience with a global pandemic, if we’ve learned nothing else it’s that we must begin to design for disaster. Designing for disaster is about planning for the paradigm to shift once again This is not about designing for panic and fear. Rather, designing for disaster is about planning for the paradigm to shift once again. For instance, with the 2020 fire season right around the corner, now is a good time to start taking stock and creating plans for how to deal with it. Unlike the last few fire seasons, this one will be different. According to the “Chief's Letter of Intent for Wildland Fire – 2020”, the US Fire Service will be changing its “fire management options during the COVID-19 pandemic across the board to adjust to this unprecedented challenge.” The objectives laid out in this letter are a reflection of the compounding change we’re seeing, which include “Minimize to the extent feasible COVID-19 exposure and transmission and smoke exposure to firefighters and communities”; “Commit resources only when there is a reasonable expectation of success in protecting life and critical property and infrastructure”; “Encourage innovation and the use of doctrine for local adaptations”; and “Develop methods for broad information sharing given changed conditions”, among others. Planning for uncertainty We must seek to protect lives by developing new ways to work together So, what can we do to plan for this uncertain future? In many ways, the answer is spelled out in this above-mentioned letter. We must seek to protect lives by developing new ways to work together, share information, and plan using innovative tools and methods. Just as we all collectively found Zoom as a great way to connect with our friends, family, and colleagues, during the COVID-19 shelter in place, we’ll begin to use other digital tools to get updates and communicate with emergency responders and the community at large. In fact, there are myriad tools in place, like Nextdoor, Neighbor, and even Facebook, that enable most of us to do this on a regular basis. Likewise, when it comes to planning and communication between first responders, whether they be firefighters, police, paramedics, or emergency management officials, new technologies abound, like Tablet Command, that enable first responders to connect and understand the common operational picture like never before. What’s more, as these technologies continue to scale, they will no doubt connect communities and emergency management personnel (as well as new data sources, like up-to-the-minute satellite imagery) in new ways that enable engagement and planning to occur way before an incident even occurs. In fact, as the world continues to rally around communicating in new ways, new entrants like Zonehaven, a startup based on San Francisco, are doing just this. Using a familiar Google Maps-style interface and data-driven approach to engage communities and first responders around evacuation planning, defensible space, right-of-way issues and neighborhood exercises, Zonehaven is focused on helping entire communities communicate and respond to disasters, like wildfires, even before the initial spark. Drive for change And it’s not just technology companies that are driving this change. In wildfire-prone communities, like San Mateo County, officials are bringing in new technologies, like Zonehaven and others, to “provide access to cutting-edge technology that allows emergency planners and local officials to better understand a community’s risk and help residents plan safe evacuation routes.” In essence, by supporting hyperlocal pre-planning, early detection, community collaboration and real-time detection/alerting, San Mateo County is actively redesigning how the county and all of its constituent services, from firefighters to police to emergency management and even parking control, are planning for a future where wildfires and other emergencies are more abundant and communities more engaged and informed. As change continues to compound on itself, creating entirely new norms, it’s imperative that we don’t lose sight of what makes us human. We have the capacity to plan, communicate, innovate, and build tools meant to help us stay one step ahead of change. After all, the more things change, the more they’ll stay the same.
2020 introduced a variety of unique challenges for many industries around the world. Not surprisingly, the fire detection industry was not immune to all of those challenges. However, as much of the global community defined our manufacturing and installing peers as “essential” or “critical” it required us, as an industry, to adapt so we could continue to service our customers with our products and services. Many regions around the world are experiencing significant demand for temporary detection systems. This demand is almost universally driven by an increase in education, awareness, and enforcement. While this is a global shift, our company has experienced a large demand in our own backyard. Within the United States, this is being driven by the adoption and enforcement of NFPA 241. NFPA is the Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations. NFPA 241 has been a “concept” since 1930 and the official text was finally adopted by the NFPA in 1933. As with all standards, it has progressed over the years to accommodate changes in technology as well as safety awareness. Fire safety awareness While general safety awareness on construction sites has always been consistently high, fire safety awareness has significantly increased within the last 5 years. Nuisance alarms negatively consume first responder bandwidth Typically, new, or increased regulation within our industry occurs after a single devastating event or several significant events. In this particular case, it was a combination of both. On a national level, fires on construction sites were reaching dangerous and unacceptable levels and becoming so widespread that enforcement of this standard became a priority in several states. Need for accurate and timely fire detection According to a report released by Richard Campbell of the NFPA in February of 2020 titled Fire In Structures under Construction or Renovation, “the estimated number of fires in structures under construction has increased since 2014 after declining between 2008 and 2010” further creating awareness. For the last few years, the focus of many local AHJ’s (authority having jurisdiction) was on new and active worksites or renovation projects. With the changes imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic today, many non-essential industries have either shut down or had their operations significantly reduced. This means the need for a functioning detection system is more critical now than ever as many facilities remain idle or continue to operate with reduced personnel. Detecting fires quickly and accurately gives our first responders the best chance of saving a person or facility. Conversely, having any “detection system” is often not good enough. Nuisance alarms negatively consume first responder bandwidth, possibly removing an engine or fire company from a genuine event. Temporary fire detection In an article by The Boston Globe, Easthampton Fire Chief David Mottor, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts said “Ninety percent of these buildings go up every day and nothing happens. It’s during construction before the sprinkler system is activated when they are most dangerous.” Globally, we have seen four approaches to temporary detection for both construction and renovation sites. We will quickly discuss the advantages and disadvantages below: Using 24/7 fire watch Utilizing local first responders or other authorized/trained personnel to offer 24/7 fire watch requires a person or team of people to be onsite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be physically looking for fires. Advantage: Someone is always on site, actively viewing and patrolling the facility. Disadvantage: Maintaining a 24/7 fire watch can be expensive, further the person or team can only see/find fires in proximity to them as they continue to move about a facility. Using digital linear heat detection Digital linear heat detection is a fixed temperature detector that is constructed using a twisted pair of metal conductors that are separated by a heat sensitive polymer. When the ambient temperature meets or exceeds the detector’s fixed temperature the polymers melt, and the detector shorts out resulting in an alarm. Advantages: Detector can be easily installed at a new construction site or a facility being renovated. The technology is a low profile, non-intrusive and cost-effective form of detection. This automatic initiating device is immune to environmental conditions. Protectowire FireSystems offers Confirmed Temperature Initiation technology (mechanical damage does not cause a false alarm). Disadvantages: Detector can be mechanically damaged during normal worksite operation. If you are unsure, be sure to check with the local AHJ or call your insurance provider Using wireless spot detectors There are a few companies on the market that offer wireless spot detectors that can be networked together. Advantage: Typically, this technology uses a mesh network of detectors. The detectors and their bases are battery operated and can be moved or placed per worksite requirements. Disadvantage: This technology can be expensive. Physical barriers on the construction site may hinder mesh network operation requiring the purchase of additional wireless units. Many wireless technology providers focus on smoke detection. Smoke detectors are often not ideal for the harsh environments associated with construction (dust, temperature changes, etc.). Using a hybrid approach This involves using wireless nodes to supervise linear heat detection. Most manufacturers of the wireless systems offer a wireless node that can accept a third-party initiating device. Advantage: Wireless nodes can be placed anywhere, and linear heat detection technology can withstand the harsh construction environment. Disadvantage: Wireless node battery life can be reduced when using a third-party device. Less cost-effective approach. Solution for Facilities While each of the approaches listed above has its own advantages and disadvantages, you must always consider what is best for your facility. If you are unsure, be sure to check with the local AHJ or call your insurance provider. Established in 1938, Protectowire FireSystems is the global manufacturer of Linear Heat Detection Systems. The Company has been manufacturing in the United States for the past 80 years and counting. Protectowire is dedicated to delivering products designed, engineered, manufactured, and tested with a high degree of performance, reliability, and quality. As one of the manufacturers in the fire protection industry, Protectowire has the experience and knowledge needed to meet the ever-increasing detection challenges of the special hazard and commercial industries.
Crowd management can be critical in a fire emergency – or in almost any other emergency situation. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) has undertaken a project to develop a computerized tool to provide data and situational awareness about crowds based on computer vision analysis of video. Crowds have become an unusual occurrence during the COVID-19 pandemic, but sooner or later, life will be returning to normal. When it does, the safety consequences of poor crowd management will again become top-of-mind for many in the emergency response fields. Preventing trampling incidents With AI Crowds can change rapidly during an emergency, and emergency responders must act quickly to respond to changes in crowd density, movement and other behaviors. Crowd dynamics can have tragic consequences in cases such as trampling or crushing incidentsThe FPRF project has developed a proof-of-concept framework for “data-informed crowd management and support.” The low-cost, open-source framework highlights collection, analysis, visualization and reporting of crowd movement to inform and direct crowd and evacuation strategies in near-real-time. Crowd dynamics can have tragic consequences in cases such as trampling or crushing incidents, violence, or if there are insufficient exits. In the worst cases, injuries and deaths can occur. A real-time crowd management tool can help to neutralize these potentially dangerous situations. Deep-learning computer vision and video image recognition (using artificial intelligence [AI]) are the technologies that enable the project. The tools can be applied to live video, to manage an event in real-time; or to recorded video to evaluate crowd activity as part of the event-planning process. The deep-learning capability is called congested scene recognition, or CSR, which both counts the number of individuals in a crowd and identifies their spatial distribution. Algorithms evaluate crowd movement Modern technologies and algorithms evaluate crowd movement over time in high-risk spaces. Users may upload a still image, and the tool will evaluate the crowd count in a given area. For a video feed, the system can capture individual frames at a user-defined interval (1 to 30 seconds) or manually. Crowd counts are then graphed and displayed to identify crowd density trendsThe model then evaluates the frame, predicts the count and provides a crowd density heat map within about 5 seconds. Crowd counts are then graphed and displayed to identify crowd density trends. Early trials have been promising, according to the researchers. The research project is led by the FPRF and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) with funding through a U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Fire Grant. So far, the proof-of-concept tool has been created, and testing this fall will evaluate how well it works on an array of venues, how well it estimates crowd counts, and the feasibility of full-scale implementation. A final report will include the programming code associated with the tool and guidance on how it can be implemented. Use of open-source platforms and general-purpose programming languages ensures the source code for the crowd management tool is freely available, and thus inexpensive. Anticipating behavior is crucial Researchers on the project note that crowds are not the problem, but rather the problem is incomplete understanding of the anticipated behavior of crowds and the inability to respond quickly. There are many variables, including the venue itselfThere are many variables, including the venue itself, and internal and external factors such as the purpose, organization and emotional nature of the crowd. The NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, includes regulatory requirement for managing large crowds. According to the code, crowd managers are responsible for understanding crowd dynamics, management techniques, and the venue’s emergency response plan, among other factors, according to NFPA. To prepare for large events, crowd managers must evaluate specific actions necessary for various situations, anticipated occupancy levels, the adequacy of ingress and egress, and expected human behavior.
COVID-19 has shaped and altered the fire protection industry in recent months, and the Fire Industry Association (FIA) in the United Kingdom has published a survey report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey, conducted by FIA, sought to gain a greater understanding of how organizations have been impacted by COVID-19 and of the impact on the wider fire industry now and in the future. Resilience is a recurring theme in the FIA report. At the time of the survey (when the United Kingdom was just past the coronavirus peak), a total of 81% of respondents expected they could continue operating under current circumstances for three months or more. Roughly a fourth expected their business could continue for six months (23.4%), and another quarter of respondents expected they could last a year (23.4%). alternative learning models Although not offered as an option in the survey, some respondents commented that they could last longer than a year. It is unclear whether answers were provided before or after respondents had made organizational changes to adapt to COVID-19. The companies surveyed by FIA appeared to be adaptable as well as resilient. In short, COVID-19 has changed how organizations work. More than 50% planned flexible working (55.9%) and/or remote working (50%) initiatives More than 50% planned flexible working (55.9%) and/or remote working (50%) initiatives. Other adaptation approaches include restructuring (45.4%), alternative learning models (36.9%), cross-training and knowledge transfer (33.3%), and reskilling or upskilling employees on new ways of working (32.1%). continuous professional development The United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has allowed companies to keep their staff whilst they assess the impact of COVID-19 and not be forced into premature decisions on redundancies. Outside the survey, the FIA reports seeing many companies within the fire industry demonstrate their flexibility by engaging with the association’s new online training and exams. More than 450 fire professionals have been trained online since April 1, and over 100 online exams were completed since June 1. Over 2,000 fire safety professionals have embraced online continuous professional development (CPD) sessions from FIA as a way to invest time when not on the road or visiting customers. high financial impact The largest group of FIA survey respondents (47.6%) observed that COVID-19 had a high financial impact on their business, and another 39.3% noted a moderate impact. Only 10.7% saw a low financial impact on their business. COVID-19 has also had an impact on the management, retention and hiring of staff. Some 40% of survey respondents said they had placed 25% or less of their staff on furlough. Required access of fire professionals to customer premises was an issue during lockdown, and in the FIA survey However, at the other extreme, 27.7% reported they had placed 75-100% of staff on furlough. In the middle, 13.8% reported they had placed 25-50% on furlough, and 18.5% reported the number at 50-75%. On the optimistic side, 57.6% of respondents expect 75-100% of workers to return from furlough. Another 28.8% expect only 0-25% of employees to return from furlough. Required access of fire professionals to customer premises was an issue during lockdown, and in the FIA survey. fire safety professionals Some 72.5% of respondents reported they require access to customer premises. As the lockdown progressed, 75% saw improvement in access to customer premises. About 46.4% of respondents reported that 50% or more of site visits have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19. Arguably, even more site visits would have been cancelled or postponed if fire safety professionals had not been classified as key workers. The survey included respondents from the Fire Detection and Alarm (FD&A) sector (41%), as well as Fire Risk Assessors (26%) and the Extinguishing sector (13%). An “other” category (20% of respondents) included Housing Associations, Local Government, Insurers, and Quality and Competency Approval Bodies. There were 84 respondents.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend toward working from home has accelerated. New technologies are now making it possible for 911 dispatchers to work from home, too, whether to ensure social distancing or to supplement operations during evolving emergencies. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems offer web-based interfaces and mobile capabilities that enable public-safety answering point (PSAP) operators to work from anywhere. Other technologies that are paving the way for dispatchers to work from home include the cloud, virtual private networks (VPNs), and faster data speeds. Remote emergency dispatchers An innovative implementation in Alexandria, Virginia, involves remote emergency dispatchers using equipment including a laptop, headset, smartphone, mobile hotspot, mobile router with computer-aided dispatch and other hardware. The city uses the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) network, provided in partnership with AT&T. A dedicated, secure and reliable connection ensures operation for public safety, everyday functions, and/or for emergency communications. In Alexandria, hotspots and smartphones powered by FirstNet enable 911 dispatchers to take calls In Alexandria, hotspots and smartphones powered by FirstNet enable 911 dispatchers to take calls and handle CAD operations from their homes and remote locations. The dependability of the FirstNet connection is critical; relying on a dispatcher’s home Internet service could be risky if it loses connectivity. Initially hesitant because of concerns about the unknown, Alexandria’s Director of Emergency and Customer Communications was spurred into action by the COVID-19 crisis. Emergency Communications Centers They had tested the system in January. During the first month of implementation, remote workers only answered non-emergency phone calls before beginning to handle 911 calls. The approach helped with social distancing in the midst the COVID -19 crisis, during which dispatchers could not work together as usual in close quarters. To ensure social distancing, dispatchers worked from two different Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) – one primary and one a backup location – in addition to some dispatchers working from home. There was also a fourth ‘isolation’ team, comprised of two fire dispatchers, two police dispatcher and one call telecommunicator – staying and working remotely in a nearby hotel for 10 days in a row. Deciding whether to allow dispatchers to work remotely depends on factors such as employee performance, operational effectiveness and available tools, according to experts. Careful evaluation of these factors ensures a successful implementation. Home-Based operators Technology requirements include a VPN and a dependable, high-speed internet connection In addition to providing flexibility during a global pandemic, remote dispatchers can help departments augment their regularly scheduled staff members more quickly. Dispatchers who can work immediately from home are not delayed by the practicalities of getting to work. Staffing can be augmented immediately rather than several hours from now – an essential consideration during a developing emergency. Technology requirements include a VPN and a dependable, high-speed internet connection. Connectivity might especially be a problem in rural areas, where operators are also more likely to need to travel a long distance to work. There might also be legal issues, such as access to confidential databases. There might also be concerns about discipline of home-based operators and challenges when it comes to working together cohesively as a team. In the end, though, such questions are about ‘how’ a home-bound dispatcher scenario might be managed rather than whether it is feasible. The changing situation during the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that the technical hurdles have been overcome.
A huge new Amazon fulfillment center on the outskirts of Bristol has installed Vimpex Smart+Guard tough polycarbonate hinged protective covers to protect the building’s alarm call points from accidental or malicious activation, which could trigger costly building evacuations resulting in lost production and missed logistical connections. Life and fire protection system Amazon’s new 500,000 sq. feet fulfillment center at Severn Beach is designed to ensure that more people in the Bristol region receive next-day deliveries. When it is fully operational in September the center will employ around 1,000 people and will be equipped with advanced robotics technology to help lift and move products around the plant. Fire detection specialists AFS (AFS Holdings), engaged to engineer and install a whole life protection system at the fulfillment center site, fitted Vimpex Smart+Guard covers to all the relevant manual call points across the site to protect the system from malicious activation. Smart+Guard protective cover Smart+Guard, manufactured in the UK by Vimpex, is a tough hinged protective cover Smart+Guard, manufactured in the UK by Vimpex, is a tough hinged protective cover that can be easily installed over a range of emergency switches and other devices to provide protection from vandalism, accidental damage or misuse that can cause unwanted alarms. Misuse of manual call points or pull stations resulting in false or nuisance alarms is a costly and troublesome interruption to business continuity. BS 5839 – The British Standard for Fire Alarm Installations recommends the use of manual call point covers in vulnerable areas to mitigate against false alarms. Vimpex Limited’s Managing Director, James Jones, commented, “When we acquired the SmartGuard range of products and merged production of the range into our operations, we knew there was massive scope for developing the business. This is evidenced by the growing list of high-profile end users now specifying the product for use in their facilities.” Fire alarm and detection systems specialist James adds, “The recent news that Amazon has installed the product into their newest fulfillment center in Bristol is testament to our great levels of customer service and our willingness to go that extra mile for our customers.” Vimpex is Europe’s renowned independent manufacturer and distributor of high quality fire evacuation and alarm system products for installers, distributors and OEM manufacturers. The company is also a specialist in the supply of technical rescue and PPE equipment for UK fire, rescue, police, military and emergency services teams.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, after Berlin, and home to approximately 1.8 million inhabitants, with its metropolitan region home to over five million. More than one million incoming calls must be handled by the control centers of fire services and police. The control room renewal project (in German Projekt ERneuerung LEitstellen - PERLE) will provide the two emergency services with a modern technical control room solution, in order to meet the organizations current and future requirements, as well as increase safety for citizens of and visitors to Hamburg. Increasing operator efficiency “We were impressed with the innovative solution concept that Frequentis had demonstrated to us, especially the multimedia functionality that will prepare us for the future needs of the emergency services, increasing the efficiency and operator convenience as well as public emergency contact,” said Eiko Hinrichs group leader of PERLE - firefighter and engineer for communication technology. “It gave us a great pleasure, to gain Frequentis as a very experienced and reliable partner for the implementation of our new communication system.“ 3020 LifeX™ is a future-oriented public safety communication and collaboration software designed to fulfill the demands of a next-generation control room (on-premises or hosted) that requires multimedia contact handling for telephony as well as radio for future cross-coupling of these technologies. Its sophisticated, modular architecture integrates a variety of systems with various protocols and can flexibly exchange or upgrade them without compromising ongoing operations. Efficient call handling and resource allocation The technology for Hamburg Fire and Police will be located in two central data centers and in two control centers, accommodating more than 220 workstations. The Frequentis communication system will integrate with the customer’s computer aided dispatch solution and the geographical information system, enabling geolocation and thus assisting operators with efficient call handling and resource allocation. “Receiving this contract during the COVID-19 lockdown period in Germany shows customers trust in Frequentis. We also commend customers who have future-orientated outlooks, considering not only the current needs of their service but also future changes and required functionality,” says Robert Nitsch, Frequentis Vice President Public Safety. “3020 LifeX™ focusses on increasing operator performance and harmonizing communication and collaboration without being bound to a physical location. We are pleased to be supporting the City of Hamburg’s police and fire services with this task and their future development strategy.”
XPander is Apollo’s hybrid wireless range. It offers a comprehensive solution to many problems that present themselves when installing a fire detection system. It is quick to install and requires minimal cabling. In comparison to a wired system is often 75% quicker to install. XPander has many applications, its versatility key to deciding on which type of system fits best for a building. Ideal applications: Time-sensitive Projects Minimizing Disruption to Building Operations Temporary Structures (i.e. marquees) Annexes To Minimize Disturbance of Asbestos Materials To Preserve Building Fabric (e.g. in Heritage / List Buildings) A great example of a time-sensitive project where XPander excels is in schools. A school is generally occupied most of the time and therefore being able to install an entire fire system without jeopardizing safety is a tricky line to walk. So, a quick and compliant solution is needed. XPander can be used during a remodeling project, for an off-campus outbuilding, or even to protect a temporary structure like a graduation marquee. The physical interface is wired onto the loop as standard, but the detectors can be placed inside of these areas wirelessly during the event and then can be removed when the marquees are taken down. This is much faster than hard wiring each time. One can take comfort in the knowledge that students are kept safe in every scenario. Wireless solution Another challenge is making upgrades to a school system during summer holidays. One might only have a small window of opportunity to make the upgrades before the students return. Having to wire in a complete system just so that building work can be completed, only to remove all of that wiring hard work, is both costly and time-consuming. XPander allowed for an easier install where the project area was an Emergency Care Department" A wireless solution is ideal, it removes the need to delay construction, and shaves off time at the end of the project as there are no wires to remove. Just simply detach the detectors. Similar issues occur in the healthcare sector. A hospital, for instance, is almost never vacant and therefore extensive wiring work would cause uncomfortable disruption. XPander would eliminate these concerns and installing a compliant fire system would cause minimal disturbance. Ease of installation “XPander allowed for an easier install where the project area was an Emergency Care Department (inc A&E) where minimal intrusion on a live site was key. Wireless was the logical solution to bring these areas up to L1 standards with a new system.” - Apollo Customer Testimonial Temporary structures offer a unique challenge when trying to keep people safe from fire. COVID-19 Pods and temporary accommodation for medical staff / resources need to be protected without unwanted complications. XPander can be quickly added to the existing hospital fire system. An interface is placed on the loop, this device ‘manages’ all of the wireless devices fitted in the temporary structure. The devices even show up on the panel, as if it was wired into the loop. This secures the integrity of the existing system and makes sure that any necessary expansion is protected from fire. Cost-effective solution COVID-19 has caused unexpected slowdowns within the construction and fire industry communities. But as the restrictions lift there will be an influx of work. And having a quick and easy solution at the ready could mitigate any further frustrations. Additional businesses and venues will be opening from 4th July. That includes hotels, which opens up a lot of ‘away from home’ opportunities. Being prepared for this wave of new work with multiple solutions at the ready is essential. A wireless solution should be quick to hand, its fast installation invaluable when managing a high workload. Quick, easy and cost-effective.
Nittan Europe, a UK-based renowned manufacturer of conventional and addressable fire detection products and systems, is proud to have its Evolution analog addressable fire detectors installed into the NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol. NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol Built in less than three weeks at the University of West of England Frenchay campus, NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol has the capacity to provide up to 300 intensive care beds for coronavirus patients, if local services need them. The new facility is one of seven Nightingale hospitals to be set up around the country as part of a massive NHS effort to respond to the COVID-19 health emergency. Evolution analogue addressable fire detectors Nittan’s Evolution analog addressable fire detectors have been incorporated into Ramtech Electronics’ WES wireless firm alarm system, which is designed to provide a simple, fast and secure method of communicating fire and medical emergencies in the complex environmental conditions of construction sites. While WES has been designed to provide temporary protection on construction sites, its ease of use, reliability and quality made it ideal for use in the temporary Nightingale Hospital. Wireless fire alarm systems Wireless fire alarm systems are ideal for temporary sites as they don’t require specialist trades to set up Wireless fire alarm systems are ideal for temporary sites as they don’t require specialist trades to set up, and any number of call points can be deployed in minutes and linked wirelessly to cover large or small sites. The signal passes through all commonly found materials including steel, concrete and stone. Evolution EVC-DP dual optical detectors Nittan Evolution EVC-DP dual optical detectors are incorporated into the WES system. These award-winning detectors feature dual optical technology to reduce false alarms caused by non-combustion products such as steam, dust and aerosols. Unlike other conventional detectors on the market that claim to distinguish between smoke and non-combustion products, the EVC-DP effectively measures the actual particle size in the chamber via its combined IR and blue LED technology. No false alarms As steam and dust are much larger particles than smoke, the detector won’t cause false alarms. This makes the EVC-DP detector ideally suited to use in hospitals, hotels and other areas of multiple occupancy which are prone to steam and dust. The WES wireless fire alarm system featuring the Nittan detectors has been installed into the communal and welfare areas of NHS Nightingale Hospital Bristol.
In order to fulfill their diverse tasks, fire departments need more and more equipment and devices that cannot be accommodated in conventional firefighting vehicles. With the equipment vehicle for hazardous material, the fire department now has a vehicle at its disposal which on the one hand has a large volume in the equipment compartment and on the other hand offers a system rack for firefighting equipment. Up to six roll containers can be loaded. The UP 4, which was also newly delivered, is also loaded on a special roll container. Equipment vehicle Under normal circumstances, the children's festival which takes place annually on Whit Tuesday, would have been celebrated on June 2, 2020. However, due to the current situation around the Coronavirus, this tradition and for the citizens of Giengen, a very important event had to be canceled. Nevertheless, the fire department and the town of Giengen have a reason to be happy. The new vehicle will be officially handed over to the voluntary fire department of Giengen on June 2. The vehicle was manufactured at the ZIEGLER location in Rendsburg and finally transferred to the ZIEGLER plant in Giengen. There the handover took place on June 2, 2020. The mayor of the town of Giengen a.d. Brenz, Dieter Henle, was also present at the handover.
Following the enforced lockdown restrictions introduced to help combat the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, SSAIB took the decision to continue to offer certification by embracing new technology and migrating over to remote auditing. With the remote audit process now having been in place for two months, SSAIB spoke with Heather Martin – operations manager of SSAIB-registered firm Southern Fire Alarms Ltd - to discuss their own remote audit conducted during the height of lockdown last month. Annual BAFE SP203-1 audit conducted The West Sussex-based company – who have been SSAIB-registered to install fire alarms since April 2008 – were due to have their annual BAFE SP203-1 on April 22, but saw this changed to a remote audit when it was clear that it was no longer possible for auditor Stephen Jenkins to conduct a visit in person on that date. Despite some initial apprehension about this new development - after initially wanting to postpone the audit following lockdown - Heather revealed that she is now pleased they were able to go ahead with it when they did. First-Ever Remote audit Heather commented: “I was very apprehensive beforehand and thought it would be easier to just extend it for six months - as an audit was the last thing we wanted to be doing with the other business changes we were needing to implement. However – in hindsight – I’m so glad we have done it.” “By doing it now, it means that we can carry on for another 12 months and we’re not trying to scramble with everyone else to get in for an audit in six months’ time – as I’m sure there’d be much more of a backlog had SSAIB not switched to remote audits.” The actual remote audit was less time-consuming than normal, to be honest" With regard to the audit process itself, Heather commented: “The system that SSAIB have put in place was easy to navigate and the guidance document was clear in relation to the evidence that required uploading.” Faster remote audit than normal “On the day of the audit, our auditor Stephen called promptly to explain how he would work through the documents. He then called again the following day to summarize his findings.” “The actual remote audit was less time-consuming than normal, to be honest. I had already uploaded everything that we needed to beforehand, so Stephen called promptly at the start of the day to explain how he would work through the documents." “Therefore, in that sense, I actually gained quite a lot of the time that would have otherwise been spent on a normal audit.” COVID-19 impact on work Being ushered into a remote audit isn’t the only change that SFA – who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary – have had to make due to the continuing battle to contain the coronavirus. However, Heather believes that the company’s “loyal core of key personnel” is their secret weapon to help them negotiate the difficult time we all find ourselves in at present. Heather added: “We’ve had to make quite significant changes to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we have had to furlough some of our engineers and maintain a skeleton staff in the office. With social distancing, everything has had to be kept at a minimum so we’ve got people working from home as well.” A balance between safety for all of our staff and ensuring the survival of the company" “In some respects, we’re very lucky that we have a low turnover of staff – as it means we have a loyal core of key personnel that have been able to carry on and ensure everything runs as smoothly as it can during this time.” Servicing, emergency breakdowns on "Without that commitment of those key staff members, we simply would not have got through this. It’s not been easy, but we’re working together – as it’s a balance between safety for all of our staff and ensuring the survival of the company.” “We are still carrying out servicing, emergency breakdowns and critical works. We’re just having to adapt, day-to-day and customer-to-customer, to decide whether we can go in and carry out work.” Despite the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Bognor Regis-based installation company – who also added Security Systems to their SSAIB scope of certification in October 2017 – Heather insisted that SFA’s certification with SSAIB was still of the utmost importance and that it was necessary for themselves and the wider industry to remain as a third-party certified organization. Industry-Accreditation Heather said: “I think it’s really important to ensure that we continue our certification with SSAIB during this time – as there is going to be an end to this at some stage and that’ll bring a lot of work, some of which will be tendered. If we don’t have the certification when that end date arrives then we’ll miss out, it’s as simple as that.” “I also think it’s important for the industry as a whole that we have accreditation and that standards are maintained– especially in the current climate.” Reaping benefits of the audit “Of course, other companies might not be in the fortunate situation we are with being able to continue with their certification at this time. However, I’d say those companies who are able to carry on like ourselves will reap the rewards of doing so when everything starts picking up again.” The whole world is still waiting to see how long this pandemic will last, the overall effect it will have on us all, the everyday lives and the various economies around the globe, but Heather – who has worked within the industry for over two decades - revealed that her own post-lockdown plans are a lot more down-to-earth and personal.
Round table discussion
Equipment is an important element in fighting fires, and in keeping firefighters safe. But what new needs are driving the development of equipment? How can equipment expand its role in fighting fires, or in managing building occupancy and traffic flow for that matter? We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the new trends and opportunities in firefighting equipment?