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Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
November 13, 2018

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The Video Surveillance Report 2022

Government ignored our warnings pre-Grenfell and Hackitt doesn’t go far enough: FPA

Grenfell was “predictable and preventable”, attendees at the Fire Protection Association’s (FPA) annual Fire Summit heard recently.

With the government yet to set out a plan for implementing the Hackitt Review recommendations and the review of Building Regulations about to begin, some 150 delegates from across the fire industry heard a panel of experts reflect on the post-Grenfell landscape at the Institute of Civil Engineers.

The speed of Whitehall’s response isn’t helped by the fact much of the machinery of government is consumed by Brexit negotiations and preparations for various contingencies. The impact on the fire industry of Brexit itself was also addressed by the speakers, who were broadly alarmed at the range of possible implications.

FPA MD Jonathan O’Neill recalled how the FPA’s repeated attempts to persuade government to change policy had been rebuffed before the events of 14 June 2017 turned the “world upside down”. He shared with the audience the document created by the FPA and insurers in response to the 14-year gap between reviews of building regulations.

FPA principal consultant Howard Passey revisited the Safe Futures campaign of 2013, another FPA effort to prompt a rethink in Whitehall over fire safety. He also addressed modern methods of construction (MMC) and risks around the growing use of combustible materials within building structures, insulation and cladding.

In a wide-ranging talk he also covered competency, the responsible person, the role of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO] in defining both elements and the Hackitt Review’s recommendations on this, including the Joint Competency Authority (JCA). He concluded that a “safety case” and “layers of protection” through guidance were needed and that implementation and management of the JCA would be a “massive undertaking”.

The issues “have been on the table for a very long time” and detection was “probably the easiest thing to solve,” said FPA technical director Dr Jim Glockling 

FPA Technical Director Dr Jim Glockling reflected on the FPA and Association of British Insurer’s (ABI) testing of cladding, sprinklers and detection. The issues facing the sector “have been on the table for a very long time” and detection was “probably the easiest thing to solve”, he said.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said measures to ban combustible materials on the outside of some buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire were inadequate. Grenfell was “predictable and preventable”, he insisted.

“Combustible material does not belong on the buildings of vulnerable people,” he said, adding that the argument for mandatory fitting of sprinklers was now unanswerable.

Roy Wilshire, chairman of the National Fire Chief Council, reflected on the fire and rescue response to the Hackitt Review.

Graham Watts from the Constructive Industry Council said Dame Judith was “being kind” when she said the UK was “behind other parts of the world and lacked a coherent approach”.

Presenting on the importance of fire doors, independent consultant Mike Wood said that “as a developer I want to be able to sleep at night”.

Brexit

Although “it’s business as usual” for the British Standards Institute, because standards are still changing slowly, its head of the built environment, Anthony Burd, said a no-deal Brexit would damage trade.

Paul Pope, director of the Fire Industry Association, agreed that Brexit could have a calamitous effect on the industry. “Potential recertification” could reduce orders dramatically, as 80% of global trade needs product certification. We “really don’t know what it means for us”, he said, adding that the industry was obliged to prepare for the worst.

Howard Passey, principal consultant at the FPA, said at this stage “nobody knows” the implications. Because laws could be changed “at a whim”, the fire industry must undertake “effective surveillance” on government plans.

Concluding the event FPA chair Chris Hanks said both the FPA and insurance market believed current controls “are not working and are not fit for purpose”, so a “culture change” is needed.

He lamented the apparent need for tragedy to strike before safety shortcomings were addressed. “Why does it take a tragedy to do that? These fires should simply not be happening”.

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