The Evolution of Fire Safety

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Mandy Bowden, Fire Manager at Comelit-PAC shares her views on the fire safety landscape with IFSJ Editor Iain Hoey

2023 started with new legislation, and with more guidance expected in quarter three, the year is becoming one of real significance in the way we approach fire safety. 

But what does this mean in our day-to-day activities?

Iain Hoey, Editor of International Fire Safety Journal, speaks exclusively to Mandy Bowden, Fire Manager at Comelit-PAC. 

The interview highlights new expectations placed on the sector as a whole to maintain standards and awareness, in line with evolving technology and specification demands.

What do the new standards mean for the fire industry?

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations came into force on 23 January 2023. The purpose of these regulations was to implement the recommendations made during Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. 

They impose specific and ongoing obligations on the “responsible person” regarding fire safety, in line with the duties outlined in the Building Safety Act, which itself only recently launched.

What is required of the reasonable person varies, according to the height of the building. 

There are some baseline obligations and then enhanced for residential buildings over 11 metres and further for 18 metres high.  They also extend to higher-risk buildings including care homes, hospitals and student accommodation.

These will be complemented by new regulations for fire safety legal provisions within section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022

Expected for 1st October 2023, they make several amendments to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) to improve fire safety in all buildings regulated by the FSO.

The fire sector has a duty of care to stay one step ahead and support the new ‘responsible persons’ to ensure together, we can navigate these new expectations with confidence and resilience.

Speaking of Grenfell, it is the sixth anniversary of the tragedy in 2023.  What significance does this still hold?

The sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy still holds immense significance and serves as a solemn reminder of one of the most devastating incidents in recent memory.

This anniversary remains an opportunity for reflection and remembrance.

Alongside the legislative changes that have been introduced, and the continued inquiries and investigations, there is the constant questioning of what more can we do.

The need to raise public awareness about the importance of fire safety and emphasis the need for every building to have adequate measures in place to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

Ultimately, every anniversary will honour the memory of those who lost their lives, and stand in solidarity with the survivors. 

It will also renew the commitment to effect meaningful change to prevent similar tragedies from ever happening in the future.

Can you share your perspective on the importance of fire safety education and public awareness campaigns?

It’s vital to continue to educate everyone on the essential significance of fire safety. 

Not just having the right systems in place, or the most up-to-date legislation, but also fully understanding hazards, risks and potential for fire. 

Education must encompass a wide range of topics, including an understanding of the role of the Responsible Person, fire prevention strategies, proper use of fire extinguishers, evacuation procedures, and the importance of early detection through smoke alarms.

By disseminating this knowledge, individuals can take proactive measures to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.

With increased awareness, we are looking for positive behavioural change.

When individuals understand the potential consequences of fire incidents and have the necessary knowledge to prevent and respond to them, they are more likely to adopt safe practices.

It’s a combined effort, but one that the fire safety sector can play a significant role.

We have the support capability to educate our customers and their end users. 

By promoting preparedness and providing accurate information, these initiatives contribute to a safer environment and reduce the potential for loss and trauma associated with fire incidents.

How do you see the relationship between building design and fire safety evolving in the future?

From the sector’s perspective, we understand the relationship between building design and fire safety and see how it must evolve to enable a fast response. 

We work closely with Comelit-PAC’s specification team to introduce fire safety as early as possible into a specification process, whether a new build or refurbishment programme, enabling works to incorporate routes to escape and building management. 

From here we can support a dedicated risk assessment and work findings into the initial design phase.

We can incorporate fire safety to utilise modern technology routes to allow for optimal time and coordinate with Responsible Persons to have the remote capability to evaluate risk and enable a fast response.

Overall, the evolving relationship will be marked by a stronger integration of technology, a focus on passive fire protection, enhanced evacuation strategies, sustainable solutions, stricter compliance with building codes, and increased collaboration among professionals.

These advancements aim to create buildings that prioritise occupant safety and minimise the risks associated with fire incidents.

What’s next for the fire safety industry?

The landscape of fire safety is undergoing a remarkable transformation.  Not only in the need for compliance but also as technology advances. 

Organisations are embracing innovative solutions to safeguard their assets, people and premises.

The integration of smart technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud capability, is revolutionising fire safety systems.  

We are particularly proud that our LogiFire is already cloud-enabled to allow real-time monitoring from anywhere, early fire detection, and efficient emergency response.  

Smart fire alarms, connected sensors, and intelligent evacuation systems are also examples of how technology is continuing to enhance fire safety.

Advances in fire detection and suppression technologies are improving the effectiveness and speed of response.

New detection systems use innovative methods, including advanced sensors and machine learning algorithms to provide early warning and accurate identification of fire incidents.

The use of data analytics and predictive modelling is becoming increasingly important in fire risk assessment.

By analysing historical data, building characteristics, and fire incident patterns, fire safety professionals can identify high-risk areas and prioritise preventive measures.

All of this needs to adapt to the evolving needs and lifestyles of the 21st century and be app monitored. 

For Comelit-PAC users, it means systems can be status checked across a fire safety network on a remote basis, making sure they are always connected and fully operational.

Event notifications can be sent via email and/or SMS messaging.

What advice do you have for time, resource and budget-restricted installers looking to stay ahead of the game?

The main advice we would give is to commit to ongoing improvement.  We know it’s always an objective in theory, but in practice, set against work programmes and customer demands, it doesn’t always achieve its priority status.

By regularly evaluating processing, installation and customer feedback, strengths and areas for improvement can consistently be identified.

We see this willingness to adapt as setting installers apart from their competitors.

There are plenty of ways to stay updated on industry trends including industry publications in our industry, conferences and professional associations. 

We’ve seen already the impressive attendance of The Fire Safety Event and FIREX as a willingness to explore new opportunities.

There are also free hands-on training programmes to help installers to enhance their skills and knowledge. 

Comelit-PAC offers this with our dedicated training schedule associated with our LogiFire addressable fire safety system. 

The aim of the training is for our dedicated sales and technical fire team to work with the skillset of the installers, from an introduction through to an advanced level. 

They will be able to see from a hands-on approach the ease of installing LogiFire offers.

There is also a networking course and most recently, due to installer demand, we introduced an installation and fault-finding session.

From our perspective, staying ahead of the game in the fire safety industry requires a combination of technical expertise, industry knowledge, and a customer-centric approach.

By embracing new technologies, staying updated on regulations, fostering collaboration, and prioritising customer service, you can position yourself as a trusted and innovative fire safety installer. 

It sounds like a lot, but with the support and regular communications with sector specialists, installers can benefit from a strong partnership and access to the expertise, advice and resources needed to tackle any fire safety programme of works.

Finally, could you discuss any upcoming projects or initiatives that Comelit-PAC is excited about?

What most excites me is the flexibility of the LogiFire system. 

We are currently working on projects as varied as a renowned football club to a famous honey farm.

This year LogiFire has been installed – amongst many other projects – at an office development at an iconic Manchester city skyline development, a leisure centre and a hotel in Brighton.

Each time we are specified, we need to understand the bespoke requirements of the site and see how LogiFire can be best utilised. 

We aim to ensure the system can be installed to seamlessly blend with its surroundings, without affecting the experience of visitors, staff, residents and guests.

Like the fire safety sector as a whole, we are also continuously working on our portfolio to ensure we are offering the very latest solution.

Our latest FIRE2VIP interface enables a complete building management system to coordinate fire safety and video door entry. 

The addition of FIRE2VIP highlights LogiFire’s innovative capability to enhance the convenience and accessibility of fire safety maintenance programmes and ensure the safety of a building can always be kept under control. 

Not only does this coordinate the activity and any given alarm indications, but also means the Responsible Person has the option of receiving notifications from anywhere, at any time, via the full-responsive MyComelit app.

Overall, Comelit-PAC sees the future of fire safety in the seamless integration of advanced technologies, innovative designs (with no compromise to style,) and robust regulatory measures. 

By working together, raising awareness, training and embracing this capability, we can pave the way for safer, more intelligent built environments and enhanced protection for lives and property.

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