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UK s first fire door installation qualification is piloted

installer training The UK s first fire door installation qualification has been piloted with a view to delivering the full course in December 2017. Run by NPTC Group of Colleges it is the first qualification in the UK to specifically how to correctly specify and install fire doors. The pilot was delivered by NPTC Group of Colleges, a British Woodworking Federation (BWF) centre of excellence, on 4 and 5 October 2017 to a group of six advanced Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) modern apprentices.

Course content includes legislation in force pertaining to: Fitting of fire doors, fire door frames and linings Specification and fitting of fire door ironmongery Fitting of fire seals on doors and frames Inclusion of apertures and associated fire regulation related to fitting of glass Effects of use on fire door performance The qualification will be available in three formats: As an optional unit for apprentices Two to three-day course aimed at experienced tradespeople Four to five-day course for individuals and organisations that specialise in fitting and replacing fire doors The qualification is expected to link with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, which is used for larger sites to demonstrate individual competencies. Fire doors are often the first line of defence for users of a building in the event of a fire and yet they remain a significant area of neglect. Hannah Mansell, spokesperson, Fire Door Safety Week I am delighted that Wales is once again leading the way on fire safety, said Ann Jones, Labour Assembly Member for the Vale of Clwyd. Practical thinking and effective collaboration is needed to drive much needed change and it is particularly encouraging to see the fire door industry and NPTC Group of Colleges working so closely with the British Woodworking Federation and wider industry to meet this challenge head on. I very much hope that this pilot is the start of a change process that embeds competence at the heart of construction, increasing skill, knowledge and reducing risk. Said Mark Dacey, chief executive of NPTC Group of Colleges: As NPTC Group of Colleges, we are proud to be a centre of excellence for BWF. The fire door training, a first in the UK, shows clearly the innovative approach the college takes, working with partners and the sector, to meet their needs. Coupled with our fire sprinkler courses, the college is in prime position to deliver quality training to make buildings safer and better equipped, to meet modern safety standards. Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week and BWF technical manager, said: Fire doors are often the first line of defence for users of a building in the event of a fire and yet they remain a significant area of neglect.

Subsequently, every year lives are lost or put at risk, and property unnecessarily damaged, because fire doors have been wrongly specified, fitted or maintained. There are many critical elements to get right in the construction of fire doors, and a host of regulations governing their manufacture, installation and maintenance. But a single mistake in specification, fitting or use can render a fire door ineffective or turn it into a death trap.

Related Topics Watch: Fire, security and fire escape doors are you putting lives at risk?

Majority of renters left in dark on basic fire safety measures Residential landlords still haven t learned Grenfell lessons especially in social housing, survey reveals

Watch: Fire, security and fire escape doors are you putting lives at risk?

ABLOY UK Six out of 10 people don t know how to identify a fire door, according to research by Fire Door Safety Week. To mark the event, which took place in September, Abloy UK created a video explaining why complying with fire door regulations is so important and not just for legal reasons. You can watch the video which also touches on fire escape doors and security doors, below.

Abloy UK manufactures electric and mechanical security locking solutions.

embedded content Related Topics Majority of renters left in dark on basic fire safety measures Residential landlords still haven t learned Grenfell lessons especially in social housing, survey reveals A rogue s gallery of fire doors unworthy of the name (and perfectly good ones rendered useless)

VESDA protects thousands of tourists at the largest timber-framed church in Europe

Built in the mid-17th century the Lutheran Churches of Peace in Jawor and widnica were recently restored to their former glory at a cost of ‘ 4.1m.

Download this free case study to find out about the installation of VESDA VLP from Xtralis Honeywell in the Churches of Peace in Silesia.

Complete the short form to download the case study.

British Safety Council chief: Grenfell should mark turning point in fire safety

The chief executive of the British Safety Council opened its annual conference this week by detailing the body s plans for the future, and his hopes for the sector. Mike Robinson said that a lot had happened in the world since the Council had met last year, including the start of the Brexit process, the general election this summer, the Grenfell Tower disaster, and the election of Donald Trump. Speaking on Grenfell, and following the Council s joint letter to the prime minister last summer on stopping deregulation, Robinson said personally about how the disaster, which happened near to its offices in Hammersmith.

He said: This tragic event had negatively impacted on many peoples lives. I can only hope that it marks a turning point for fire safety in high rise buildings. Brexit On Brexit, Robinson said it was still far from clear what would happen at the end of the process, but that it may actually have a positive for health and safety. He said: With the uncertainty around Brexit, it creates an environment where there is actually an opportunity to look at good safety management. Robinson also detailed concerns about the rising levels of personal debt, stating the the financial pressures of not only low-paid but medium paid workers in the country is a big issue. Council developments Speaking about the Council, Robinson said the roll-out of the mental health construction scheme, Mates in Mind, had an ambitious aim to reach two-thirds of the entire industry of 2.5 million workers, and had got off to a great start since its launch a few weeks ago. On setting up the Mumbai office, he said that the Council wants to have an impact in a country where there are still 48,000 deaths from work . Training was another key element for Robinson going foward, and he claimed to be annoying Microsoft by shifting away from PowerPoint and traditional presentation techniques to immersive technology which he hopes to bring next year to the Council s suite of certificates. Free Download: A Technical Guide to Fire Detection and Alarm Systems Fire legislation, which is written for the purpose of life safety, requires duty holders in non-domestic premises to assess fire risks and put in place arrangements for the prevention of fire and to protect people from fire when it occurs.

This guide provides an overview of the need to know information for fire detection and alarm systems and your legal requirements, key actions, key terms and more.

Click here to download now Related Topics Securing UK borders: An examination of the implications of leaving the EU for UK border management Brexit boosts fire industry exports but raises costs and tightens margins Brexit: What are the security and resilience implications?

Watch: Your questions answered about the FIA s fire detection and alarms qualification

Installer training The Fire Industry Association (FIA) officially launched its new qualifications in fire detection and alarms at FIREX 2017. The FIA had earlier in the year shone a light on why a clearer career path is so needed in its latest Market Conditions Review. Good engineers are almost impossible to find, was one comment submitted by a survey respondent.

Your letters and questions about the new fire detection and alarm qualifications from the FIA are answered in the video below. What topics do these courses cover? What s new? Are the old FIA training courses obsolete? Watch the interview with Martin Duggan of the FIA below to find out the answers to these and other questions.

embedded content Related Topics Time running out to book place on FIA seminars on update to BS 5839-1:2017 6 Things you need to know about FIM Expo Free cybersecurity seminar will focus on physical security systems and star ethical hackers

A rogue s gallery of fire doors unworthy of the name (and perfectly good ones rendered useless)

#firedoorsafetyweek Some fire doors pictured below are so incompetently installed an otherwise serious topic descends into absurd comedy. Unfortunately, having a stair-rail passing through a hole carved into the door (I kid you not) would have grave consequences were a fire to break out. Lifted from Twitter (big thanks to Theodore Firedoor and FireDoorGuy) and Fire Door Safety Week s toolkit) the gallery features plenty of more prosaic, typical problems too big gaps between doors and around the perimeter, slapdash use of sealant, doors wedged open and the like.

There are also a couple of correctly installed fire doors at the bottom, standing proudly unbowed and un-breached after a fire ripped through the creative block of a Dorset school in 2015. IFSEC Global is proud to support Fire Door Safety Week, which runs from 25 September to 1 October. You can pledge your support for the campaign here, and by tweeting under the hashtag #FireDoorSafetyWeek and sharing or using the wealth of resources found in the campaign s toolkit. We ll put a notice up, that ll solve it, Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 22, 2017 @Theodore_Fire don t think this one is self closing! #firedoor #FireDoorSafetyWeek #passivefire H Timmins Group (@HTimminsGroup) August 15, 2017 It s #FireDoorFriday! Spotted any dodgy #firedoors recently? Send me your pics! The gap in this dodgy fire door is more than the 3mm maximum Theodore Firedoor (@Theodore_Fire) December 2, 2016 How it is v how it should be. It s the little things that often make a difference. #FireDoorSafetyWeek #firedoors Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 21, 2017 @FDIS_UK @Theodore_Fire @bwf_certifire @FDSafetyWeek. I couldn t kick it very far!! #firedoor H Timmins Group (@HTimminsGroup) August 22, 2017 Well that won t help in the event of a fire #fire #firedoor #passivefire @Theodore_Fire H Timmins Group (@HTimminsGroup) August 20, 2017 A national chain of car parks yesterday.

Not huge risk I suppose, but how many litres of petrol close by #firesafety #nocompromise Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 1, 2017 Unusual one picked up by @FireDoorGuru today. Have to wonder who approved this! #FireDoorSafetyWeek #firedoors Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 21, 2017 Just a sample from Student HMO fire risk assessments carried out today. Red and White Fire (@RedandWhiteFire) September 22, 2017 The long term effect and cost of wedging open a hospital fire door circa 2,000 for a new door. #FireDoorSafetyWeek #firesafety #firedoors Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 21, 2017 Careless use or poor specification? New doors ruined! Easily prevented with protection device. Cheaper in the long run to do it properly. Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 21, 2017 I bet it isn t .#FireDoorSafetyWeek Brand new door too. Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 20, 2017 Billions spent on fire prevention across the country every year, and a piece of (s)crap renders it ineffective! #firesafety Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 8, 2017 The ultimate oxymoron. This is why Fire Doors need inspection and @FDSafetyWeek are of paramount importance @FDIS_UK Theodore Firedoor (@Theodore_Fire) August 13, 2017 Surely the building owners can see fire door is not fit for purpose #firedoorsafetyweek Theodore Firedoor (@Theodore_Fire) July 18, 2017 Lock prep done the wrong way.

Doorset manufacturer will do this with CNC precision.

Cheaper in the long run.NFR! #FireDoorSafetyWeek Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 21, 2017 We take the wedge out when we leave the room #liars Because fires only start in empty rooms!#firedoorsafetyweek Fire Door Inspectors (@firedoorguy) September 22, 2017 Dodgy Fire Door of the Year 2014 This hospital fire door bagged the bronze medal And this is what happens if you get it right! (Fire doors still not breached after a fire ripped through the creative block a Dorset school in 2015.) Related Topics We re often dealing with decades of neglect : Hannah Mansell on fire doors and the post-Grenfell rush to improve fire safety Watch: The consequences of badly specified and fitted fire doors plus 5 tips for getting it right Fire-door safety campaigners renew calls for public register of responsible persons

We re often dealing with decades of neglect

With Fire Door Safety Week kicking off next week, IFSEC Global caught up with the campaign s spokesperson to find out how the Grenfell tragedy has affected the campaign. Also technical manager of the British Woodworking Federation, Hannah Mansell reflects on the campaign s growth, message and plans, the temptation for cutting corners in cash-strapped times, the need for coordination across the supply chain and the challenge of keeping fire safety on the media and government agenda long after the charred remnants of Grenfell Tower are demolished in 2018. Hannah also heads up the BWF s stair and BWF-CERTIFIRE schemes.

IFSEC Global: You ve been growing rapidly year on year? What do you think the reasons are? Hannah Mansell: We think it s probably about simplicity. Fire doors are technically complex products and people overlook them for that fact; they re simply not on people s radar. So our job is to get out there and keep the message simple. What they need to know is simple. Your fire doors need to be properly tested and made, maintained, and of course, not left open. Support for the campaign is wide, in all areas of fire safety. Although our message is fire doors, we develop resources and guidance for many different sectors, whether it s the responsible person, the construction industry, fire risk assessors, or tenants and users.

Each campaign has a legacy that we carry on the next year. So for instance last year, we were already focusing on shared accommodation and the rental sector. We realised our work wasn t done in that sector, which has obviously been highlighted by what s happened in the last three months. Since the tragedy there s been a high influx of new supporters in the sector. Councils have come on massively this year, housing associations, charities, landlord associations To be fair the landlord associations have always been quite good supporters. The value engineering of specification, when someone says I can cut a few corners and save you a few quid , is a really big problem And the fire brigades as well. We worked closely with London Fire Brigade last year, and this year they re doing more and going even further. All our resources can be taken and rolled out into any particular organisation or campaign. We ve made a new fire door safety test film (see below).

The last film we made, maybe five or six years ago, had massive traction. The new film is a bit more contemporary, focused on issues we commonly see on fire doors in common areas and with flat front doors doors without seals, doors without proper closers We talk about things like smoke seals and intumescent seals, but a lot of people don t know what they look like. embedded content Also our five-step check, which we also included in the film visually shows what you need to look for, and if you have any concerns, talk to your landlord or building owner. If you still have concerns, the next step is to talk to your local fire brigade who can come out and audit your building. I think in some sectors people have woken up to fire door safety, but it s an ongoing thing. People forget quite quickly. It may not be long until we re disregarding fire safety again. IG: Nature of the beast, really. Easy to get complacent when fire is such a rare thing.

Any other reasons why there are apparently so many inadequate fire doors? HM: We re not dealing with issues that have arisen in these buildings in the last 3-5 years; we re often dealing with decades of neglect of both fire doors and other fire safety systems and elements, with no one taking enough notice of them, these issues and accountability for them dropping out of sight of these responsible. We did some research a few years ago and one of the questions was: What do you think about your fire doors? A deafening silence came back. People were walking past and through them every day and not thinking about their importance. So a lot of our campaign is about outlining the steps: here s your fire door, next step is how to check it, next step is how to report it, here s how to maintain it etc. With the force of people coming together you can get change, but too much of the fire sector has worked in siloes The value engineering of specification, when someone says I can cut a few corners and save you a few quid , is a really big problem. Specification is broken, certification invalidated and there s no proof that the product will work. You can have someone offering to bang in a door like they would fit any old door, not realising that the installation of a fire door is as critical as the product itself.

People think a fire door is just like any other door. In the early days, when I first got into fire doors and was doing a lot of research and development and testing, I was surprised how the tiniest of details can have a massive impact. For instance, an excessive gap around the door or forgotten intumescent protection or seals how much is that going to affect performance during the fire? You d be surprised. In part of the fire door film we ve made this year, we ve set up a correctly fitted door versus one that s got some issues that I commonly find on site. But the bad door looks exactly the same from the outside. It s all about those tiny details compatible components, the frame, the installation etc. Even with a perfect product, installed correctly, if it s not maintained effectively, and it s not closing against its frame or if it gets wedged open etc When the time comes it s just not going to work. Of course, if it s wedged open, there s no barrier to even delay the fire.

Fire doors are also in your face. If I go to a building and see that they have shoddy fire doors, it s a pretty good indicator for me that whoever is responsible for the fire safety of the building isn t taking their responsibility seriously. Interesting that you mentioned value engineering, because cash-strapped councils are being asked to upgrade fire safety in social housing with no extra funding from government HM: I think what they have to consider is that in some cases they are looking at having to pay for decades worth of neglect. Concerns about a wide range of passive fire safety issues including fire doors have been reported for years, in all types of buildings, both public and private sector, you can look back over meeting minutes 10-15 years ago when these issues were being raised. There needs to be a long-term holistic plan. It can t just be completing one task or dealing with one element of fire safety, then it s over and dealt with and forgotten about. The risk profile of buildings is constantly changing. In some sectors there s a realisation about that. But in other sectors We got this report in from one of our BWF members.

They had refused to supply a contract and product for a large TMO for fire door upgrades because the customer wanted to break specification and didn t give a monkeys about it. That s why we need to keep up the pace of not just this campaign but the other campaigns and organisations that we work with, like the Fire Kills campaign. That s maybe what people like about the campaign: we don t make it exclusive. It doesn t matter if you re specifically into fire doors or just someone who wants to support the campaign there s something for everyone in there. With the force of people coming together you can get change, but too much of the fire sector has worked in siloes. A holistic approach might get change. Coupled of course with massive budget cuts I could give you a list as long as my arm of all the factors explaining why we sit here wondering how such a horrific thing could have happened. embedded content IG: Are there many instances where you could remedy a fire-door s deficiencies rather than having to replace the fire door altogether? HM: Lots of people get worried that they ll have to buy a new fire door.

But regular inspection and maintenance help to keep them in good working order. You can replace or adjust components, fix things before they became a major problem. Don t get me wrong, there are limitations. A door can be in such a state of disrepair that you can t fix it. That s why it comes back to having a thorough and robust maintenance regime to make sure you do enough to fix problems before they turn into something irretrievable. A fire door fitted with components suitable for a domestic setting isn t going to last long in the communal corridor of a school There are qualified fire door inspectors who can inspect a door, look at every element the frame, the installation, the ironmongery, the glazing, the door leaf, the seals, the gaps and notify the responsible person of improvements needed. One of our colleagues in the ironmongery industry did a specification for a hospital years ago. Usually hospital fire doors get battered; they can be used thousands of times a day. Twenty-six years later, because specifications for that environment and users were right, and they are regularly inspected, these doors are still going strong they would do their job in a fire.

If you fit a fire door that s designed and fitted with components suitable for a domestic setting into a communal corridor of a school, it not going to last very long. That s why the specification is so critical. Lots of people don t think about the whole supply chain; it s I ve done my bit, pass it onto the next person. It s a chain of responsibility. Fire doors are not the most interesting dinner party topic, but they play such an important role especially in buildings because of complex design, the specific needs of occupants, or if it s difficult to evacuate quickly and there is a stay-put fire plan. You need fire and smoke control doors up and down corridors and stairwells. It protects the means of escape and route for firefighters to get into the building. It includes flat front doors as well. You will also find fire doors in other parts of the building, and sometimes inside individual dwellings, depending on the layout and building types, as well as a number of other factors.

IG: Do you think the regulations themselves need clarification or strengthening? HM: My real day job is not just doing the fire door safety campaign. I m the technical manager of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF). Our members make and certificate about 2.5 million timber fire doors every year, but our organisation frequently provides technical guidance about a wide variety of timber construction products and how they relate to building regulations and building control. People often don t understand how they work; it can be a minefield. I know we re going to have a review of building regulations, but it s been on the agenda for many years and it s far, far overdue. And I m not just talking about Approved Document B. We ve got building regs that apply to new buildings, regs about refurbishment or change of use, about surrounding fire risk assessments, about the signing off of work process, the whole regulatory reform order, which came in 10 years ago and changed the responsibility and process of signing off compliance. We could sit here in five years time and have a very similar discussion unless people take heed of the scale of the problem now These are all bits of regulation that need to work together, so it s about an upgrade of regulations throughout the chain.

I don t think we can just be appeased with just an approved document review. I think when the public are calling for a building regulation review, they re talking about the whole process, not just documents that talk about fire safety in high rise buildings. One thing really highlighted over the last few weeks is how many different parties get involved in the refurb, design, specifications, supply of products, construction, the signing off of buildings. There needs to be much more clarity as to how that chain works. In the wake of Grenfell, the amount of fire safety issues reported in other buildings has been huge, not just cladding. For instance, the Camden evacuation was because a thousand fire doors were missing. When it comes to enforcing against large organisations, transparency is sometimes the issue when it goes through the courts. Who is the responsible person? And in an enormous organisation with a massive housing stock, how detached are they from the scale or severity of fire safety issues in their buildings?

We live differently to how we lived even 10-15 years ago. Elderly people are much more likely to stay in their homes longer, more people live in high rise buildings, there are people with a wide variety of additional needs who may be more vulnerable to a fire in their building. The regulations have to reflect that, and not just for the benefit of building more homes quickly, of questionable quality. IG: Has Grenfell changed your message in any way given the greater media and public awareness of the issue? HM: Fire Door Safety Week campaign has been going formally for five years . We re as determined as we ever were, to carry on promoting our campaign and working with other campaigns and initiatives in these areas. Each year, stepping up and building on what we ve done before, until we get real and lasting change. I read an opinion piece that said it will take generations to get over Grenfell. We ve got to keep this right up there in the media so we don t have a repeat.

We can t let it be swept under the carpet or not acted upon in the fullest manner. It s like that poem isn t it: For want of a nail, the Kingdom was lost . Your fire doors are almost your nails, as it were. All these little fire safety problems adding up together to create the perfect fire storm. We need a new way of looking at fire safety. Otherwise we ll do what we always did: an investigation and an inquest, and get what we always got, excuses why it can t improve, and then sort of forget about it. And the worst thing is we could sit here in five years time and have a very similar discussion unless people take heed of the scale of the problem now. There is the chance to really make building safe for generations to come. IFSEC Global is proud to support Fire Door Safety Week, which runs from 25 September to 1 October.

You can pledge your support for the campaign here, and by tweeting under the hashtag #FireDoorSafetyWeek and sharing or using the wealth of resources found in the campaign s toolkit.

Related Topics Watch: The consequences of badly specified and fitted fire doors plus 5 tips for getting it right Fire-door safety campaigners renew calls for public register of responsible persons Willmott Dixon issues fire door guidance to 3,000 staff thanks to Fire Door Safety Week

Watch: The consequences of badly specified and fitted fire doors plus 5 tips for getting it right

Fire DOor safety week The video below demonstrates the how badly an incorrectly specified and installed fire door performs during a fire however smart it might appear the untrained eye. Produced by the BWF Certifire Fire Door Scheme, it shows footage of a live fire door test, pitting a fully compliant fire door against a badly fitted equivalent. The video, put together for Fire Door Safety Week, also details a simple five-step checklist to ensure your fire doors are specified and installed properly.

IFSEC Global is proud to support Fire Door Safety Week, which runs from 25 September to 1 October.

You can pledge your support for the campaign here, and by tweeting under the hashtag #FireDoorSafetyWeek and sharing or using the wealth of resources found in the campaign s toolkit.

embedded content Related Topics Fire-door safety campaigners renew calls for public register of responsible persons Willmott Dixon issues fire door guidance to 3,000 staff thanks to Fire Door Safety Week The dodgy fire door gallery 2016

6 Things you need to know about FIM Expo

If you install or commission fire alarms, you think you ve probably seen all the kit you possibly could by now. Bit of wire here, manual call point there, fire alarm sounder there. But the industry is evolving and new developments are happening all the time: new products, new equipment, new gadgets.

Luckily for you, FIM Expo is just around the corner: Wednesday 4 October, Glasgow Science Centre. So without further ado, here s six things you need to know about FIM Expo. #1: You can get your hands on all the kit you like and have a try before you buy. Yes ladies and gents, there really is nothing better than actually being able to see how the kit works before you decide to go ahead with it. Exhibitors love nothing more than explaining all their new products, so you can get a demonstration of how it works and get all your questions answered. #2: No long queues. FIM Expo is a smaller show, so there is no queuing to get in, no waiting for your turn to see your favourite exhibitor, and a much more efficient way of visiting lots of different manufacturers at once. None of the fuss and hustle and bustle of the bigger shows. #3: You can find out which bits of kit are compatible with kit you might already be familiar with. My God, it can get frustrating when you find out that your panel that you ve just bought is not compatible with the rest of the kit you currently install. Argh. Nightmare.

Sometimes you really need an expert opinion to guide you on your way. Our exhibitors will be on hand to discuss all your need and field all of those awkward: Does this thing work with this old bit of kit I have? Or do I need to buy everything new again? questions. #4: Free BS 5839-1:2017 revision seminar. Get there early and secure your space, because we re putting on a free seminar on the update to BS 5839-1:2017 at 11am. In the update there is a brand new section on multi-sensor detectors, including a new annexe E, which discusses the selection of multi-sensor detectors; an update on double pole isolation; a new section on video alarm systems; and the removal of the tables from Annex F (just for simplicity). The seminar is free and CPD-accredited! #5: Learn about the future of FD&A qualifications. Martin Duggan, FIA General Manager will be discussing development of new FD&A Qualifications. There are four new qualifications, which are provided through the new awarding organisation for the fire industry, the FIA AO.

The Qualifications are designed to reflect the four main job roles of the sector designer, installer, maintainer, and commissioner with one qualification for each. This seminar starts after lunch at 2pm, so finish up your sandwich and head to the seminar room. Both seminars are CPD accredited. Can you believe all of this is free? Ker-ching! #6: Free lunch. Yep, free tea and coffee. Free lunch. What more could anyone want? Details Wednesday 4 October 2017.

Doors open at 9.30am. The show closes at 3:30pm. Entry is free but you will need to register to ensure entry into the exhibition. We recommend getting there in good time so that you can collect your visitor s badge, grab a coffee, and take in all the sights. Click here to register . Pop in your details. It s all free.

Related Topics Dahua Technology UK and Ireland announces interactive technology showcase Axis Partner Showcase: Don t miss out on connected surveillance and access control solutions from 37 partners Free cybersecurity seminar will focus on physical security systems and star ethical hackers

Fire safety in prisons: When theory and practice slip their handcuffs

Just weeks after the Grenfell Tower disaster in June the newly elected Kensington and Chelsea Deputy Council leader, Kim Taylor-Smith, told the BBC that despite being a member of the council s Housing Scrutiny Committee for over a year, he was unaware of residents repeated warnings about fire safety in the building. It seemed utterly unbelievable, but if my further investigations into fire safety in prisons is anything to go by, it could well have been true. The councillor said: I was on a committee that was responsible for safety, we take steps in order to ensure safety, sometimes that doesn t work the whole issue of how we scrutinised is obviously the issue we are having to look at we will have to change.

Since 1982 HM Prisons Inspectorate (HMIP) has had the task of inspecting our prisons and in 35 years they have come a long way. Most people involved in prisons today can name Peter Clarke as the current Chief Inspector of Prisons, probably Nick Hardwick before him, maybe Anne Owers, David Ramsbotham and perhaps even Stephen Tumim before that but who can name the first two Chief Inspectors of Prisons? While HMIP was slow to get off the ground it has gathered pace, focus and professionalism since its creation but it remains seriously defective in major areas. Today, when HMIP inspects prisons it does not inspect them for fire safety that is the task of the Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group, (CPFIG) a little-known statutory inspectorate sitting quietly inside the Home Office. CPFIG did not copy a single one of the 19 cases of statutory fire safety notices issued a cross a 12-month period to the Prisons Inspectorate CPFIG, unlike HMIP, does not publish a single one of its prison fire safety reports online and, despite inspecting fire safety conditions in all prison establishments, premises which are totally immune from prosecution see page 3, it is not a member of the 21-strong National Preventive Mechanism, a body owing obligations to the United Nations (led by HMIP in the UK) that exists to monitor conditions in places of detention. No doubt it was as a result of recognising this dangerous gap between HMIP and CPFIG that the last Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, now chairman of the Parole Board, in January 2016 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two inspectorates. It set out clearly how the two inspectorates will work together and communicate with each other, so vitally important was this deemed to be that section seven of the MOU was devoted to it in detail. The MOU makes clear both HMI Prisons and CPFIG are committed to sharing information relevant to the safety of staff members or prisoners with each other. Trigger questions It accepts that both inspectorates may receive information during their own inspections which can be relevant to the statutory responsibility of the other, and they agreed a system supporting what they called the meaningful exchange of risk information to share that information and not just information but training too.

It was agreed that CPFIG would provide the Prisons Inspectorate with what it called trigger questions , which could assist HMI Prisons inspectors to identify potential fire safety concerns during their own inspections. Moreover CPFIG would provide the necessary fire-related awareness training for HMI Prisons inspectors, so they could interpret the answers to their fire-safety trigger questions so enabling them to identify matters that potentially affect the safety of prisoners and staff. HMIP agreed that if they found reason during one of its own inspections to suspect that there is unnecessary risk to people from fire within an establishment, HMIP would notify CPFIG of their concerns and in return CPFIG agreed that if it found poor management of safety or apparent concerns about the conditions for prisoners at custodial premises, they would advise HMIP of their concerns. Both accepted that the ongoing safety of persons in prisons was, said the MOU, paramount . In the year to June 2017 CPFIG conducted 19 fire safety inspections in prisons in England and Wales. My previous investigation into fire safety in prisons found that, in 100% of those inspections, CPFIG found fire safety failing so serious that they placed the lives of prisoners, staff, contractors and visitors at risk and resulted, in all 19 prisons, in the issuance of statutory Non-Compliance Notices (NCN) and, in four cases, Crown Enforcement Notices (CEN) too. These are clearly serious matters of substance, that had the MOU been followed, either in letter or even simply in spirit, would have immediately resulted in CPFIG informing HMIP of each of these failures right? Wrong. A Freedom of Information Act response from CPFIG, dated 4 September 2017, reveals that CPFIG did not copy a single one of the 19 cases of statutory fire safety notices issued across a 12-month period to the Prisons Inspectorate.

The MOU failure to comply with the MOU started just months after it was signed. CPFIG found fire safety failings so serious they served the prison with an NCN, giving it just 28 days to correct numerous fire safety defects What is equally worrying is that no-one in the Prisons Inspectorate ever asked questions either. The right hand of the Prisons Inspectorate was blind to what the left hand across at CPFIG was doing despite their written agreement underpinned by their dual belief that safety was paramount . In the middle of this ignorance were the lives and safety of tens of thousands of people living, working and visiting these 19 prison establishments amid dangers to which the Prisons Inspectorate, like the Housing Scrutiny Committee that covered Grenfell Tower, were completely oblivious. This failure to communicate resulted in the ludicrous situation in July this year when the Prisons Inspectorate published an inspection report of HM Prison Coldingley in which it concluded that, when judged against the Healthy Prisons Safety test, Coldingley was a reasonably safe prison little knowing that it was anything but safe. And they ought to have known CPFIG certainly did. Serious defects Just 26 days after Peter Clarke marched his Prison Inspectorate team out of HMP Coldingley, on 3 March 2017 convinced it was safe, CPFIG came knocking on the Coldingley Gate and found fire safety failings so serious they served the prison with an NCN giving it just 28 days to correct the numerous fire safety defects it found. Serious defects that included: The procedure is not always followed for removing cigarette lighters and matches from prisoners in Segregation who appear to be at increased risk of self-harming through fire. Normal and/or emergency lighting doesn t provide sufficient illumination to implement the Cell Fire Response plan including the removal of a prisoner from the cell.

The measures to reduce the spread of fire and smoke were inadequate. There was insufficient evidence available to demonstrate the effectiveness of the smoke control arrangements for E wing after it was confirmed to have extraction only. The generic cell fire response plan was not suitable for the circumstances in which prisoners are not locked in their cells. The training package delivered to staff does not provide sufficient practical instruction on the use of Inundation equipment. An insufficient number of prison staff members working in residential wings were in date with their training in Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) wearing. The number of trained prison response staff members available was not always sufficient to implement the cell fire response plan effectively. The fire safety measures were not always being tested and maintained in good condition and effective working order. It is clear now that CPFIG never copied HMIP into any of these fire safety defects nor into any of the other 19 fire safety NCN and CEN s it served in the year to June 2017 either. But why didn t the CPFIG training of HMIP Inspectors in fire safety, provided for in the MOU signed 14 months before the Coldingley inspection, allow HMIP inspectors to pick up on the serious fire safety defects at Coldingley themselves?

Sources tell me it is because no such fire awareness training by CPFIG of HMIP has ever taken place. The combined failure to train, and communicate the vital fire safety failings CPFIG found at Coldingley, allowed HMIP to publish, in July 2017, a wholly misleading report declaring HMP Coldingley to be safe, when CPFIG knew it was anything but safe. What is the point of having a MOU if neither side takes a blind bit of notice about its terms? Didn t anyone in the Prisons Inspectorate even think to ask, after a year of silence, why they had neither been trained nor advised of any fire safety concerns, as the MOU provides for, by their CPFIG partners over at the Home Office? Did no one at CPFIG pick up on the fact that by failing to train HMIP inspectors, and to disclose any of these 19 prison fire safety notices to the Prisons Inspectorate, they were consistently breaching the terms of the MOU? And if not, why not? These are serious issues, they are not some minor technical defect, but real life and death safety issues where, either through incompetence or complicity, the two organisations are not speaking to each other as they have both specifically agreed to do in a jointly signed document. This month, September 2017, HMIP published a new edition of its Expectations document, going forward it is the document on which future prison inspections will be grounded. HMIP make clear on page six of this document that they employ a clear and coordinated whole-prison approach that ensures prisoners feel and are safe but that simply is not true.

HMIP, despite the contents of its MOU with CPFIG, routinely ignores fire safety. This has to stop. Systematic failure The Prisons Inspectorate exist to inspect prisons that means all four corners of it and everything within it. Inspecting a prison isn t an al a carte menu where they can decide what parts of the prison they want to inspect, such as food or cleanliness, but ignore vitally important other areas such as fire safety. The systemic failure of the MOU between HMIP and CPFIG reveals that a new system of working is urgently required if lives are not to be lost. There were 2,580 fires in our prisons last year, that s almost 50 blazes a week. Our prisons detain people with serious mental health issues, those who self-harm by starting fires, as well as those convicted of arson; the dangerous risk factors are as clear as they are gross. Yet those with specific statutory responsibilities for them and who have agreed to work together are ignoring them. We need a Prisons Inspectorate that shoulders the full burden of responsibility for the entirety of prison inspections, not one where when it comes to fire safety it can conveniently slope that shoulder in the direction of CPFIG, claiming fire safety in prisons is their bag.

Prison Inspections is HMIP s bag and the sooner they realise it the better. What we need is an urgent inquiry by the Justice Committee in Parliament into the whole subject of prison inspections. One that demands answers as to: Why so many HMIP recommendations are routinely ignored year after year in today s report on Bullingdon Prison, 70% of recommendations made two years ago have still not been implemented? Why HMIP never concern themselves with fire safety? Why HMIP never ask CPFIG why they have not had the training the MOU provides for? Why CPFIG do not tell them of fire safety notices served on prisons and why they never ask? The lives of 86,000 prisoners, 32,000 staff and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year are being put at risk because HMIP are just not fit for purpose.

I want to hear Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, repeat the words of Kim Taylor-Smith: We will have to change or are we to sit back and allow Grenfell Tower to become the lesson we all tragically failed to heed?