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August 14, 2020

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Security and fire professionals: ‘Keep calm and carry on’

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Jamie Allam, CEO Amthal Fire & Security

As the news filtered through earlier this week that the UK had officially entered a recession due to the impact of the pandemic, the headlines may lead us to focus on the negative. But here, Jamie Allam, CEO Amthal Fire & Security, looks at the critical role of the fire and security industry. He suggests despite the ‘doom and gloom,’ we have an essential support role to play as we try to recover and continually adapt to our new normality in business, and our own personal lives.

We have all now seen the news, that the UK has entered the largest recession on record, with staggering statistics on the effects of lockdown on our UK economy.

Whilst many experts continue to predict how long the recession will last and what impact it will have, the Bank of England has loosely suggested we will not jump back to pre-virus levels until the end of 2021.

It’s naturally depressing reading and the fall arguably not surprising. In the same token, for all of us there are difficult choices to be made ahead.

Personally, I do believe we will get through this sooner and stronger than expected. My hope is we will experience a short-lived recession, if only because the fall was so sharp that any return to a semblance of normality would involve an increase in output. And we have seen this as businesses have been allowed to reopen, and welcomed, even cautiously.

Our industry perspective

For the fire and security industry specifically, from our perspective, we have had an essential role to play throughout this whole period.

Early on in the lockdown, in announcing our position as critical workers, James Brokenshire, Minister for State for Security at the Home Office, stated: “Security & fire safety personnel can play a vital role at this time of national challenge.”

It was our industry who worked closely with building and facility managers in light of the pandemic to ensure systems were in place for the continued safety of all personnel, alongside the security and control of an increasingly empty company building and its assets.

We continued to secure properties unexpectedly unoccupied with a focus on loss prevention and risk management. And from a residential perspective, we delivered our responsibility to look after buildings, ensuring fire safety and security systems operated as normal with ongoing preventative maintenance checks for the benefit of residents.

As companies began to reopen, facility and building managers faced extraordinary challenges to respond quickly and efficiently, and yet themselves are increasingly time, resource and budget stretched. Our industry offered support networks and opportunities to ensure a safe and secure return to work, with necessary fever screening solutions installed as required.

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And we will as an industry continue to offer these critical services to ensure businesses can remain open safely to encourage growth, in accordance with ever changing government guidelines, and the adaptation to the ‘new normal.’

Fire safety

While the pandemic has continued, the UK Government has continued to focus on changing the legislation in fire safety. And Amthal for one has been encouraging building and facility managers to prepare and take proactive action to comply.

The new standards, focussing on high rise buildings, have been discussed in line with the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and the changes required to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

The resulting ‘Building Safety and Fire Safety Bill’, is expected to be enacted as legislation by the end of 2020, and as The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP states, “represents the most significant and fundamental changes to building safety legislation in decades.”

As the Foreword to the draft Bill acknowledges: “The Bill will introduce a new era of accountability, making it clear where the responsibility for managing safety risks lies throughout the design, construction and occupation of buildings in scope. There will be tougher sanctions for those that fail to meet their obligations.”

As fire specialists, we have a duty to ensure that those responsible adhere to this legislation, with maintenance and training programmes available to prepare for the incoming changes and ensuring minimal disruption and complete compliance.

Protecting what’s precious

With so much uncertainty, we have an opportunity to reflect on the strange times and assess what matters most. As a CEO of a family established fire and security specialist, my focus has been on ensuring the well-being and safety of our team.

To support the team during these difficult times, we have been checking in on staff mental health and offering confidential help if required. It’s essential to invest in our people so that we can deliver our commitment to our customers and continue to grow our business.

And we have made our own changes to everyday working, embracing working from home even after lockdown, and operating with performance management and employee engagement tools more closely to ensure we can stay in touch on a regular basis.

As a company, dare we say it, we are optimistic about the future. We are actively seeking new apprentices, not only in supporting the Government focus, but because they have been fundamental to our 20-year company success. We also continue our ambitious recruitment drive to achieve more of our customer demands and enable our growth.

It all culminates in our core headline proposition, to ‘protect what’s precious.’ After all, if 2020 has done anything positive at all, we have all had a chance to assess the things that matter most.

Times like these that make us appreciate our livelihoods and our work together with the essential key workers, NHS and all they do. And most importantly, those closest to us in family and our health. The details that, before this year, some of us may have been guilty of not fully appreciating.

In summary, whilst the UK is now officially in recession, from our industry perspective, we have one of the best chances to reflect on our support role in ensuring the safety and security of homes, businesses and essential services.

If we can maintain our proactive approach in serving these industries together with protecting residents and homeowners, as we have been doing pre, during and post lockdown, more businesses may continue to grow. Confidence will return and together, we can work our way out of this recessionary period.

Perhaps, we can return to the old British motivational saying, to ‘keep calm and carry on.’

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