Here is a fireside chat with John O'Sullivan, Technical Director Fire Consultancy at Bureau Veritas. This interview touches on honouring the past, celebrating the present and building for the future of the fire safety industry. Specifically, this in-depth interview focuses on how the FIA is the voice of the industry, a reflection of an unexpected and illustrious career from the son of a farmer and the importance of charity.

22 June 2021 by Adam Richardson, Business Liaison

Fireside Chat with John O'Sullivan

 

Intro:

  • How have you been affected by COVID-19?

Well, fortunately, thank goodness, I have not been affected a great deal at all.  I have been able to work through the most challenging time of the pandemic and the good thing up this point in time is my family have, managed to escape it.

I have had my first jab and I am now waiting for my second jab.  So, in many ways, when you compare this as to how other people have suffered and lost loved ones, we have been incredibly lucky.  Unfortunately, I have lost some of my key golfing friends because of Covid-19.  That has been a sorrowful time.  In relation to change, I think I have been fortunate because of the way I work.  I have been the Technical Director Fire Consultancy for Bureau Veritas UK & I for 14 years and they have managed staff in a most professional and supportive manner during the pandemic and kept the majority of its staff fully employed during the pandemic.

I can do a lot of my work from home.  I have been able to provide all the technical support information, and guidance to our fire risk assessment consultants that are out in the field and also to our clients as necessary, to ensure they meet life safety compliance requirements during the pandemic period.  If it is needed, I can go out, but it is exceedingly rare that I have needed to go out in the past 12 months due mainly to the pandemic.  Before Covid-19-19 I was out onsite quite a bit as well, to provide support to consultants and clients to manage successfully with the challenging issues that were difficult and challenging to correct this was to ensue our clients received the technical support they required to meet compliance standards.

 

Personal Questions

  • Do you have any pets?

No, nothing really.  My daughter has got plenty of pets, a horse and two dogs which I get dragged into occasionally but in our own home, we have not got any pets.  Even though we are animal lovers, do not get me wrong.

  • What’s your favourite movie of all time?

The Towering Inferno.  I am now going back some year’s and it is a memory that has remained with me all my life in relation to life safety and property fire protection.  What it does is it highlights what damage fire can do in a noticeably short period of time resulting in loss of life and the destruction of property. What I can recall from watching that movie it brought back many memories of the Grenfell Tower Incident. If you look back at the production of this movie script it states very clearly who quickly a fire can develop and cause significant damage.

 

I can always recall going to the cinema that evening with my daughter and seeing that movie that it really re-focused me on life safety in many ways in the early years of my career in fire safety and remains with me today

In “The Towering Inferno,” faulty wiring ignited combustible cleaning materials to start the fire—itself somewhat implausible since electrical switching equipment is not likely to be placed in a janitor's closet. As the fire spread, Paul Newman—who as the architect was a cross between Howard Roark and James Bond—accomplished a heroic rescue as a gas line burst in the fire stairs.

Gas lines, however, are never placed in fire stairs, and it is not likely that they could burst through the walls of an emergency stairwell. When a gas main burst in an old building on East 45th Street last year, for example, the exterior walls were demolished, and the fire stairs remained intact.

The fire in “The Towering Inferno” also spread into the central core of the building, the masonry‐enclosed area in which all mechanical equipment and services, such as elevators, are concentrated and this, too, stretches the limits of credibility for most experts. Also, how the fire was finally extinguished, the dynamiting of roof tanks containing a million gallons of water, is untenable because the weight of so much water would have been more than the building could support

Yet both experts state that the problem of fires in high rise buildings is the most frustrating one they face, and each took pains to separate themselves from the position taken by spokesmen for the real‐estate industry, which reacted to the film with horror and has let loose a barrage of statements that high‐rise buildings are almost danger‐free.

Going back several years, it was viewed by experts that this type of incident could not happen in a high-rise building.

To see the challenges and dangers that one would have to face not only the people that have to occupy the building for whatever reason, but also the emergency services and how they could deal with a situation like that.

But in many ways, if you bring the clock forward to the 21st century, you could then see a similar situation to that, which the fire brigade was faced with when they had to respond to the likes of Grenfell incident.  That is something that has remained with me and will continue to remain with me for as long as I live and a lesson that I always try to focus in on.  There is a tremendous amount of learning lessons with that.  So, looking back at that movie it was so popular back then, you had to que to get in to see it.  I think I got in to see it on my third attempt, but it holds many memories as to what must be implemented into fire safety design of buildings to make them and the management plans that need to be developed and implemented to mitigate the risk to life safety.

  • Describe yourself as a teenager in 3 words?

Blonde curly hair, very energetic and athletic.  Gaelic hurling was my sport, I was also good at athletics and running with good times over the mile distance.

  • What is your biggest pet peeve/hate? 

 

The one thing of today is the way the world moves, everything is at such a fast pace.  I think that the pace of life, I can re-call in the olden days, you would plan to get things done, you would get it organised if you look at the younger generation now, it is no good having it today, they wanted it yesterday and I think that is the way the whole world has changed. 

I think that is the way it is moving and as the clock goes around, we will probably, in another 50 years, go back the other way again in another format.  Things will change.  But I think in today’s modern world there is a lot of aggression, even when you deal with clients, they always say everything is important and must be delivered today or as soon as possible. 

Now people do not allow or have the necessary time to be able to do anything in a professional way as you are always up against the clock to deliver a suitable sufficient report in actual fact, and they’ll come back to say that’s not what they wanted or expected, the trouble is then when you look at the time factor that’s been allocated to it you can understand the issues that may not be correctly addressed to meet compliance.

  • If you could be from any other decade (or era), which would it be and why?

I would go back a couple of decades ago, I felt that it was an age of opportunity, it was an age, in fact, where you could develop a career and you could progress and plan your career path to be able to get there in a reasonable time frame.  In many ways today, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on people to be able to achieve something almost over night and a couple of decades ago, the pace of life was slower. I think in the previous decades as well, what I can recall is if you had a technical problem, you would always get a group of people to support you including the fire service.  What I now find it is extremely difficult to get that type of support. 

  • What is your favourite quote and why? 

Protecting today and preserving tomorrow.  The reason for this quote is that I was extremely fortunate to be on the Board of Directors for the NFPA in the States for 6 years.  I was also on the standards council for another 6 years at the NFPA this was most the interesting from a technical and professional point of view to oversee the development of all the standards it produces.  I was also participated in several of the standard committee’s as well for the NFPA for 30 years altogether.  The one thing that we always state is to make sure that, what-ever we were going to do is that in a preserving today is protecting tomorrow and it is to create a safer preserving life, which is a key fundamental point in everything we do because is number one goal is no matter where you go in the world, irrespective of geographic location if you can keep this as your key objective, you’re preserving life and protecting industry as well to help the environment.

  • If you weren’t in the fire industry – what would you be doing and why?

Two things, first I am a farmer’s son, so how did I come to be in fire safety industry is another issue and will explain later. 

The other one I am involved with is charity work, that is one of my big things I am involved with, I suppose that is my biggest interest now because I was a founder member of a charity.  In 1990 we formed a Charity called ‘The ACT – The Act Foundation) it is now called ‘The Edward Gostling Foundation’ there was 7 of us who formed that charity and unfortunately, I’m the only one of the original seven that’s left living, everybody else has passed away RIP. 

But I think one of the great things is about this charity to just before Christmas 2020, which I am extremely proud of, we have given away £50 million to charities.  That has been to charities right around the country, we have been able to support various people.  To support Covid-19, we have given away, somewhere in the region of £3.5 million to date, in the past 12 months.  We support small charities to make sure that they can survive, and we can deliver things quickly.  We have built nursing home for forty-nine at Whitely Village in Chertsey to hospices and children’s charities.  We are also doing another one which I find quite interesting now as well, is to be able to support children who are coming out of care,  18-year-olds to 24-year-olds, what we are doing is we are buying houses that we can then give to interested parties to operate and then they pay us a small rent on an annual basis we also pay the costs to have them developed,  to support that type of living.

Also, in the past two years we have given £50,000 to The Burn Camp to support people, to provide to children who have suffered physically and mentally badly because of fires and the trauma that it has created with the challenges presented to those individually and to their families.  That is one of my biggest things now, being able to see that there are people in need, and they approach us, then we have the ability to be able to do that and we do that through investments. 

If there are charities that you feel or you know anyone who wants something, fill in the application forms and our team will look at it and the great thing about it is when there are people in need, we can resolve most things between 4 to 8 weeks, rather than waiting for weeks or maybe months and things like that.  We have a lot of charity projects that we work with, we go right across the country as well, it is not just all in London, wherever there is a need and if they meet our criteria in accordance with our goals as agreed with Charities Commissions.  We are doing a lot as well with people with Autism and helping in those areas

  • What’s on your Spotify or iTunes?

Well, you see, I do not do iTunes, I am very much in-fact a Country and Western fan.  The music I like is Country and Western and Irish, Danny O’Donnell is on my list, there is another guy called Brendan Shine, and another called Big Tom as they call him.  I also like Patsy Cline, Bruce Springsteen, Kris Kristofferson, the Man in Black Johnny Cash and all those types of country artists.  That is the type of music that I really like. The Irish Country and Western is remarkably like the American Country and Western.

  • If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be?

That would be quite an interesting question, the people that I would like to invite would be Joe Biden, because I think that despite his age, he has shown since being elected President what he’s achieved in the United States in the short period of time he’s been in power has been remarkable  when you see what was left to deal with, despite all the, head winds against him  he’s been able to do that in such a tremendous and positive way not alone for the United States but also for the world.

The other second person that I would have is Mary Patricia McAleese an Irish politician who served as the eighth President of Ireland from November 1997 to November 2011. McAleese used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism, and reconciliation. She described her presidency's theme as "Building Bridges" she has a tremendous grasp on what needs to happen in the world today with “Building Bridges” still being a focus for us all to follow in the challenges we all face and try to play our part to make it a safer and better world in which we live in for all.

Recently it was listening to her one Sunday morning on the Andy Marr show about the Brexit situation and how we have all missed tricks to make life better for all.  She explained it does not matter which side of the fence you are on, but there were so many things, that could have been done better and she believes, even now, that things could work out extremely well, but there is not a willingness on either side there want to make it work.  She is amazed of that because there is an awful lot of clever and intelligent people in the UK and the EU involved and why they are making life so difficult for themselves and the people they represent, she finds that extremely difficult to understand.  She still thinks there are some tremendous opportunities if the willingness is there to make it work together instead of putting barriers up, to make life extremely difficult as to how we move things around.

I would like to have is Prince William, because the way he is moving things along with the way he is supporting his Father and Her Majesty, The Queen of England. I think he is a person for the future as well and I think he has tremendous potential to lead the country as the future King.  He comes across as a person who is easy to communicate with as well, loves family life.  These are the 3 people I would like to sit down with and have dinner with I am sure it would be an interesting discussion and would also be fun and an interesting time. 

  • What two things would you take to a Desert Island?

The one thing that I would take is my set of golf clubs, because, at least, if I had a set of golf clubs and a few holes to play I think I could survive for quite some time so long as I had sufficient food and drink to be able to support me.  I would certainly enjoy that, that would be one of the things that I would really like. 

The other thing that I probably would like as well but would not have the space or the people to do it is play is a rugby football, because I am a big rugby fan.  Those would have been the two things I would take if I was ever stuck on a desert island. 

The third thing that I would like to take if I were able to, would be my radio, so that I can communicate with the rest of the world, because without that, as I believe radio is a wonderful thing even, I would prefer to listen to radio than to watch the television, because I find it more interesting.

  • Name a book, movie or tv show that has positively shaped you and why?

Initially, again, I go back to my days back in Ireland.  I was a member of the Coastal Rescue Service and that put a lot of thoughts in my mind, even though I was in the farming industry.  I wanted to give something and do something that would be really, in many ways, give me a lot of pleasure, also I would be able to help a lot of people as well in what I was trying to achieve.  That was one of the most important things that I felt I had to do, was to try and work and do something in that area to help those persons less fortunate than myself.   
Then when I had done that, I came across to England in 1967, I joined the Minister of Defence Fire Service and that is probably what cemented and laid down the foundations on my whole career in Fie Safety.
 It was something that I really enjoyed and wanted to be part of my whole career from there having left the Minister of Defence Fire Service, I then went to British Airways Fire Protection Service I spent 37 years at BA, and I was the fire Protection Manager there from 1984 to the time I left in 2012.
 This was something that I really enjoyed because I had a responsibility for the whole of the world as well.  Everything to do with fire safety in aviation to buildings and training all of that.  I worked in nearly every country in the world, the only one that I missed or despite having tried several times, was New Zealand.  Every time I went on to Australia something happened where I had to re-direct myself and that was a tremendous opportunity as well.
 When I retired from British airways, I was asked to join Bureau Veritas, they said “it’s only for 3 months”, I said “Fine, that’ll suit me fine and it’ll suit my family and please my wife as well”, but here I am nearly 15 years later and I am still with the company and I’m still saying “It’s time to put me out to grass” they are l still saying “Hang on for a little while longer” they’ve been very supportive, they’re a great company to work for as well.  
The other interesting part of my career, I was extremely fortunate that I was put on the United Nations panel for the Environment (HTOC), and I have found that tremendously enlightening. 
 I believe the things that we have developed and managed in nearing 30 years since I have been on the panel has been most rewarding.   I can always recall I was speaking at a conference in Washington in 1989 and when I was standing at that rostrum, we were talking then about the Environment, then some other speaker stood up and said “Halon 1301 and Halon 1211, would be history within 10 year’s  I found that very difficult at that point in time to accept as these fire suppression agents were the best we had available to suppress fire risks in key parts of industry. 
 Because in aviation, Halon for aviation in both in the air and the ground was key to mitigate the fire threat to our business model, on the way back to London, I can recall thinking to myself “Look, this can’t be right”, then I thought, “there are greater brains than me that have looked into this and there must be something behind this science that says that there are some issues in the environment that need to be addressed”.  
So, by the time I got back to London, I had a meeting then with our own internal people in BA and I was given the freedom to be able to do things.  We had done somethings that people said we were meant not to do initially. 
 I reviewed everything and said “look from all our ground operations, we could actually remove the Halon systems both Halons 1211 and1301 out of the company within 3-5 years, excluding aircraft, because we knew with aircraft that was a different scenario which is, even up until now, we haven’t been able to find a drop-in replacement for Halon 1301.
 Within 5 years, we were the first company in the aviation business world, on the ground, not to have any Halon systems in any of our fire suppression systems or in our portable fire extinguishers, on the ground we had the whole lot out.   There are still lots of companies around the world that still have not achieved by 1996 what BA did achieve this to me was a tremendous achievement by the company.  The company backed because it was expensive to deliver and that to me was a really, excessively big change in my life to have played a part in helping the environment. 
 The problem that we have today is we still have challenges with aviation because we cannot get a drop in fix for engines or for cargo holds or for APU’s because we cannot get a drop in agent that is as efficient as Halon 13.01.
 We are getting there, we are close, but we are still hitting technical issues that are difficult to find a solution to that will meet all the safety requirements aircraft certification requirements. 
We are still working on this and hope to get it fixed in the not-too-distant future.  New generation of aircraft are coming off the assembly line are likely to have a new agent that with meet aviation certification requirement as they say, if your halfway across the Atlantic and your 3 and a half hours away from an alternate airport, you want a system that is going to work to maintain safety and lives.
 

  •  If you were an animal, what would it be and why?

I am a real horse man, so I suppose I would be a horse to be quite honest.  It has been bred into me and all my family back in Ireland were into horses in a big way and something I still enjoy is horses and they are wonderful animals and if you treat them properly, they are great company as well. 

I have enjoyed my time with them when I was quite young, I used to say to myself, even though it never happened “I’d love to be a jockey” because my Grand-Father and my uncle were all into horses and trotting and all sorts, you name it they were doing it.  If I had my way, that is probably what I would have been.

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

I suppose the best gift I have ever received was obviously, meeting my wife and marrying her as No 1 and then secondly was the birth of our two children, our son Adrian, and our daughter Jackie. They are the most important things in life. 

Now it is the Grandchildren and supporting all of those. The most important thing at the end of the day is it does not matter where you are, where you go, family is the most important thing, keeping that together.  That is going to be the prime goal for us all and to be able to support them in any way we can.  We support our kids and support our Grandchildren.  That is the key for me.

  • What's your favourite thing in your closet right now?

The favourite thing in many ways, now, has got to be the old laptop.  Without a laptop or a tablet now, where are you in the world?  You are no-where at all.  If you want to be involved in anything, from a communications point of view and being able to communicate with other people, to be able to research work.  Without it you are absolutely lost. 

For the future, that is the way it is going to happen.  I keep saying to people nowadays, speaking about technology and all of that, where we are up to now and where we are we will be in 5-10 years-time, is just unimaginable as to where we are going to get to.  So, communications important, like with Smartphones and all that stuff, that is where we are at now without that, it just does not work, it does not function. 

  • If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I suppose in many ways, if I had a superpower, it would be to say that we would not have any fires, but unfortunately, that is never likely to happen.

The other one that I would say if I had a superpower, what I would try and eliminate, it would be nuclear weapons, because I think in many ways, irrespective of what people say, that’s a challenge and risk to the world that is going to be with us all you want is for someone to put their finger on the wrong number and we could have a major disaster.

 


Professional Questions

  • What's the best piece of advice you've received?

Making sure, that whatever you say you are going to do, if you set goals and objectives try and deliver them with honesty, integrity, and trust, because I believe that the world today be built around these key factors, but this is not the case.  If you trust people, then you will get somewhere.  It is when you do not have the trust in a system or in people, then that is the area where you can face some real challenges and some big difficulties.  That is one thing people need to look at.  That is something we must work extremely hard on. For the future.

  • What time did you get to work this morning?

I normally start work at about 8 am.  I normally turn the computer on about 8-8.30am. 

  • What does your usual day look like?

My normal day starts with having a nice cup of tea or coffee before I start off, if anything, I get myself brewed up for the day.  Then I switch on the computer, when you close it down the night before, you think you have got yourself set for the following day.  So, in many ways, the first thing I will deal with is emails. I manage to do phone calls.  After that, going on, mainly like I am doing today it is trying to sort out various issues with clients with technical issues where they employ consultants to do certain things and checking that what they are delivering is technically correct and that they are getting the advice that is needed to support what they are trying to achieve to compliance requirements.

Before Covid-19, I was going out meeting clients face to face, very often, but due the pandemic this is now more difficult. Clients do not have the freedom to move around either.  If you try and go to somebody’s office, it does not exist anymore without so many people now working from home, although a lot of them are thinking of opening shortly.

We have all got to learn a new way of working as well in the new world.  As we are talking, more and more of it is going to be through either Teams or Zoom or whatever the business case may require.  This is going to be part of the world that we live in for the future. 

  • What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

The future of the fire industry, I think the way we have got to work in the future is what I would call the defining degree in movement objectives.  We have now got look at the environment and how green buildings affect us how we deal with this to maintain life safety and property fire protection.  and it could be possible issues with green buildings and the ways in which we can help that.  We are looking at the new generation of systems, how best we can develop fire detection systems, and green fire suppressions with low impact on the environment.

Ian Moore and I worked together a few years ago, this was CCTV system.  We installed the CCTV system to protect a multi-million aircraft engine storage facility. That is a way we cut down a lot of these spurious alarms from other systems. We had put it into a facility, where we had something in the region that was unheard of at that time , maybe £100 million worth of engines for aircraft and we could see exactly what was intaking place in that environment, if there was the slightest bit of smoke or if there was anything else happening, you could see it on the CCTV system.  So, if that was going back to a control centre it could be easily seen and viewed.  You had a magnificent way of being able to see into that environment as to exactly what was happening.  I believe that is an area of importance. I know that there’s attention being given to them now, but I think we must focus in more of that type of technology for the future. 

  • What is the latest technology/invention/innovation you would like brought into the fire industry?

Going back to 10 years ago when I was predicting what was going to happen environmentally, and wildfires, I believed, going forward, we need to review this impact to fight fires and the way we deal with these new risks mitigate that risk in the future and this is a worldwide problem.

 If we look at a lot of the new technologies that are going into businesses and warehouses, are robots.  Is now the time we should consider having robots as well that you can put them into buildings with suppression media on board to suppress a fire before firefighters enter the building?

You could have a robot carrying water as water mist or a gaseous agent you can do something of that design with new technology, where it goes in very quickly without having to put a human being into that environment, to prevent persons from getting injured and the fire service not having to put firefighters into the building to suppress the fire.

 By attacking event in that way, it’s something that you have a quicker response to mitigate the fire,  be able to get the fire under control even though some of them would be extremely difficult and challenging, but never the less, you also might be in a position where it might contain the fire sufficiently long enough for the fire brigade to be able to support this initial response with an inhouse initial response facility. 

I believe that is an area in which we must start looking outside of the box and start looking at this type of technology.  We must also have to start looking at the other technology looking at how best we can control the environments in which we now have to face.

  • What do you like about the fire industry?

The fire industry wonderful group of professional people, if you look at the FIA as an example, they’ve been around for quite a while, they’ve played a major part in being able to support the industry from all levels, including lobbying Government on key life safety and property protection issues, being in a position to discuss with Government the needs of the actual industry and what it needs to achieve going forward to mitigate risk.  It needs to be there also supported its members as well, whether you are a manufacturer of equipment or the installer of the equipment or whether you are servicing the equipment, they have many strands to be addressed.

Another point I would like to see is when develop standards is the panel is put together and is balanced with participation from all professional bodies that have an interested and is balanced so that it cannot been influenced by representatives that a have a particular interest. This is one of the big differences that I have seen between the NFPA in the USA standards making policy and procedures, is that sometimes you only get the people involved who hold a key interest that are financially motivated the key is to have a balanced representative system that everyone can play a part.

In the NFPA, there is no way that one organisation, whether you are an architect, fire engineer, installer, enforcer, labour organisation, supplier or a buyer of equipment, there is not one group that can hold or what I would call, the system to ransom I have seen this during my time on the Standards Council and the way special groups try to influence the final result.  I repeat myself you must have the systems balanced; you must have equal opportunities right across the process.   Sometimes you will find that there are certain industries and even some companies where you will get certain pressure groups who try and sway things even though it may not be in the best interest of the fire community.  That is one thing that is exceedingly difficult to do in the United States compared to the UK and Europe. 

Having being a member of  various NFPA committees on the standards council for  6  years and then being a  Board of Director for 6 years, it’s quite interesting and you see how the whole system how it operates  to me it was one of the best and most professional organisations that is now in its 125 year developing life safety and fire protection standards I’ve ever got in my entire working life in the field of fire safety  I keep saying to anybody today, that if you ever get the opportunity to be invited to sit in on any of these groups, then take it up because there’s no University in the whole world that would give you that broad spectrum of fire engineering, fire safety and life safety as to how it should be applied around the world. 

The other positive now is the work being done by the Fire Sector Federation and get many groups involved in fire safety so that they can go forward with one voice in lobbying Government on life safety issues.  But we also see at the times the challenges this presents in trying to get participants working together for the good of life safety and not using it for individual gain.

  • How does your work and family life come together?

That is always a challenge, just to try and find time.  I think the good thing, in many ways at the moment is that, I don’t work full time, I only work a couple of days a week, which really helps, but the one thing I keep saying to people is that, when you work a couple of days a week, it doesn’t less work, because the phone’s always on and there’s always somebody wanting something to resolve a technical issue.

 I am a great believer in if you can speak to somebody and you can solve the problem, it is much easier than taking time out to work on an email or prepare a big report for the response.  Because, sometimes, even when it is not face to face, when you speak to somebody, it is like the human contact, the human touch is not there.  Even though it might be virtual meeting nevertheless, it does not replace face to face meeting. 

  • What matters most to you?

Family is number one then the fire safety and charity is a key as well.  I am a great believer that I have been lucky in life, thank God.  To be able to help people that are less fortunate than myself this to me this is important.  There are people, through no fault of their own, that have issues that they cannot deal with, and to be in position to support them, in some small way, to make life better for them, to me is really satisfying, to be able to do that. 

  • What would you tell yourself at the age of 21?

I would have to think back hard about that.  I never dreamed for one moment that I probably would have been where I am today and what I have achieved in my life.  I would not have dreamed for one moment that I would have done what I have done over the years.

Been recognised by HM Queen Elizabeth II to be awarded the MBE for my work on Aviation Fire Safety Internationally and work on UNEP Fire Safety Environmental Programmes was a major highlight in fire safety career.  

I have found the whole of my career to be highly informative with a life of learning as each day goes by  being in a position to participate with national and international bodies, organisations and professional fire safety personnel worldwide being to put systems and processes in place that make it a safer world, for life safety and mitigate the fire risk property and management structures that will continue evolve as an ongoing process to create standards that will deal with the impact of fire environmentally. These are the key elements fire safety that I find really, important. As I mentioned earlier was being recognised by NFPA and be the first person outside of North America to receive the Paul C Lamb award, I would never dreamed of that when I was farming in Ireland? Not a cat in hells chance.  As my wife tells me “I know where you come from, nothing has changed”.  She is totally right.  A spade is a spade. 

  • What motivates you?

Being part of the UNEP Technical Options Committee to put in place systems, procedures, and processes that you know are going to make it a safer world for us all.  I believe that we are lucky probably in what I would call, as we call in the United Nations, we have the developed world, which we are, we have parts world in transition, and we have the developing world we must work together to establish as to how best we can pull all of those three challenges areas together to that we create a world this is environmentally safer for all its people.

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Extremely easy.  Retired, in one word.  The golf course will come 2nd.

  • Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?

The FIA has been important, to me it is the voice of the trade industry and represents all its key interests.  I have been associated with it for many, many years.  I believe that they put an awful lot of work in to be able to do things that a lot of people probably do not realise, what goes on behind the scenes.  They are the voice for the fire industry for the many sectors it represents. 

You have it from manufacturing of vehicles to looking at standards they are participating in a lot of the European/ISO standards and the development of them making policy and procedures that are the voice of the UK fire industry. 

Again, I think there are a lot of people do not realise the challenges in technical and professional input this work requires, without this level of participation we probably would not be in the forefront of fire safety as recognised Internationally as the FIA is today, because it is respected in the world as one of the leading trade fire industry organisations in the world.

  A lot of people again think that this is quite easy to achieve, but its not.  There has got to be a lot of work going on behind the scenes, with a lot of dedicated and knowledgeable staff with the skills and competencies can support and participate on the world stage to ensure UK Fire Industry is able to meet those standards and most of all having played such a significant part in their development.  

 I am a great believer what the FIA does and represents on behalf of its membership it is really pleasing to see the way they pull this together.  In the past 4 or 5 years, there’s more and more key people like the fire engineering trade industries all joining up the organisation where that was not the case before, it is bringing all those things together this is the key reason FIA this has now developed into the most successful fire trade representative body in the EU and respected throughout work for its achievements on behalf of its membership.   As we all know in Government, the more fragmented, the more they get away with.  The more you work together in partnership as one unit, you are going to achieve a lot more.  You are going to be recognised and you are going to be heard and they will give you time.  Where-as, as an individual you do not actually have that power, or that influence. 

With the number of followers that the FIA has got now through the whole of Europe on social media, is great to hear.  I have no doubt that going forward, that this will evolve to an even greater extent, it just means that it needs a lot of hard work, and it will need a lot of support to be able to deliver its goals and key objectives.  The more people that are on the side of the FIA, the better.

I am a great believer of one of the biggest strengths the industry has is, it is not what the individual knows, it is the networking that is the strength, not one individual anywhere, knows all the answers to all the problems.  By networking you will be able to find somebody who does, and this helps to provide the answer and find the solution that you were probably struggling with. 

The FIA has great training and educational plans in place to support its membership and operates in a most professional manner.

  • What do you want to say to the readers?

The one thing we should look at is to honour the past, celebrate the present and build for the future.  I believe that is the way we have got to operate.  If we do not do that, we have missed what we all want to achieve in a world that has fewer fires, prevents more deaths and destruction of property from fire and protects the environment. 


If you would like to get involved with Fireside Chats please contact Adam Richardson on [email protected]

*All answers given are not reflective of the FIA views and thoughts and are that of the individual who was interviewed.