‘Unacceptable’ lack of progress on third party certification

The Fire Sector Federation calls on government to act now to introduce third party certification for fire safety in the built environment

If the government can introduce an overnight ban on cladding, it is unacceptable that there has been no further movement on third party certification in Approved Document B of the Building Regulations, Jonathon O’Neill, Managing Director, Fire Protection Association, surmised at last month’s parliamentary event. Third Party Certification: A Federation Policy Symposium was chaired by Baroness Brinton at the House of Lords and organised by the Fire Sector Federation.



Jonathon O’Neill, Managing Director, Fire Protection Association and Board Director, Fire Sector Federation, highlighted the fact that the overwhelming majority of members at the Symposium were in favour of third party certification

TPC Favour

“It costs government nothing,” Mr O’Neill told delegates, the overwhelming majority of whom were in favour of introducing third party certification following a show of hands at the end of the session. “It ticks all the boxes. We should go for it immediately and we should press that button very had indeed.”

Mr O’Neil stressed the importance of engaging with residents and the public so that they are heard. “Politicians say this [the government response to the Grenfell Tower fire] won’t become another Hillsborough, but I think it may. We need solutions – we don’t want to wait that long – another three years from the Inquiry to make changes to ADB – 12 years in total. We have got to move quickly.”

Mr O’Neil captured the general feeling of Fire Sector Federation members and pointed to the US model as an interesting approach.

US Model

Opening the session, Bob James, UL’s Global Building Sciences Business Director, described the development of codes and standards through the dual routes of International Building Code and NFPA. The ‘family’ of codes rely heavily on volunteers from across the profession and no more than a third of the members of the Standard Technical Panel membership comes from one group. In direct contrast with the inert UK model, the US refreshes codes every three years.

UK Certification

Stephen Adams, BAFE Chief Executive, spoke about the UK approach to third party certification and the development of schemes. With over 1,700 members, BAFE has been around for 25 years but with the absence of mandatory enforcement, the fire industry has been pushing for greater understanding of third party certification and commitment to quality. Working with UKAS accredited certification schemes, BAFE develops schemes based on industry best practice and standards, registering those that make the grade.

“The key issue identified by Dame Judith Hackitt is the ‘golden thread’ and knowing people who came before did a competent job. The tragedy is where it broke down,” he told delegates. “It is not just about the construction phase. Grenfell was perfectly safe until people started doing things to it. It is about the whole life of the building and doing a regular and consistent MOT on the building – a fire risk assessment.”

Mr Adams produced a compelling case for having third party certification. “It is not just about regulations and standards,” he informed, “it is about applying them and reviewing. As updates come in and products change, you have to incorporate and do the right thing so compliance works with the state of the industry.

“Who checks the checker? Until third party certification, nobody knows.”

Third Party Certification for Fire Suppression Systems

Steward Kidd, Managing Director, Loss Prevention Consultancy, said that at present there is no impetus for regulators for third party certification. In fact, companies doing third party certification are at a disadvantage as they are spending more, he suggested. Further, the rules in ADB are unclear.

Mr Kidd told delegates that while automatic fire suppression systems are not complex, there is a gap between specifiers and installers and that results in problems. “We do need an extra level of assurance as fire suppression systems are rarely tested live.”

There has been an upturn in demand for sprinkler systems, he said, and there is a real risk of domestic sprinkler installers fitting inappropriate systems in schools. “Major insurers are asking about automatic fire suppression systems,” he advised. “Will it work? Is it designed right? It is not right that it should be left to the insurers.”

Equally, Mr Kidd said the standard for water mist systems is vitally important as they are bespoke systems. Design, installation, operation and maintenance manuals are critical, he suggested. “Existing accrediting bodies haven’t caught up. BRE and their like are not nimble.”

In closing the Policy Symposium, Mr O’Neill pointed to the clear consensus from Fire Sector Federation members and the need to “press the button very hard indeed” for third party certification in Approved Document B. In response to the overwhelming support for advancing third party certification, the Federation Sector Federation Board agreed to prepare a policy position paper.

New campaign warns ‘it only takes one accident’ to start a fire

A new eye-catching campaign highlighting the everyday accidents that can cause fire in the home has been launched by the Home Office Overloading electrical sockets, leaving a frying pan on the hob unattended and putting an electrical heater too close to laundry are among the hazards shown in the revamped Fire Kills campaign. Advertising will run across England on television, radio and online.

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd, said: “This hard-hitting campaign shows us how it only takes one small accident to start a devastating fire in your own home. Knowing the safety risks, the little mistakes we can all make, is key to preventing fires. Fire Kills has a long history of helping protect people from fire and we are proud to re-launch it.”

The campaign, developed with the help of the National Fire Chiefs Council, also urges the public to test their smoke alarms. Previous Fire Kills campaigns focused on the importance of detecting fires, but the new advertising also places emphasis on prevention by highlighting fire risks around the home.

National Fire Chiefs Council Chair of Prevention, Neil Odin, said: “The National Fire Chiefs Council has worked with the Home Office to ensure the Fire Kills campaign is delivering wider safety messages to the public. As part of our commitment to the campaign, we will be working with all fire and rescue services across the UK. This is to ensure we are working together to target people who are at a higher risk of fires in their home. By making a few simple changes, people can reduce the risk of fire, or by sharing this national advice with friends and family, we can all make a real difference in highlighting risks and reducing the number of fires in the home.

“I am pleased that the campaign has been extended to wider fire safety messaging, and I look forward to seeing the results and evaluation.”

Stub it out before sleeping or risk dying in a fire

London Fire Brigade is urging smokers to stub it out before they snooze as new figures show 71 people have died and more than 700 people have been injured as a result of fires caused by smoking in the last five years

New figures from London Fire Brigade, released on No Smoking Day and during National Bed Month, show that 20 per cent of all smoking related fires in residential properties since 2014 started in the bedroom.

The Brigade is urging smokers to quit smoking for good as they have seen first-hand how it can result in more fire deaths than any other type of fire. For smokers who are not ready to quit, the Brigade is urging them to consider vaping as an alternative, which offers far less risk of being injured or dying in a fire caused by smoking.

A dropped cigarette can start a fire in a matter of seconds. Dan Daly, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “It is too easy to fall asleep while smoking in bed or in your favourite chair and a dropped cigarette or match can cause a fire to take hold in a matter of seconds. These fires can smoulder on bedding or fabric undetected for some time and can cause the most horrific injuries or worse.

“Most of those who die in smoking related fires are vulnerable people or those who have limited mobility and are unable to escape from a fire easily. People who use other medical interventions, such as emollient creams, airflow mattresses and medical oxygen, are at an increased risk as these items can increase the speed of a fire taking hold and the intensity of the fire.”

AC Daly said that vaping presented a lower fire risk.

In the past five years the Brigade has not recorded any fire fatalities or injuries caused by electronic cigarette equipment. Vaping related fires are more likely to occur due to a faulty e-cigarette battery or charger rather than vaping itself.

International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference announces headline sponsor

The sixth International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference, which takes place on June 18-20 at Excel, London alongside the FIREX International Exhibition, aims to consider how procedures and equipment used for tall building fire safety and firefighting should evolve

Welcoming headline sponsor Rockwool’s support for the event, Conference Director Russ Timpson stated: “We are thrilled that Rockwool have agreed to sponsor this important event. The conference brings together leading speakers from across the world to discuss key issues that impact fire safety in high-rise buildings. Arranged across three days we will consider new technology and best practice in fire engineering, fire safety management and firefighting procedures.

“Rockwool’s support will enable us to further develop the programme and bring together the highest calibre speakers. It also allows us to offer a significant discount to serving firefighters, enabling them to attend to learn about the latest advances in firefighting operations.”

Tim Vincent, Head of Technical at Rockwool, commented: “We are delighted to be the headline sponsor of the Tall Building Fire Safety Conference alongside this year’s FIREX event.”

For further information visit: www.tallbuildingfiresafety.com and to book: https://event.bookitbee.com/18674/6th-international-tall-building-fire-safety-confer

Study finds architects’ fire protection knowledge lacking

Two years after Grenfell 92 per cent of UK architects are unable to define key building fire protection terms as a third of architects say their employer does not spend enough time on fire protection training, according to a study by Zeroignition

Zeroignition, the fire retardant ingredient technology firm, has announced findings from its latest study of architects and specifiers. Architects were asked about their understanding of four common terms relating to buildings and fire. Only eight per cent were able to correctly define these four basic fire protection terms.

The terms were active fire protection (systems which protect structures and people including sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms), passive fire protection (whereby the spread of fire is slowed or contained through the use of fire-resistant walls, floors and doors, amongst others), fire resistance (a set of products that prevent fire spreading to other parts of the structure), and reaction to fire (methods designed to help people escape from fire).

While one in three architects (35 per cent) were unable to correctly define the concept of active fire protection, when asked about fire protection options they had considered in projects, smoke alarms were named by 38 per cent and sprinklers by 33 per cent.

Just over half (52 per cent) of all architects could not give an accurate definition of passive fire protection, where fire protection is ‘built in’. However, 54 per cent did cite fire doors as a consideration, which is part of the passive approach. Passive technologies such as flame retardant treated materials, eg firewall, were considered by over a quarter (29 per cent), plasterboard by 21 per cent and plywood/OSB by eight per cent.

Fifty eight per cent of architects were unable to explain what ‘reaction to fire’ is and almost three quarters (71 per cent) were unable to define fire resistance.

None of the architects interviewed said they had had comprehensive fire protection training, most had some training and eight per cent say they have had none.

Ian King, Chief Operating Officer, Zeroignition, says: “Architects are responsible for designing safe buildings. There’s clearly a lack of understanding as to the fire basics which is worrying to say the least. Architects, their employers and the professional bodies need to invest in ensuring this knowledge is bedded in.”

Architects and interior design firm gpad london has looked at fire safety, commenting on their procedures Jeremy Wiggins, Director of the firm, says: “Fire kills. It’s part of our duty to make sure we design safe buildings. We had a look at the RIBA fire safety consultation and tweaked our processes. We make it part of our design thinking from day one, involving end users and fire consultants as soon as practical. Beyond this we make sure that each project has a named person for fire safety responsibility.

“We won’t take chances on this, it’s easy for knowledge to become half remembered if you don’t call on it every day and so we refer to checklists when designing as well as running ongoing CPD sessions focusing on it and new innovations.”

Fire alarm study could lead to new European standard

After the successful study and publication of its book, False Alarm Study, the Fire Section of Euralarm recently decided to continue the study and ask the Technical Group False Alarms how the reduction of false alarms can be further progressed

False alarms from fire detection and fire alarm systems is a topic that Euralarm’s Technical Group False Alarms is working on since 2012 and that resulted in the last step in the publication of a book covering a three-year study of the risk-based understanding of the topic in various European countries.

The work was initiated after budget cuts and a subjective perceived high rate of false alarms. In some European countries it even led to changes on specific practices of fire services. An example is the verification that is required in some countries before intervention forces are deployed, in order to avoid unjustified costs. This calculation is, however, limited to the impact of false alarms on fire services alone with its negative effects: it could lead to an increase of the risk to lives and inflict more cost in overall to society. Establishing the objective high risk of false alarm rates as a basis for further analysis, eg of the costs, was one of the main reasons to start the false alarm study.

The study offers a clarification of false alarms as a phenomenon. It includes a description of the processes to initiate fire service intervention, formulas to calculate false alarm ratios, as well as a methodology of the overall analysis. This scientific approach allows for a precise picture of the situation in selected European countries as regards false alarm: Germany, UK, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria/Vorarlberg are covered in the study.

The study also contains recommendations and strategies to reduce false alarms, which are based on carefully examined statistics on fires and, in particular, the number of fire alarms due to detection of actual fires by fire detection and fire alarm systems, as compared to the false alarm rate. The TG False Alarms of Euralarm argued to increasingly integrate the topic of false alarms into fire protection and fire alarm strategies: handling false alarms must become an active part of the management of a site. The negative and positive effects of false alarms must be taken into consideration in the analysis.

However, the false alarm topic continues to accompany the fire safety industry. Although much has been achieved, the statistics show that there is a sizable potential for continuing improvement. Therefore, the Fire Section of Euralarm agreed to continue its study. Further, the TG has been asked to look into how the approaches for reduction of false alarms can be further progressed. One of these aspects will be the proposal of European standardised terms.


Innovative website launched to help UK businesses identify supply chain risks

A new web tool – www.riscauthoritysupplychain.com – has been launched to help businesses of all types and sizes identify suppliers who directly impact on their ability to deliver products and services to customers

The website has been developed in response to rising instances of UK businesses suffering supply chain disruptions and failing to recover. It is available free of charge to any UK business.

Created by business continuity experts including leading UK commercial insurers, the website poses a series of simple questions with dropdown answers, which are scored to establish supplier vulnerability. By helping companies prioritise their key suppliers, effort can be focussed on managing the greatest risk and impact of any supply chain disruption. The tool is supplemented with free guides and plain English messages to help businesses understand and adopt measures to increase their resilience to any potential supply chain failure.

Dominic Louks, RISCAuthority Business Continuity Working Group, which led the development, states: “Supply chains are becoming ever increasingly global and complex, whereby even a relatively small disruption can have serious consequences for a business; you might not be able to deliver products or services to customers, impacting on your profit, brand and reputation. Unfortunately, there is very little control over the causes to disruptive events in the supply chain – which can range from environmental catastrophes, to IT shortage, machinery failure and potential Brexit custom delays – however, businesses are better able to understand and manage the consequences of these events with the aid of our new supply chain website.”

The website has been developed and financed by RISCAuthority, a scheme that manages technical research and publishes best practice guidance on behalf of the UK’s leading commercial property insurers. One of the scheme’s key objectives is the dissemination of knowledge and information to help support their customers on property protection and business resilience matters. With business interruption claims on the increase, this tool has been developed to help businesses establish a stronger, more robust supply chain.

Lachie Brown, Risk Consultant Team Leader, RSA insurance and project development team member, adds: “This supply chain toolkit will help companies easily identify which suppliers are key to their business which will help give a clearer understanding of their supply chain exposure. By working with your suppliers and identifying any potential issues, you can build greater resilience into your own supply chain arrangements and give your business a competitive advantage.”

Dr Jim Glockling, RISCAuthority Director, concludes: “RISCAuthority is developing an industry wide reputation for the provision of free, authoritative and state of the art guidance and resources to support UK business from a wide range of risk challenges. The launch of our new supply chain impact assessment web tool meets the scheme’s core objectives and purpose of helping insurers and their customers understand known risks to their business and helping them become more resilient.”