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April 20, 2022

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Fireside Chat

FIA Fireside Chat: James Jones – “We need young, dynamic people to choose a career in fire”

In the Fire Industry Association’s (FIA) latest Fireside Chat, the team speak to James Jones, Managing Director at Vimpex, an independent manufacturer of fire alarm sounders and fire system accessories. IFSEC Global picks out some of the highlights, as James discussed his role at Vimpex and the FIA, as well as what makes him excited about the future of the industry.

James-Jones-Vimpex-2Read the full interview on the FIA’s website here.

 

Tell us a bit more about yourself and Vimpex?

My name is James Jones, Managing Director at Vimpex Ltd, one of the only independent manufacturers of fire alarm sounders and fire system accessories left in Europe. We recently designed our own fire alarm bell – the only non- Chinese fire bell in the world.  We’re a very proud, independent manufacturer.

I also sit on the board of the FIA which I thoroughly enjoy and I hope I bring value. I bring a fairly unique perspective, running a business that encompasses the full spectrum of the fire industry. That’s down to the fact that not only do we distribute and sell specialist rescue equipment to the UK fire service, but we’re also an independent manufacturer of fire alarm system accessories and devices.

In addition, I sit on the FIRESA and Export Councils within the FIA. Export continues to be an incredibly important part of not just our business but businesses in general, we keep as close as we possibly can to EU export opportunities – a region which remains the most important of export markets for UK Fire plc.

Where’s the most interesting place you’ve been with the fire industry?

Libya, we did a mini trade mission out there a few years ago, just before Gaddafi fell, it was a fascinating place. It almost felt war-torn then, whilst they were living in relative peace. Business-wise it didn’t come to much because there was a revolution a few months after we visited there. There are some incredible ruins, a place called Leptis Magna, it’s a big Colosseum and it’s almost unruined. That was an incredible sight. To be given that opportunity to visit Libya on business and to have seen that was very special.

What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

Selfishly, from a Vimpex perspective, our plans for strong growth and delivering that growth as an independent with many new products in development, is very exciting. As for the sector, what excites me is that it’s an important part of building and life safety. It must remain true to its principles, integrity, honesty and quality, if that’s the case then it’s going to remain an attractive business to be in.

There are quite a lot of exciting developments with respect to technology, the Internet of Things, connective workplaces etc. which is very exciting. As a small business, will we develop those things ourselves? Perhaps not, but what is exciting is we’ve got a platform of designs that could accept those technologies to be built into our products. I’m still very excited about this industry, it’s quite conservative in the fact that it’s steady with long product lifecycles but that’s not a bad thing because there’s permanence and a level of predictability.

What does the fire industry need?

It needs young, dynamic people to choose a career in fire, whether that’s on a commercial side, on the tools or in engineering. Frankly it needs the Government’s support of business in general and a very rapid replacement for the outgoing EU business grants and financial support.

What do you like about the fire industry?

The loyalty, honesty, and long termism of the sector.  It’s one of those sectors that if you’re in, whether that’s working as an administrative or in a commercial role, it’s a long-term career. Once you’re in and you’ve decided that a career in the fire industry is for you, I generally think it’s a very satisfying one.

People joke about there being lots of middle-aged men in the fire industry but that’s because we must remember, it’s a fairly young industry. Automatic fire detection systems were only invented 50 years ago. It’s no wonder there are loads of older guys around. That is starting to change, and we do need to attract youth and diversity into this industry.

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

It would be the Industrial Revolution. What a time to be a businessperson or an entrepreneur, when entrepreneurism was almost next to Godliness. Those great jobs and products were really valued by Government and society, as a whole. So, I’d definitely go back to being an industrialist in the Industrial Revolution, minus things like slavery, exploitation and child labour, of course. The opportunities that must have been there for entrepreneurs and businesspeople during that period would, I imagine have been phenomenal.

What’s on your Spotify or iTunes?

Queen, Queen and more Queen, I absolutely love Queen and loads of modern country music.  I’m a bit of a modern countryphile. I’m a big fan of Tim McGraw and I’ve been lucky enough to have seen him live. I’m a bit of a romantic and I prefer to listen to the lyrics rather than the tune. Country’s always about the lyrics, some of them are very cheesy, but I absolutely love it. So much so that I could easily be a red neck in another life!

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

Time travel. So that I could go back and undo Brexit.

Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?

I sit on the board therefore it must be important to me. I do this because it’s a very strong and influential organisation. It’s Leading Excellence in Fire, which is our mantra – it’s a really good description of what we’re trying to do as a trade association and as influencers in the sector.

What I really like about the FIA is its drive to professionalism, whether that’s policing third-party testing of products or heavily supporting manufacturers with issues like UKCA or distinction between notified versus approved bodies. Additionally, pushing professionalism through high-quality training is of huge importance, which is one of my responsibilities on the board. Expanding on that high-quality training can be used to, perhaps, influence other developing markets. Can we export our training at the FIA to influence choices and methodology of the way that fire systems are put together in other countries that might need help? Let’s help the FIA do its bit for its members by exporting its training.

In summary, the FIA’s most important role is really pushing true professionalism in the sector in the UK and perhaps beyond.

 

Fire Safety in 2021 eBook – Is the industry ready to embrace systemic change?

Download the Fire Safety in 2021 eBook, as IFSEC Global and FIREX International keep you up to date with the biggest stories of the year, including new legislation, a round-up of the biggest news stories, and articles on third-party certification and the role of digital information software in meeting golden thread principles.

The eBook also features an exclusive foreword from the Fire Industry Association's Ian Moore, and a look at how the sector embraces systemic change in attitudes to risk and safety.

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