The future of UK firefighting
FIRE editor Andrew Lynch (18/06/12)questions how far-sighted the UK fire service actually is:
'Fire: Cost and Consequence' was the theme of this year's Fire Lecture, hosted by the Worshipful Company of Firefighters and held in partnership with the Building Research Establishment.
BRE's Chief Executive Carol Atkinson gave a global overview and bemoaned the silo mentality inherent in building construction, calling for the simplest of solutions: all parties sitting around the same table and working together from the start. It is a familiar observation/recommendation − one the fire world struggles to deliver.
It is because the contradictions have yet to be weeded out. Every topic raised presented the anomaly. Commendably, BRE are developing an integrated code for a sustainable built environment; on the other hand they have no data on the materials used in modern methods of construction. Do not let that statement pass by: if they do not know, who does? London Fire Brigade's Commissioner Ron Dobson and Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter disputed the legislative approach to sprinkler installations and condemned challenges to the insurance industry to reduce premiums. As at the Callow Mount project report launch they called for targeted response: the poor and vulnerable are dying in fire [as illustrated by the Lakanel House and Derby tragedies].
This reporter would add that poor people are dying in poorly constructed properties; the potential pitfalls of materials and structural complexities arising in modern methods of construction are perhaps disasters that future generations will have to deal with. Last month's editorial appealed for the US model futuristic home − fully-integrated with environmentally-friendly sprinklers − to be showcased here. The exercise is intended to raise general and political awareness to zone in on those most at risk. The Callow Mount project findings raised some hope: if sprinklers can be retrofitted cheaply in high-rise properties, there is nowhere that cannot be reached.
We are missing a link however: how to target the full gamut of escalating socio-economic problems with a combination of technological solutions and CFS outreach? Throw in funding restrictions and 'striking a balance', the theme of CFOA President Lee Howell's presentation, and it becomes a perilous juggling act. Fire Minister Bob Neill closed the debate by discussing breaking down the silos through empowerment and enlightened self-interest. Improved fire safety for occupiers, constructers, insurers and emergency responders is of course in their best interest but without a clear guide − a real understanding of how it all hangs together − there is no incentive.
That is the real missing link and one that no-one has yet to articulate clearly.
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