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LAST MONTH I had the pleasure of being a speaker at the British Compressed Gas Association (BCGA) Annual Conference in Manchester. I was invited to give this address because the BCGA recognises the high-profile role the FIA has within the fire sector and we are working with BCGA in number of different areas. Our associations overlap on the topic of pressurised cylinders and we work together in this area in terms of extinguishing equipment, breathing apparatus and risk. In fact two of our councils have a very relevant links to BCGA; the extinguishing council and the fire and rescue suppliers [FIRESA] council which works with a number of products supplied to the fire and rescue services.
Our working relationship with BCGA is a great example of the FIA’s holistic attitude towards fire safety and shows that we are not just looking at supporting companies that sell smoke detectors, panels or providing risk assessments; we focus on all areas of fire safety. This is why we have a links with over 30 organisations that we either work with or aspire to work with so we can understand all areas of fire safety.
For example, we have little involvement with passive fire protection but we do have close links to other trade associations that focus on that subject (such as the ASFP). This is because there is never a predetermined solution to any fire safety requirement and having the contacts and the knowledge from all the different possible constituents of fire safety allows us to form sensible advice on how best to choose the right solution.
It would be fantastic to have blanket coverage of highly-effective fire detection and alarm systems and extinguishing/sprinkler systems in every room and a guard in the corner with an extinguisher in his hand, but the reality is that’s not going to happen as it is not financially viable. Company’s budget and minimum compliance requirements usually govern the end result, therefore knowing as much as possible of all of the solutions helps in advising the best possible solution to meet both requirements.
The FIA has numerous working groups that are very focused, which allows us to delve deep into the topic covered by each to ensure we have all of the facts. Each group comprises specialists from those sectors and this enables us to come up with new ideas and concepts around standards and approvals. By providing expert guidance in these areas, the FIA is in a strong position to guide the professional fire safety industry in the right direction.
Scottish alarm project
We are still monitoring the results of the project we recently carried out on false alarm reduction in Scotland. FIA originally put this project together with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and co-funded by BAFE, BRE, CS Todd & Associates and B E H Laluvein Consulting Ltd.
The secret to the project’s success has been data analysis and the project was predominantly carried out to help gain a better understanding of what constitutes a false alarm. We learned that most ‘false alarms’ are actually unwanted alarms as it is rare to get a true false alarm due to the robust nature of modern detection and alarm systems if installed, operated and maintained correctly.
Once we had the data it was easier for us to analyse item by item to see what we can, if anything, do to help prevent future unwanted alarms. The analysis by BRE resulted in 35 recommendations to reduce false and/or false alarms, which were then split between different FIA working groups for further analysis. The groups are now working on a best practice solution to try and reduce each of those triggers one by one.
The results are positive so far but we will only get the full indication of the success once this work is complete and the suggested changes are incorporated in future systems/responses etc. Once we reach that point, we will be able to make a number of verifiable comments about how to reduce false alarms.
The FIA and its partners are currently working with London Fire Brigade and the Chief Fire Officers Association in the same sort of context in relation to false alarm reduction. We think these projects have been recognised as huge steps forward in improving confidence, money saving and efficiency for all involved parties and hope to extend the knowledge gained across all regions in the future.