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Understanding fire safety in buildings seminar

The event assembled experts from across the fire sector, to consider issues that affect fire safety within the modern built environment and to investigate how to ensure that appropriate fire protection is designed, specified, installed and maintained throughout the life of a building.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis MP provided the opening address in which he declared that fire prevention and protection were now seen as the front line for fire and rescue services. He stated that there had been a 35% reduction in domestic fatalities over the last 10 years and examined how this level of reduction could be maintained and improved. He highlighted the importance of collaboration across the fire sector and recognised the work that was being undertaken by the Fire Sector Federation to improve the competency of fire risk assessors.

“That there are now registers of fire risk assessors whose competency for the job has been independently certified against a common standard is a major achievement. The sector should be proud of this and see it as the first step on the journey towards a more collaborative and supportive environment,” he declared.
He asked how this could now be developed, introducing the concept of ‘earned recognition’, whereby the administrative burden of regulation on those who have a strong track record of reliability and adherence to standards could be reduced.
“If enforcement authorities take a different approach to enforcement where they see that businesses have followed competent advice – or indeed invested in third party certified safety products – then businesses are likely to be more inclined to invest in such advice or products in the future. This, in turn, allows authorities to divert their resources to those who choose to ignore their duties altogether.”

Issues, remedies & solutions

Arranged into three sessions, the seminar attracted a wide ranging audience from across the built environment, the fire service, government, parliamentary MPs and Lords and addressed key topics of concern relating to fire engineering; the structure and management of buildings; and competency.

The first seminar session focused on issues relating to fire engineering, with reductions in levels of installed fire protection and the impact of modern materials and modern methods of construction, highlighted as the main concerns.

The structure and management of buildings was the theme for the next session. Rapid and unexpected fire spread due to changing building materials and modern methods of construction were highlighted by BRE Global’s David Crowder and Hampshire Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Curry. Meanwhile, Peter Gannaway of the National Social Housing Fire Strategy Group explained why a fire risk assessment should be a vital part of management policy.

After lunch, Jim Glockling, technical director of the Fire Protection Association, considered the need to design in business resilience, while Association for Specialist Fire Protection CEO Wilf Butcher highlighted the general lack of understanding and awareness of fire safety.

The afternoon session considered competency. Dennis Davis CBE of the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) provided an overview of the FSF’s work to improve competency. Mike Wood, Chairman of the Passive Fire Protection Federation, carried forward the outcomes from the recent Fire Summit workshop which proposed the creation of a National Fire Safe Register, while Sir Ken Knight CBE QFSM FIFireE and Cllr Mark Healey, Chairman of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority, examined fire safety awareness for landlords.

Fire Industry Association CEO Graham Ellicott summed up the event, observing that a great deal had been done to improve fire safety within the built environment but he declared there was still a great deal more to do and that the fire sector was best placed to formulate remedies and solutions.

Click here to download a full report of the seminar and available papers

Understanding fire safety in buildings seminar