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FIA Technical Briefing

by Brian Sims

At the end of this month, the Fire Industry Manufacturers Expo is coming to Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol. The event is organised by the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and helps to build the bridge between manufacturers of fire detection and alarm products and those in the services world. Ian Moore elaborates on the key detail of the day for attendees.

For security companies, the Fire Industry Manufacturers (FIM) Expo is a great place to meet manufacturers and network with other service professionals if they’re thinking of expanding from security service installation and maintenance into this other somewhat niche, but still buoyant area of business. It’s a big step if a company hasn’t yet expanded, but the Expo’s light and informal atmosphere is renowned for making those close connections and business partnerships due to its small size.

Here, instead of wandering aimlessly between stands for hours, you can easily make all the connections you need within a relatively short period of time. A major advantage is that you can see all the products and glean answers on how they all work, which is helpful if you’re unfamiliar with this particular area.

If you’re already operating within fire detection and alarm services, there’s still plenty to engage with at the FIM Expo even for a more seasoned professional. The confirmed exhibitors will be showcasing a range of products and, with new ranges being developed, it’s a good time to find out if there are any new solutions to be sourced or explore other manufacturers’ products that you might not have known much about previously.

For those operating within this specialist sector, there’s good news in that the market is continuing to grow. Demand for fire safety services such as fire detection and alarm maintenance and installation is ever-present. The FIA’s Market Conditions Survey, which has been repeated every six months since 2008, has shown that, if any industry is relatively financially fire-proof (if you’ll excuse the pun), then it’s the fire industry.

Reports spanning the last few years have continually demonstrated a period of financial stability and, on the whole, respondents don’t feel that Brexit is necessarily going to negatively impact their business (though there are a few responders to the survey with understandable concerns at present, such as the rise in supplier costs).

As such, now might be a good time to start having those business conversations with a range of different contacts to look at different product series and prices. The FIM Expo is a good opportunity for this. The atmosphere tends to be relaxed, there’s no pressure and exhibitors tend to have more time for in-depth conversations in person than at some of the larger shows where they simply take your details down and say they’ll call you back at some point next week.

If you’re a regular attendee at the FIM Expo, you’ll know just how valuable those conversations with others in the business can be in the real world. It’s a great place to seek advice and build worthwhile connections with new people, to meet up or make an appointment to see a business contact over a coffee (tea and coffee is provided free of charge alongside a buffet luncheon).

BS 5839-1: 2017 examined

Alongside the chance to meet with the exhibitors themselves, there’s the added bonus of two free seminars at the Expo. Last time out, the seminars were completely full with standing room only, so it’s worth arriving early to ensure you can grab a seat.

The first seminar in 2018, running under the title ‘BS 5839-1: 2017 – What has changed?’ is presented by the FIA’s technical manager Will Lloyd, who also helped to write the materials for the FIA’s new qualifications in fire detection and alarms. Will is very well known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of British Standards, and can provide expert advice on a wide range of fire detection and alarm-centric issues.

This seminar covers the latest major revision of British Standard BS 5839-1, and the differences between this version and the old variant. Despite it being 2018, there may still be some aspects of the 2017 revision of this document of which you (or indeed your colleagues) may be unaware.

The update seminar covers a long list of areas including multi-sensor detectors in escape routes, L3 and L2 systems, the use of manual Call Point covers, places of ‘ultimate safety’, manual Call Point locations, communications with the Fire and Rescue Service, staff alarms, video fire detection, types of fire detectors and their selection, the spacing and siting of automatic fire detectors, detector spacing and siting on honeycomb ceilings, the siting of optical beam smoke detectors, ceiling height limits, cables, wiring and other interconnections and inspection and servicing.

This isn’t a full and complete list, but does afford an indication of the degree of depth of the seminar. The FIA is committed to improving levels of professionalism throughout the industry and this seminar will provide plenty of insight into what is a complex subject area.

The second seminar running at FIM Expo will be discussing the future of the fire industry. What levels of competency will be expected or needed in 2018 and beyond? In the current climate, wherein pressures on responsible persons/duty holders are rising, what will potential clients be looking for in their chosen fire detection and alarm service company?

Entitled ‘The Future of Qualifications in Fire Detection and Alarms’, this is a good opportunity to hear from industry experts and ask questions about the movement of the industry over the next few years. This presentation will be given by the FIA’s general manager Martin Duggan who has served the organisation since 2001 and can offer a high level of intelligent and comprehensive observations and answers about the future of the industry and where it might be heading.

Both seminars at this year’s FIM Expo are fully Continuing Professional Development (CPD)-accredited. CPD certificates will be available to pick up from the registration desk at the end of the presentations.

Diversifying security businesses

Back to the big question: ‘If you’re in security, should you diversify your business and move into fire as well?’ There’s a great deal of support available should you wish to do so, but success within the fire industry does come with a number of hoops to jump through in the first instance. It’s important to understand that the fire industry is framed by a large amount of legislation that the security industry doesn’t necessarily have, including the need to be ‘competent’ (according to that legislation).

While the legislation doesn’t say how to show competence, accessing accredited CPD (such as by attending seminars at FIM Expo) should help, along with achieving third party certification through an independent scheme such as BAFE. This will allow you to become a member of the FIA, subsequently putting you in good standing to gain larger contracts from bigger clients who tend to be more insistent on third party certification That isn’t always the case, but it’s most certainly a growing trend.

However, only companies that have third party certification (such as BAFE SP203, SP101/ST104 or LPS1014) are eligible for membership of the FIA, so too manufacturers that are BS EN ISO 9001 certificated. We’re not interested in representing contractors who are not up to the job and who give the industry a bad name. Credibility and a reputation for high quality and second-to-none service are what FIA members are all about.

Becoming certified requires being audited by a certification body and the process can certainly be a somewhat long and confusing one if you’ve never worked within this area. Thankfully, the FIA enjoys a partnership with the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board and a wealth of information and help to ease you through the certification process.

Probationary membership is available for up to 12 months for any organisation which is on the way to achieving accreditation.

Ian Moore is CEO of the Fire Industry Association

Logistics for the day

The FIM Expo 2018 takes place at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol on Wednesday 25 April. The Expo is open from 9.30 am through until 3.30 pm. The first seminar focusing on BS 5839-1:2017 is being presented at 11.00 am, with the second concentrating on the industry’s future roadmap running at 2.00 pm

Although the event is free to attend, spaces are limited and it’s recommended to register in advance to secure a space. Full details are available on the event website. Visit www.fim-expo.com to register


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