Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
September 18, 2014

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Fire Door Safety Week Q&A With BWF Chief Iain McIlwee

Fire exit doorNow in its second year Fire Door Safety Week has generated much greater publicity than its inaugural edition, British Woodworking Federation CEO Iain McIlwee tells IFSEC

Given that raising awareness is the event’s raison d’être, McIlwee can reflect on a job well done with numerous events springing up around the country this week.

IFSEC Global:  So we’re three days into Fire Door Safety Week – how’s it going so far?

Ian McIlwee: It really has carried further and faster than any other year. A lot more people are putting on events around the country so that’s helped us carry the message into local press.

What’s nice is that last year we probably did most of the work whereas this year other people are doing things too. The FSB have been putting out PR and I saw something today in a Cornish newspaper about an event where people are getting behind fire door safety that we weren’t even aware.

IG: Why do you think it’s got more traction this year?

IM: Last year people were probably a bit suspicious of it, as often happens when you get something new. Because they saw it was successful last year people tend to get behind it more.

I’ve organised things like this in the past and the first event is always a bit difficult to get traction from. You pick up loads of contacts in the first year so you can start sending stuff out to people earlier in the second year as they’re already on the list.

It’s also the relevance – people are waking up to it more and more.

There was a review of 20 major house-building sites by Zero Carbon Britain and the findings were terrifying. At 100% of sites – 100%! – they found inadequacies in how products were being installed.

At about 83-84% they found inadequacies in installation skills. So that is how we’re putting up buildings and we know that product replacement goes on in the fire industry left, right and centre.

We have to assume that the same kind of performance gaps are starting to emerge there too.

When you see the gaps found in the buildings those are gaps fire can pass through so it’s waking people up to the fact that everything’s not necessarily safe or put together as well as it could be.

IG: So what prompted the decision to set the event up last year?

IW: It was born of frustration. The industry does a lot of designing, developing and testing of fire doors and it’s constantly undermined by product substitution and then you walk around and realise just how many fire doors have been badly installed or not properly maintained.

And we see fire doors going into buildings that aren’t right.

IG: So what role doe the British Woodworking Federation play?

IW: We run the BWF-CERTIFIRE scheme with Warrington Certification Limited and a significant proportion of our members certificate their fire doors through. Something in the region of 2 million fire doors are certified through us every year.

IG: What’s the key to improving fire door installation and maintenance across the UK? 

IW: Just by making people aware – literally that. You take these things for granted.

Just by making people stop and think about it, you are having an impact. Sometimes the obvious isn’t obvious until stated.

Sometimes you forget it’s a fire door.

In my seminar I mentioned a stairlift cut-through. It was a cut and shut: they’d cut the fire door in half. But they’de diligently made sure the fire door safety sign was still there.

It’s been beautifully refitted and the joinery’s good – but it’s rendered the product useless! People don’t tend to think about the protection you get from the door until you need it.

The epiphany moment was when I read the Lakanal House transcripts and you start to realise that people have been told to stay put in apartments. And what was the integrity of the apartments?

It makes you think. The transcripts of those people and thinking about the people who perished in the fire just makes it very, very real. So it’s about making people realise that fires do happen and fire doors stop them getting though.

When you book a hotel you don’t think about the fact that there could be a fire. How are you going to get out?

I guess the message there is “in other people we trust”. So those people need to take their responsibilities seriously and that’s what the FSO does.

IG: Thanks Iain. Anything else you’d like to add before we end the interview?

IM: I just want to say thanks to everyone who got involved. It’s the industry working together to make a difference.


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