Transforming fire response though collaboration and technology

Georgina Maraheftis reports on techUK, a technology membership organisation and what it can do to help fire and rescue services work through some of the trickier aspects of digital transformation

As the trade association for the UK tech sector we are passionate about the enabling role digital and technology can play in helping public and bluelight services improve the way they work and the lives of the citizens they serve.

techUK is the UK’s leading technology membership organisation, with more than 850 members spread across the UK with two thirds of our members being SMEs. Over 400 of those companies are supplying to bluelight services, including fire and rescue. techUK has an active emergency services programme that connects public safety and blue light stakeholders with suppliers of all sizes to access innovative tech services to improve public safety outcomes.

Our mission at techUK is to help create places where citizens want to live, thrive and feel safe. We see our role as convening the tech industry together with emergency services to solve common challenges together and help improve the conditions needed for meaningful transformation and for innovation to flourish.

Our activity can be categorised into two broad groups – thought leadership and market engagement. In the former, we produce papers showcasing and encouraging the deployment of tech to help solve some of the biggest challenges the public sector faces. We also regularly host events to bring together the procurement and supplier communities to co-design solutions or help inform strategy thinking through challenge-led innovation workshops. Given the breadth and depth of our membership, we are also the go-to for public sector buyers when they are looking to engage the market in a pre-procurement exercise.

However, in recent times and during the current crisis we have taken a more direct role by acting as a conduit and coordinator between public sector and industry. For example, we have been working with industry to curate a local government repository of offers responding to challenges councils and communities are facing. At the time of writing it contained over 70 technological offers of support covering everything from supporting the vulnerable to remote working to cyber security.

Art of the Possible

The fast pace of technological change often makes it difficult for bluelight services to be on top of what the latest innovations are that can help them to protect the public. Emergency services are under continued pressure to deliver more for less while meeting rising expectations of citizens. By engaging with the technology market early, fire and rescue services will be able to access the latest innovations and through workshops with our partners we can look at what is ‘the art of the possible’ and how technology can help fire and services. techUK provides a neutral environment and enables fire and rescue services to access the breadth and depth of the market, from small to large players.

Collaboration

While techUK helps facilitate collaborative working through our events, we also help demystify how the technologies of today and tomorrow can solve some of the biggest problems public services face.

techUK’s Collaboration for public safety outcomes report last year highlighted the technology tools and trends that have the potential to transform public safety services, as well as the role that culture, processes and procedures have in empowering technological solutions to facilitate collaboration.

Digital infrastructure, data-driven technologies and connectivity and communications are three technologies that present significant opportunities for collaboration in public safety service provision, from the frontline to in-house operations. Digital infrastructure, such as cloud, provides opportunities to build on a suite of other technological tools and functions which are aimed at aiding blue light services in providing critical public safety services.

Technologies such as The Internet of Things (IoT) are also changing fire safety. In the broadest sense, the term IoT encompasses everything connected to the internet and we are seeing application of sensors in buildings, for example. The collection and application of atmospheric data could dramatically alter our approach to fire prevention and firefighting, and ultimately help to save lives.

“The UK has a vibrant and dynamic tech sector for bluelight specific expertise and solutions”

Fixing the Plumbing

Building on the theme of collaboration, techUK is a proud co-publisher of the Ministry for Housing and Local Government’s Local Digital Declaration. The Declaration now has more than 100 signatories, including two fire and rescue services. The aim is to co-create the conditions for the next generation of local public services, where technology is an enabler rather than a barrier to service improvements. The appetite for collaboration has never been stronger.

The UK has a vibrant and dynamic tech sector for bluelight specific expertise and solutions. It is widely recognised that the ecosystem needs to be fostered so that partnerships and networks are able to deliver joined-up, collaborative solutions. techUK is working to encourage greater interoperability of services and solutions with its industry working group.

With the help of our Justice and Emergency Services Committee, techUK is bringing interested suppliers together to create a coalition of the willing to explore what interoperability could look like for policing suppliers and deliver the Interoperability for Policing initiative. We are working with police first as a result of our strong, long-standing relationship with various forces and national transformation programmes. Our vision is that one day this initiative could be extended to transform wider public safety and criminal justice ecosystem, because ultimately, we are working to ensure that our justice and emergency services are empowered by technology to continue their important work to keep us safe, and deliver critical public safety outcomes.

Power of Data

Last year we were delighted to grow our engagement with the wider emergency services ecosystem by hosting a workshop with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) which brought together industry and fire and rescue services to interrogate data assumptions, as well as consider what a data enabled fire and rescue service would look like in the future.

At our workshop it quickly became apparent that data is at the heart of the Fire and Rescue Service, from determining where to locate fire stations and understanding risk and how best to serve communities. The NFCC wanted to find out if data skills are something all members of staff working in fire and rescue services should have, particularly those in leadership positions.

A three-hour workshop provides peers from across the Fire Service and industry to meet up and share common challenges. It is a luxury to step away from everyday tasks and look at the bigger picture. There is a more detailed write-up of the workshop on the techUK website. We look forward to collaborating with the NFCC again in the future.

We will continue to support the blue light sector in delivering improved safety and services that meet the needs of communities. Deploying technology is the easy bit though. It is about creating a digital mindset and having a strong digital infrastructure and culture across localities that will ultimately deliver improved services and safety for all. That is why coming together to solve some of the most pressing challenges our communities face together is so powerful.

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in techUK’s emergency services activities contact me by email: Georgina.maratheftis@techuk.org.


Expert advice platform during Covid-19 outbreak

Churches Fire Security Ltd, a nationwide business dedicated to supplying customers with the best in fire safety and security protection, reports on providing expert advice and best practices to help customers manage fire and theft risks during the Covid-19 outbreak

Classed as key workers by the government, Churches Fire technicians have continued to service and maintain fire and security provisions throughout the outbreak period. Guided by customer requirements, technicians have been working additional hours to ensure customer sites are upheld to usual working order, particularly in shops, bars, gyms and restaurants prior to being temporarily closed.

Supporting Customers Through Re-Occupancy

The platform strengthens the company commitment to always supporting customers, especially through the outbreak, as businesses begin to look at re-occupancy plans.

Drawing on the specialist knowledge of the company’s fire and security technicians, the platform is divided into three key sections: Managing Risk, Getting Ready for Re-Occupancy and Churches Fire’s Operational Response.

Available to all, the free downloadable checklists for fire and security safety, evacuation strategy for use during times of reduced staffing levels and printable recovery calendar have been designed to facilitate business re-occupancy as effectively as possible.

In addition to the information offered, Churches Fire is providing their online fire safety training programme free of charge. To help every business through this period, the free training is available to all – whether a current customer of Churches Fire or not.

Chief Operating Officer, Charlie Haynes, said: “It’s vitally important that our customers continue to safeguard their businesses with the responsible person still taking the time to do weekly and monthly fire and security tests. In sharing our expertise, we want to ensure all of our customers know that Churches Fire is here with them. Whether business premises’ are closed completely or working towards re-occupancy, our resources are offered for each step of the process.”

Churches Fire customers receive regular email updates, highlighting fire and security areas to focus on as the country collectively works towards re-occupancy.

For more information about Churches Fire, visit: www.churchesfire.com/covid-19


Apprentices benefit from distance learning during lockdown

Fire, emergency and security systems training providers have been taking innovative approaches to minimise disruption to apprentices during the Coronavirus pandemic

When lockdown measures and widespread closures were announced in March, the government announced that furloughed apprentices could continue their training in different ways, so long as they do not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer.

With more than 1,000 apprentices currently enrolled on the Fire, Emergency and Security Systems Technician Apprenticeship Standard, training providers worked quickly on solutions to deliver their learning remotely, using a range of web-based teaching, conferencing and resource-sharing software.

Banham Academy is an example of one provider that rapidly established an online learning programme for the apprentices it would normally teach in-house on a block release basis.

“We quickly transferred what was being taught in a classroom environment to something that could be delivered effectively online,” said Kevin Faulkner, Banham Academy’s Operations Director. “Using a mix of online platforms, those apprentices due to be at the academy have attended live interactive presentations given by the tutors throughout the week”.

Each day the apprentices work through a full schedule and receive comprehensive tutoring and support to ensure learning outcomes are still met. Workbooks and online drop-in feedback sessions are also available to assist the apprentices.

“Employers have provided apprentices with laptops to aid their studies and some have given systems equipment, so practical skills can be maintained,” Kevin added. “This can be demonstrated online by the apprentices to the tutors, so that feedback and training can still be provided by video link. We’re pleased that so far, the whole experience has been embraced by students. Some have even requested extra revision resources and are asking to complete online training over and above their planned schedule.”

Another provider, Training 2000, has also been also quick to adapt to the new restrictions placed on the education network. “Using remote teaching we’ve been able to ensure all three apprentice year groups have not missed any learning time,” said Matt Jeans, Engineering Assessor.