Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
August 4, 2021

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IFSEC Interviews

Building resilience and competence in fire engineering – Interview with the IFE’s Steve Hamm

Following recent changes to its global proposition, IFSEC Global got the opportunity to sit down with Steve Hamm, Chief Executive of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), to find out more about the Institution’s future plans and how they’re set to impact on its membership and wider industry.

 

SteveHamm-IFE-21

Steve Hamm, Chief Executive of the IFE

IFSEC Global: Hi Steve. Can you tell us a little more about the major changes IFE is introducing?

Steve Hamm: We have undertaken a comprehensive review of our communications and activities with the aim of reshaping our services to members and developing clear strategies for activities under two core themes of competency and sustainability.

By listening to our members, we have come up with a strategy that ensures the IFE remains relevant to future needs, builds on the potential of digital learning and knowledge sharing initiated during lockdown and influences best practice around the world.

 

Why has the IFE decided to make a change to its global strategy now?

The fire safety landscape in which our members operate is changing at a faster pace than at any time since the foundation of the organisation in 1918. This is both exciting and challenging and we have had valuable input from members, volunteers, staff and stakeholders in shaping our future direction.

Across the board our roles and responsibilities are evolving, influenced by advances in technologies and materials, external factors such as climate change and learnings from major incidents such as Grenfell. These are all influencing new regulations and standards, new ways of working and highlighting the importance of knowledge and information sharing to evolve our skills and capabilities worldwide.

 

Sustainability is an area of increasing importance in all aspects of life – but how do you feel the IFE can contribute? What can fire engineers do to support more sustainable practices of working?

For the IFE, sustainability goes beyond adapting to the challenges driven by climate change. It reflects how we can build resilience in the profession. From smart cities, connectivity and big data through to advances in building materials, fuels, transport, energy storage, water and waste management, these will all inform practice in the future, alongside the technologies that we can use to predict, manage, monitor and deal with fire risk and fires.

“Competency for us is about more than knowledge and qualifications, it is about maintaining the high levels of ethics and standards that drive advances in fire safety, life protection and innovation around the world.”

It is a big subject and one where our global community, our special interest groups and our strategic partners all have a vital role to play in sharing and advancing knowledge and ideas.

For example, we will continue our work with members to influence the development of new standards such as the fire safety guide for waste recycling facilities – work being led by our Industrial Fire and Risk Special Interest Group (IF&R SIG).

We will also be continuing our work looking at areas such as evolving methods of construction, wildfires, the adoption of new fuels in our heating and transport networks and how the industry is responding around the world.

Sustainability is an area where we feel the true value of our global community will come to the fore and we will be looking at ways to expand our branch network and share ideas and expertise that can inform best practice, spark fresh research and deliver advances in our professional capabilities and understanding.

 

The new outlook includes a focus on ‘competence’ – a word being increasingly used following the events of Grenfell. How would you define ‘competence’?

Competency for us is about more than knowledge and qualifications, it is about maintaining the high levels of ethics and standards that drive advances in fire safety, life protection and innovation around the world.

Competency builds trust and resilience, especially important when we are dealing with multiple stakeholders who all have a role to play in achieving the high standards of design, practice and behaviours needed to protect lives, buildings and the environment from fire.

As the international professional body for those in the fire sector, we are a beacon of expertise; more than that, we bring people together to inform innovation in practice and respond to new and existing challenges in fire safety around the world.

Training, CPD, qualifications and technical updates are at the heart of our role in illuminating a fire safe world. We are bringing together the schedules, events and work of our special interest groups to create a more transparent and accessible hub of information that will support competency around the world.

 

No doubt there’s much for fire safety professionals in terms of training and development to think about, especially given the incoming regulatory changes here in the UK. Are there related training programmes with the IFE that are worth pointing out?

We have already reviewed our current qualifications, introducing a new suite of qualifications inspired by global industry needs and feedback from our members and examiners. Already, these have been well-received, and we will build on this success by bringing in at least two new qualifications for 2022.

Also, we will be reviewing and reinforcing our training accreditation regimes. We are excited to be building closer relationships with higher education and university establishments to broaden the depth and diversity of skills and competency across both technical and social disciplines. Our work will create clear competency frameworks and accessible career development pathways for all.

From our discussion with branches and members, we are planning to get a comprehensive programme of events up and running by the end of the year. The shift to virtual learning and events during 2020 will continue. This will widen access to CPD and other events to our members around the world, increasingly our ability to knowledge share and learn from each other.

These activities will be underpinned by our new CPD hub on the website as well as selected physical events that put us at the forefront of networks and enabling us to shape ideas, innovation, policy and regulations.

 

How can those who would like to be part of this new global outlook do so? Whether it be by becoming a member, or engaging at a higher level?

We will continue to look for and participate in collaborative approaches to meeting future challenges, whether that is working with regulation and policymakers, hosting knowledge sharing events and workshops that are open to all or steering debate amongst peers, academics and trade bodies. It is vital to ensure consistency of practice in fire engineering as it develops to take advantage of innovation and respond to the future needs of our members and the communities in which they operate.

For members, a key priority in 2021 is developing a strategy that recognises and rewards our valued cohort of volunteers. Volunteers are a driving force within the organisation. From reviewing applications and examinations to sitting on committees, they volunteer their knowledge and expertise to help maintain the high standards that build confidence in our professionalism and practice. In turn, they benefit from the experience, knowledge sharing, influencing and leadership skills that come with many of our volunteering roles, but we want to build on this.

We are launching a volunteer guide and hub that will give members all the information they need to take advantage of the opportunities available.

The work of our special interest groups (SIGs) is a key part of developing knowledge and understanding, often in highly specialised or innovative areas. We are looking at ways of increasing the visibility of the work of these groups, providing more opportunities for members worldwide to participate and input into group activities. The SIGs in 2021 will cover areas such as facades and fast changing sustainability topics as these areas evolve.

There has never been a better time for those involved in all aspects of the fire industry to consider becoming a member of the IFE. Our members are involved in a wide range of roles including designing buildings, fire protection systems, commissioning and specifying fire safety systems, signing off on procedures, carrying out inspections and audits, maintaining equipment, assessing risk, planning emergency responses, investigating the causes of fires, making decisions about tactical ventilation of buildings, creating new standards and codes of practice, training and drilling workforces or communities, or at the frontline tackling fires.

As these roles change to meet future needs, members benefit from developing trusted and internationally recognised professional credentials in the industry. They also benefit from knowledge sharing and career progression through our CPD hub.

Find out more about the benefits of joining the IFE.

Fire Safety in 2020 Annual Report - A year of challenges and change

Download the Fire Safety in 2020 eBook, as IFSEC Global and FIREX International keep you up to date with the biggest stories of the year, including new legislation, Grenfell Tower Inquiry revelations and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected professionals in the sector.

The eBook also features a nine-point guide to firestopping, an exclusive foreword from the Fire Industry Association's Ian Moore, and a round-up of the biggest news and prosecution stories of the year.

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