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April 29, 2021


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Fireside Chat

FIA Fireside Chat: Chandru Dissanyeke, Director of Building Safety Reform at MHCLG

This FIA Fireside Chat with Chandru Dissanayeke, Director, Building Safety Reform at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), touches on leaving a legacy to support others and how the FIA can help professionalise the fire industry.

Chandru Dissanayeke is the Director, Building Safety Reform, in the Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government. He is responsible for implementing the reforms to the building system following Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. During his career in the Civil Service, he has enjoyed a variety of policy roles across five government departments and was named as one of IFSEC Global’s top influencers in fire safety in 2020.

You can read the full interview with the FIA’s Adam Richardson, here. 

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

In lots of different ways. Personally, I’ve been affected by deaths in the family, by sickness not being able to visit family when they’re in hospital as well. So, all of that has been quite difficult. Very early on during COVID-19 just before the first lockdown I caught it and was in quite a bad way.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to the hospital, but I was pretty much off and useless to everybody for about three weeks. I found that the after-effects of COVID-19 have lasted longer and has made me build regular exercise into my routine, which is good. So there are some personal positives coming out of it in that regard.

On the one hand, it has been a positive experience in many respects. It’s given me more time at home to see the kids and to spend time with the wife, which I would never get as I usually get in late and am exhausted after my daily commute. So, not doing the commute has been hugely positive.  I’m incredibly blessed that I live in a house with a garden and have a separate office, so I’ve been incredibly blessed in terms of my personal circumstances compared to others, but I never take my eye off the fact that I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate.

On the other hand, it has not been nice to not be able to meet colleagues or friends. I have had to be more purposeful as a leader because you don’t have those moments of serendipity when bumping into people or having a conversation at the water cooler. So, I have been more purposeful in creating those moments.

What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

The opportunity in terms of this sector being able to become better.

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

So, what I would really like is the traceability of products and work. The ability to just take a window frame or a door and scan it on your phone and know everything about that and who installed it. I would love something like that to exist on all buildings.

Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?

The FIA can help professionalise the sector and organise it in a way that it can be its best. It can provide leadership and enable it to become the best sector it can be, continuously improving.

If you weren’t in the fire industry – what would you be doing and why?

It’s a hard one for me because I’m a civil servant really, first. So, I’d probably be just working in another area of Government. But, if I wasn’t doing Government work or the sector work, I’d like to think I would be involved in the entertainment industry in some form or another, behind the scenes.  Creating content that others are stars in.

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

There’s two decades that come to mind and their both living in a different country. So, one would be living in India in the 10th century and seeing how India was an interesting nation, full of different religions and different people and I would have enjoyed that.

Then the second era is probably the 12th, 13th or maybe even 14th century Middle East or that channel from the Middle East to upper parts of Africa into Spain. Just seeing the trade routes develop and again, the intellectual stimulation of different people forming different views in that area, I think I would have found it incredibly fascinating. I would have loved to have seen what that was like, but of course, with all of those I would have wanted to have money, be rich, but not too rich as that would make me a target.

Name a book, movie or tv show that has positively shaped you and why?

I really love Dickens and I really like all Dickens. I love the way Dickens writes and I also enjoy the way he describes the society in which he lives in and how that can have a positive impact in driving social change. The one that I really love is David Copperfield, I think it came into my life at just the right time. Dickens creates a character in David Copperfield that he can be anyone’s friend and in a sense he became my friend at a point in my life where I had moved out of central London, so I was doing a lot of commuting to get to school, he helped my enjoy it.

Connect with the fire safety community online 1-30 June

Connect 2021 is your first major opportunity to come together with the fire safety community online from 1-30 June!

FIREX Connect, the month-long online event, will give attendees the opportunity to make up for lost time by browsing fire safety solutions, connecting with suppliers and getting up-to-date on the latest legislation from the comfort of your home.

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