In his annual address at the Association of Specialist Fire Protection President's Lunch, ASFP President Brian Robinson highlighted partnership, sustainability and education as major challenges for the Association.

Here are some highlights from that speech the full version of which will be available in a forthcoming edition of FIRE magazine:

This Government has however made it very clear that it wishes to see the fire sector including our industry take the initiative and will stop delivering functions that the fire sector is better able to deliver.

Instead, it wishes to support the fire industry to take the lead in many areas, and in so doing set the industry standards for appropriate guidance. We have picked up the gauntlet to address this challenge by the formation of the Fire Sector Partnership.

The Fire Sector Partnership

The partnership, which has in excess of fifty organisations as members, seeks to have a voice that will be influential in the future of policy, strategy and standards relating to our sector and to help to drive efficiency, common policy and common standards.

The wider fire sector has a large number of different organisations working within it, but despite there being an overall common purpose within the sector; it is sometimes difficult for these different organisations to work effectively together. The partnership is evolving to help improve communications and co-operation.

Increasing the quality of fire safety requires a much greater focus on integrating the players and having a collective approach to risk reduction and risk mitigation.

The problem with the dominant focus on any one element is that it crowds out attention and resource for wider more integrated preventative approaches. 

It will take time and thought to get used to the idea of developing our own policies and standards and this can only be done by all parts of the sector working together and in harmony - a bold new world!!

What is the ASFP doing towards this aim?

2011 has proved to be a turning point in the direction of ASFP and it is now taking a much more proactive stance in developing awareness of the essential need for appropriate passive fire protection measures.     

At the recent All Party Parliamentary Fire and Rescue Group seminar back in the spring. ASFP CEO Wilf Butcher said: "To succeed we must educate.

"The difficulties that we as an industry face in this process are in many respects the same as those experienced every day by teachers up and down the country. We have to find a way to engage those that need to be educated in such a way they will want to participate - this is a very big task!"

We know there is a serious disconnect in appropriate understanding, communication, ownership of responsibility and commitment to required standards throughout the entire process of design, build, inspection, hand over to the responsible person and onward management thereafter.

So to get our message across we have to set our sights at all of these groups, a challenge yes, but one that must be addressed.

Education and training

The issue of compliance is another matter that sits high on the ASFP agenda. If you ask anyone in the design, build or maintenance process, would you intentionally take action to ensure that the lives of the occupants of the building you are responsible for are put at risk of fire or smoke spread, I suggest the answer would be a resounding no! 

Talking is good but if you want to get anything done in this world, you do it yourself! 

In November 2011 the ASFP formed a Training Task group to look at the whole issue of supply chain education, through which the ASFP will work with other associations to develop an improved awareness of the importance of fire by those who may, by their day to day actions, impair the fire resistance within the fabric of a building.

Looking forward to the beginning of 2012 Niall Rowan, ASFP Technical Officer will have completed what is in all probability the most significant document to be produced by the ASFP in the last decade.

The ASFP Guide to Inspecting Passive Fire Protection for Fire Risk Assessors is an essential document designed to take a pragmatic approach to the degree of inspection necessary to reassure the Responsible Person that appropriate measures have been taken when inspecting a diversity of building types.

As I outlined a year ago, ASFP is no longer just a UK based Association, following the creation of ASFP Ireland in September last year. This September in Dublin ASFP Ireland held its first Seminar Workshop on Fire Compartmentation - the Who, Why & How of Compliance, which was chaired by Terence Flanagan TD who represents Dublin North East for Fine Gael.

In follow-up to this event David O'Reilly who Chairs ASFP Ireland is now working closely with the Irish Health Board (HSE) to develop a program of Passive Fire Protection training through the UK third party certification process, which in turn should form the bench mark for other third party certification initiatives in Ireland.

So I hope you will agree it's been a busy year for ASFP.

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