Stock styles take action

Bristol Uniforms’ new stock styles for structural PPE are proving popular with fire and rescue services around the world, as the company reports on receiving orders from Malaysia to Germany to Saudi Arabia, and many customers already putting their new kit through its paces

Launched at the end of last year, the three stock styles – XFlex, Ergotech Action CEN and Ergotech Action NFPA – are particularly suited to international customers since they adhere to a variety of international standards and offer a cost-effective means of obtaining excellent quality PPE. As the kit is ready-made, customers benefit from swift delivery times, whilst each coat can still be personalised by adding a heat-sealed patch to the back.

Shannon Airport Firefighters, Republic of Ireland, Kennelbach Fire Brigade, Austria

Firefighters at Shannon Airport in Ireland needed a PPE upgrade and arranged a competitive tender. According to Brian Casey, Airport Police and Fire Service Training Manager at the Airport, the XFlex stock kit was the clear frontrunner. He comments: “XFlex is good value and certainly offered the best quality. It was also recommended to me by others in the industry.”

Casey’s team ordered 73 sets of XFlex stock PPE from Fireguard, Bristol Uniforms’ distributor in Eire. The new kit was delivered in May. He continues: “The Bristol Uniforms stock kit is by far the best kit we’ve ever had. I can honestly say we’ve had no issues whatsoever with any of the items we received. They fit very well and are comfortable to wear. My crew are really pleased with them.”

Other satisfied customers include Kettershausen Fire Brigade and the Verallia Glass Factory in Germany, which recently received their stock XFlex PPE. Uwe Raschel is the owner of Fritz Raschel Feuerschutz GmbH, Bristol Uniforms’ distributor in Germany. He comments: “Both customers are fairly small fire services with a limited number of firefighters. They were impressed by the quality of the kit, but also particularly keen on the swift availability.”

The XFlex design is based on Bristol’s flagship XFlex structural firefighting range, providing excellent range of movement and breathability. It is certified to CEN standard EN469 Level 2.

The two Ergotech Action stock styles have been adapted for different certifying bodies. One adheres to the CEN standard EN469 Level 2, featuring a navy Hainsworth TITAN1220 outer layer and a Gore Crosstech Fireblocker moisture barrier. The second conforms to NFPA 1971:2018 and comes in a desert tan colour, with box bellow pockets on both the coat and trousers.

Interest in the stock styles continues from all corners of the globe, with orders for Ergotech Action EN469 PPE received from customers in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. The Ergotech Action EN469 kit was also recently delivered to Kennelbach, Rothis and Riefensberg Fire Brigades in Austria, and to the Petronas oil and gas company in Malaysia.

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Digital engineering team wins top award for excellence in improving fire safety

The Digital Engineering team at multidiscipline property and construction consultants Ridge and Partners LLP (Ridge) report on winning the Constructing Excellence SECBE Award in the Digital Construction category for their unique BIM firestopping solution that addresses all M&E services passing through fire rated walls and floors

The ground-breaking firestopping solution reduces the risks and costs associated with fire safety regulations, which are now subject to closer scrutiny following the findings of the Hackitt Review in response to the Grenfell disaster.

Ridge was awarded the accolade for their unique ‘Model Firestopping Review’ innovation designed to test the compliance of building designs against regulations and test data, using Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology. The concept was initially developed by Ridge in collaboration with Laing O’Rourke and Rockwool on a major project for a large automotive client. The process uses BIM modelling to check compliance of ‘Fire Stopping’ for mechanical and electrical services passing through walls and floors. It reduces the risk of buildings not complying with fire regulations which require firestop products and the building services passing through them to be installed in accordance with laboratory tested data.

Brent Rees, Partner and Head of Digital Engineering at Ridge, said: “We have worked closely with our clients to help address this vital issue and more intelligently demonstrate compliance with the regulations. In doing so, we have created a completely new way of using digital technology to reduce the risk and cost for our clients that would be incurred if they did not comply with the regulations. Most importantly, in the long term we are helping to save lives in the event of a building fire.”

Adrian O’Hickey, Senior Partner at Ridge, added: “We feel incredibly honoured to have been recognised for our work in this important field.”



Royal Berkshire first to deploy new FireWatch app

Infographics report that Royal Berkshire FRS (RBFRS) is the first in the UK to adopt the new cross platform FireWatch Mobile app – supporting greater mobile working, increased digitalisation and enhanced agility – with other services expected to follow suit in the near future

The FireWatch app provides a modern and intuitive user experience, available from anywhere at any time. Suitable for iPhone and Android devices, it allows users to directly access data and tasks for leave, skills, training, availability and assets. It also enables them to manage their relevant key performance indicators and take direct actions.

Paul Binyon, Area Manager for Service Delivery at RBFRS, said: “By adopting the new cross platform FireWatch app, we believe that staff will benefit from improved access to key information. We are committed to investing in information and communication technology that helps to improve the efficiency and resilience of our service. This will help us to deliver a more effective service to the communities we serve.”

RBFRS utilises the FireWatch platform for integrated human resource management, training and development, health and safety, asset management, automated electronic payment calculations and processing for on-call and wholetime staff, and availability management – with a live interface to their shared Thames Valley Control and Capita Vision mobilisation system.

Benefiting from the latest cross-platform app development tools, the new FireWatch app integrates seamlessly with the wider FireWatch user experience across web, SMS and the Microsoft Azure Cloud platform.

Infographics are also working with RBFRS to extend the FireWatch app’s workflow support to manage changes to existing leave and associated crewing impacts, as well as standardised testing, scanning and auditing for asset management tasks.

Russell Wood, Commercial Manager at Infographics, said: “We are delighted RBFRS are rolling out our latest developments and will be the first of many fire and rescue services expected to deploy our FireWatch app and other new solution areas, now available following our continued reinvestment in R&D.

“The rich, integrated features of the main FireWatch platform and its modernised architecture allow us to easily roll out more capabilities via the app, web and other areas as part of one integrated system for users, made available from anywhere at any time – including via the FireWatch Cloud and Microsoft Azure.”

The key features of the FireWatch Mobile app:

  • Bio-metric login – convenient and secure with options for face ID and fingerprint recognition
  • ‘Push notifications’ automatically triggered by the FireWatch two-way mobilisation system interface, with the ability to confirm attendance and ETA
  • Quick and easy digitalised attendance claims integrated with location services directly from the user’s mobile phone
  • ‘Roaming availability’ – eliminates the need for users to manually change their cover provision location by automatically detecting this and optionally using location services.
  • Employee calendar – allows users to manage time, bookings and availability from anywhere
  • Book on/off – quick and easily to book on/off, or make future bookings
  • Station availability – view current station and vehicle crewing information and upcoming changes
  • Organisation-wide availability for managers – providing an understanding of ‘the bigger picture’ across the entire FRS within a mobile-optimised view
  • Actionable KPI charts – presents key role-based metrics that users can directly drill into and perform actions on
  • Training request workflow – allows users to quickly find training matching their role and skills needs, utilising an automated, multi-step workflow for course booking
  • Training course calendar – view and browse training course options directly from the app.

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A new £18.5m joint headquarters building will be constructed on land behind the existing Nottinghamshire Police headquarters at Sherwood Lodge and is scheduled to open by the end of 2021.

Work on the new building, which will include a control room, training centre, changing rooms, gym, canteen and shared offices, is expected to begin next month. Once complete it will form part of a wider joint campus that will also include all of the existing police headquarters.

After a competitive tendering process Nottingham-based Henry Brothers Midlands has been chosen to construct the new three storey building.

Since planning permission was granted in December 2019, a considerable amount of work has already taken place on this multi-phase project under the direction of construction consultancy Gleeds.

The site, which will include a new access road, additional car parking and improvements to existing facilities, has already been levelled and cleared – ahead of time and below budget.

Ian Taylor, Managing Director of Henry Brothers Midlands, said: “As a local company, we are delighted to have been appointed to build this new joint headquarters building for Nottinghamshire Police and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“Henry Brothers has a wealth of experience when it comes to public sector buildings and we are proud to have been selected to work on such a high profile and important project for our local emergency services.”

Henry Brothers Midlands, based at Priory Court, Derby Road, Beeston, is part of The Henry Group, which comprises a number of manufacturing and construction sector companies, ranging from external construction through to interiors fit-out.

The company has been involved in a number of major projects in Nottingham in recent years. It is currently building a new £9m four-storey Enterprise Innovation Centre at Nottingham Trent University’s City Campus – the third development undertaken by Henry Brothers Midlands for the university. In 2019 the company also completed a new £23m two-storey engineering facility at the university’s Clifton Campus, and also began work on a new Medical Technologies Innovation Facility on the same site.

The joint headquarters project is the next step in a series of collaboration projects between the two services, which already share premises at Highfields, West Bridgford and London Road fire stations, and at the new tri-service hub in Hucknall. The two organisations also jointly procure fuel, have a shared drone and incident welfare vehicle, and conduct joint safety and educational initiatives.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “This is a significant day in the history of this project and also a good time to reflect on the huge amount of work that has taken place since we began preparing the ground once we got the planning decision at the back end of last year.

“I want to thank all those involved in getting us to this point ahead of schedule and under budget. It is great news to have been able to have formalised this partnership with a trusted local contractor. Their bid represents excellent value for money for taxpayers. I am delighted that we are able to support so many local jobs on site and in the wider supply chain in what I know is a very challenging time for local businesses.”

Chief Fire Officer John Buckley said: “The appointment of a local contractor marks a significant step in the joint headquarters programme and is the culmination of a great amount of joint working between the two organisations to co-ordinate a robust and effective competitive tendering process.

“Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and Nottinghamshire Police have collaborated on a number of projects in recent years; our new joint headquarters is the next step in our collaboration journey and will pave the way for future partnership working for the benefit of the communities we serve.”

Chair of the Fire Authority, Cllr Michael Payne, added: “This is fantastic news in what has, in recent months, undoubtedly been an extremely challenging time for our police and fire staff, the wider public sector and our communities across the whole of the city and county.

“The appointment of a local company to build our new joint headquarters reinforces our commitment to the people of Nottinghamshire, and I look forward to the next phase of the project where we will start to see the redevelopment of Sherwood Lodge taking shape, and the relationship between the two organisations going from strength to strength.”

Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This is another big step towards the completion of this latest and biggest partnership project to date between two key emergency services. It’s good news that a local company provided the best value for money in a very strict tender process as this means that local people will benefit. I’m also delighted that despite the challenges of the last few months, the work to date has been completed ahead of schedule and under budget. I am grateful to everyone who has worked hard to deliver this.

“The two organisations have been collaborating for some time to improve both financial and operational efficiency and experience has proved that they work well together. The new headquarters will bring numerous advantages, such as a better working environment for the workforce, eco-friendly elements and further development of the working relationship between the services.”



Successful trials of Emergency Services Network Air to Ground technology

In partnership with the prime contractor, Cobham Aerospace Connectivity, QinetiQ reports on completing a series of significant trials to test, integrate and assure the technology for a new 4G LTE Aircraft Communications System that will transform the connectivity and effectiveness of the UK’s Emergency Services Air to Ground communications

The ACS is a key component of the UK Home Office’s Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP). The ESMCP will deliver the Emergency Services Network (ESN), an LTE-based fully integrated, mission critical voice and broadband data service. ESN will replace the current Airwave TETRA radio system.

The airborne component of the ACS Technical Demonstrator Programme (TDP) consisted of a bespoke aircraft antenna array, and a customised airborne LTE radio communications and test system. This was integrated into a QinetiQ Agusta A109 helicopter, which was flown on numerous flight test profiles whilst operating on the ground-test network.

The QinetiQ-hosted ground component included a dedicated cellular network and lab-based test system. The recent test and assurance flight trials, using an LTE network with base stations at MOD Boscombe Down airfield and QinetiQ’s Malvern site, demonstrated the key elements of system design and performance, including: range and altitude performance; handover between ESN’s terrestrial and dedicated A2G Band 40 systems; and integration of the core Kodiak Mission Critical Push-To-Talk (MCPTT) application in the selected ACS architecture.

A delegation from the UK Home Office, along with members of the emergency services including Wiltshire Air Ambulance, visited MOD Boscombe Down in July to see the test system in action. Further testing and assurance of the ACS will continue during the development of the system over the next 12-15 months, with operational acceptance and installation to follow. Despite the complexity of the system and stringent safety and airworthiness requirements, the TDP commenced just nine months after Cobham was awarded the contract to develop the ESN ACS.

“We’re delighted to have made such significant progress in support of the development and assurance of a system that will truly transform the efficiency and effectiveness of the UK emergency services air-to-ground communications” said Geoff Clarkson, Chief Engineer for the QinetiQ A2G programme. “As part of our mission-led innovation approach we have been able to work closely with the team at Cobham to create the test solution, and then integrate and evaluate the technology quickly and safely.”

Cobham’s Vice President, Aerospace Systems, Kevin Dunne, added: “As a demonstration of our commitment to the programme and management of risk through early testing, Cobham and our trusted partner QinetiQ implemented the TDP. The programme has so far validated that the key concepts of the ACS project are sound, including Kodiak integration and air-to-ground network performance. Working in close collaboration with a progressive and like-minded partner has now enabled us to make the first ever 4G LTE air-to-ground network call using a MCPTT application.”

Working with Cobham, QinetiQ is delivering a wide range of activities into the ACS project which include bespoke software applications, specialist 4G LTE consultancy and Service Management while in operational service together with the provision of Airborne Test and Assurance capabilities. Jointly, the two companies will deliver an assured programme for the UK emergency services, backed by ten years of through-life support with the option to extend for a further five years. Full adoption of the new 4G LTE Air to Ground communications by the UK’s emergency services will replace up to 120 existing Airwave TETRA radio systems.



European firefighter PPE standard updated

The European standard EN 469, which ensures protective clothing worn by firefighters is of good quality, fit for purpose and adequately protective, has been revised and published this month

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) published EN469: 2020 Protective clothing for firefighters – Performance requirements for protective clothing for firefighting in mid-August. EN 469 covers general clothing design, labelling, minimum performance requirements, and the tests that should be carried out to determine these performance levels.

In response, Bristol Uniforms, a leading designer and manufacturer of protective clothing for emergency services across the globe, is putting together a handy guide for its distributors and customers, summarising the changes that have been made. These include minor changes to performance requirements. For example, there is now a requirement to undertake tests, such as seam and fabric tear strength tests, after five wash-and-dry cycles instead of before, to check clothing performance is maintained.

Other tests have also been added, for example to check that sewing thread can withstand heats of 260oC without melting, and to ensure that when clothing comes into contact with a surface of 250oC that it takes longer than ten seconds for the temperature inside to rise by 10oC.

In addition, some testing processes, such as the resistance to liquid chemical penetration test, have been simplified and some more subjective tests for things like surface wetting have been removed.

The new standard also specifies extra design features, for example lockable zips to prevent accidental opening and exposure to contaminants, and wider pocket flaps to keep contaminants and burning debris out. It also now puts a limit on the depth of anti-wicking material added to the sleeves and hems of garments.

BSI/CEN standards expert Dave Matthews has been involved in the development of this standard. He said: “EN 469 has been updated to reflect the changing role of firefighters, and to improve the accuracy and consistency of testing. The revision has taken a lengthy period, due to the interest in this standard. It will continue to ensure that all conforming PPE is fit for purpose and protects firefighters from the hazards of the job.”

Richard Ballheimer, Compliance Manager at Bristol Uniforms, is Secretary to the standards committee that updated EN 469, and provides specialist advice and guidance on firefighter PPE. He said: “EN 469: 2020 replaces EN 469: 2005 and like all manufacturers, Bristol Uniforms will now start the process of certifying its structural firefighter clothing to this new standard. Customers can rest assured that when they buy PPE certified to this new standard, it’s been thoroughly tested and is fit for purpose.”



Partnership for thermal imaging camera distribution

High-performance equipment manufacturer, Avon Protection, has announced Venari Group as its new distributor of thermal imaging cameras for the UK fire market

The agreement will see Venari commence distributorship of Avon’s ‘argus’ range of thermal imaging cameras (TICs) with immediate effect. The British-manufactured argus technology has been the market leader within the British fire and rescue industry for three decades, having continually invested in R&D and product innovation. Its evolved ‘Mi-TIC’ unit is the world’s smallest NFPA 1801-certified thermal imager for firefighting applications.

After being launched into the fire market in early 2020 by industry stalwart Oliver North, Venari has already made a name for itself, having acquired the UK’s biggest and most established ambulance manufacturer, O&H Vehicle Technology. It has also been announced as the UK manufacturer of Ziegler Group’s technologically advanced range of firefighting vehicles – providing world-class fire truck technology whilst wholly manufactured in Britain.

Now, with the latest evolution in the Mi-TIC’s legacy, Venari will be tasked with spearheading customer care, sales and marketing for the UK fire and ambulance services from its state-of-the-art, 60,000 sq ft emergency vehicle manufacturing facility.

Avon Protection European Sales Director, Mark Ridsdale, commented: “I’ve worked with many of the team at Venari in the past and very much look forward to working with them again. Their passion for the Mi-TIC thermal imager completely mirrors that of our own which is an extremely exciting prospect for the UK fire and rescue services.”

Venari Group CEO, Oliver North, added: “Alignment of Avon and Venari completely champions the importance and significance of strengthening UK manufactured products.

“I’ve previously had seven years of experience with the Mi-TIC, and I’m thrilled to represent it to its fullest potential in both the UK fire and rescue market as well as the ambulance market with hazardous area response teams. Many of the wider team at Venari are also experienced with the incredible Mi-TIC and wholeheartedly share my passion for the range.”