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March 22, 2021

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Contact tracing and COVID-19 director’s briefing

FIA Fireside Chat: “The fire industry’s time has arrived”

The Fire Industry Association recently spoke to IFSEC and FIREX International Event Director, Gerry Dunphy, about how the leading fire industry event has responded with innovation to a global pandemic, ensuring the sector remains connected throughout.

Here, we catch a few snippets of the chat – read the full interview between Gerry and the FIA’s Adam Richardson, here.

 

As an event organiser, how have you been affected by COVID-19?

It’s been completely surreal. As an event organiser everything we focus on is about bringing people together so the fact that fundamental aspect has been completely stopped is massively frustrating. Having to move events around the calendar as well, all the time you’re second guessing what the world’s going to do and where’s it going to be in 6 months-time which tends to be a bit chaotic for a business reliant on scheduling.

That said, it’s been an intense period of innovation and creativity because we still have a duty to maintain our presence in the sectors we serve and provide customers with a continual chance to come together. This has led to a focused attention on the possibilities provided by the digital and online universe and a realisation the technology gives us a vital advantage in keeping people connected. You may have seen we’ve got loads and loads of new things that came through in 2020. Things like our Tech Talks programme, has been great, really well received, plus we’ve also hosted Digital Week, Training Week and we’re hosting our hybrid event in the middle of the year.

It does means that when we come out of it, what you’ll see moving forward is a complete blend of digital and in person events which will be the proposition moving forward.  It also means we’ve transitioned into a 24/7 communication and engagement service for the industry and for the market, whereby FIREX effectively becomes the ‘in person’ opportunity to meet face to face.

We’re in a unique position as a trade show because we have IFSEC Global supporting the event all year round, which provides the industry with a proven platform to communicate with its customers. I’m not aware of any other event having an editorial voice running alongside, reflecting the changes and developments in the market which can then be brought together at the live event. Once again, it’s that blend of live and digital working in harmony.

Generally the stories relating to the fire sector are the most read; it has a very strongly engaged audience so we’re incredibly pleased. The future looks fantastic as well as the audience engagement has rocketed in 2020 which was evident in over one million page views.

What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

As an onlooker working with the sector, I think the fire industry’s time has arrived. Since Grenfell there has been a realisation that everything this industry does is vitally important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. The insight, research and innovation within the UK fire industry is unparalleled and it deserves to have a higher level of influence because it’s making our lives safer. The warnings were there – Lakanal House was the tragedy that should’ve been the lesson. So what makes me excited is seeing the industry getting to promote its commitment to life safety, making buildings safer and having a wider say on the future direction.

This moment gives organisations such as the FIA the chance to respond in a critical and substantial way about the outcomes of the Grenfell situation.  It was a massive failure of systemic governance, you could see that, particularly the ways in which the fire safety laws had been largely ignored and compliance was a seeming afterthought.

FIREX will work with industry to promote competency and compliance. We will make third party approval a condition of participation to create an environment that promotes excellence in product development and innovation in line with the government’s indications that construction products will be subject to greater scrutiny.

So, when you cross the threshold into FIREX you are in a space where everything you’re looking at has got a third-party rating.

What is the latest innovation you would like brought into the fire industry?

It’s not so much technology as integration. From a building management point of view the fire detection and alarm systems seem to be a bit of an outlying technology, for the obvious reasons. We recently spoke to an integrator who’d managed the security, communications and AV in a large building but they said the fire system was a separate consideration. It raises the question of what business intelligence can a fire system contribute to building management, because the ultimate output is sustainability. Also, AI is a main theme at the moment in security so is there an application in fire detection? Massively risky of course but it’s an interesting idea for cutting down false alarms if used in video fire detection.

What do you like about the fire industry?

FIREX International in 2019

It’s always the people. I’ve been involved in FIREX and worked with the FIA for nearly 20 years and the people are legends! There’s a commitment and professionalism in the fire industry and although it’s a commercial industry, the application to standards, compliance and approvals is considerable and often at a commercial cost. On a broader level I enjoy working in an industry that has an ultimate purpose which is about saving lives and property. It’s very positive to know that we provide an opportunity for industry experts to come together to collaborate for a great reason.

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

The period I really would have liked to have seen and witnessed is London in the 60s. There was so much going on with music, culture, films, politics and everything else. The world was kind of having its first push forward after the war – this feeling that everything was really moving in a very positive direction. There was so much going on. When you look at the films from that time, it looks really energised and decadent. I like the Mod culture, their impeccable styling, their music and of course owning a Vespa – as per Quadrophenia. I get the feeling that in the 60s they had done all the hard stuff, such as not rationing anymore and London was being completely rebuilt. The exciting new architecture, the counter-culture was exploding, new stuff coming in – it’s the first time that the war was no longer dictating the overall direction.

What’s on your Spotify or iTunes?

At the moment it’s The Fall, New Order, Sleaford Mods, RIDE, Kate Tempest, Fontaines DC, Massive Attack, Portishead, Goldfrapp. I’ve just discovered Weyes Blood, who’s a kind of Kate Bush who does these incredible panoramic style cinematic songs that are just fantastic.  So, stuff like that. And, of course, Bowie and The Velvet Underground are constants.

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

Telekinesis. Moving stuff with your mind. I’d love to do it at football, Watford would win the Champions League. Every shot would mysteriously go in. I sit there sometimes usually when it’s going badly and wish I could move the ball this way or that.

 

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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