UK Fire industry delivers on reducing emissions

October 15, 2009

bad-180-150If you’ve never heard of Blog Action Day, this post is part of a concerted action by bloggers around the world to write about the same topic – climate change – on a single day: Blog Action Day (15 October).

In order to help combat climate change, the reduction of emissions from fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gases) covered by the Kyoto Protocol is now required by EU law and UK regulations. Typical uses of F-Gases are in air conditioning systems (both for buildings and vehicles), refrigeration, and foam sealants.

In the case of fire protection, this means companies supplying and maintaining firefighting systems which use F-Gas extinguishants have obligations to prevent the leakage of those gases. In the UK, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) has worked with Eurofeu (the European trade association) to ensure that the requirements of the regulation did not unfairly penalise the industry but still resulted in significant environmental protection.

The resulting European legislation recognised that working to the industry standard ISO 14520 means that you will meet the requirements of the regulation. Having had success in influencing the content of the legislation, the FIA then worked (and is still working) with DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) on the UK implementation of the legislation. The result of this close working relationship is that under the UK regulations relating to the training, examination and competence requirements published in 2009, the FIA was listed as the examination and certification body for fire protection.

A training course was developed and has subsequently been rolled out, with over 100 engineers being trained so far. This means that the trade has a far better understanding of the environmental impact of F-Gases and their role in reducing them, while maintaining good quality fire protection.

For more information on how the F-Gas Regulations might affect you, visit the dedicated section on the FIA website.

This blog is part of . You can read more perspectives on climate change from my colleagues by following the links below:

The Alarmist

The Security Lion

These Digital Times

KBB News

Corporate obervations


What fire risk assessment?

October 5, 2009

The fallout from the tragic Lakanal House fire in Camberwell, south London has resulted in media attention on the fire safety of high rise residential blocks up and down the country. The latest development is a report by BBC News which says that there are hundreds of such blocks in London which do not even have a fire risk assessment in place.

If this is the case it is very worrying. Until now, the received wisdom has been that it was small to medium enterprises that were most hard to reach in terms of education on their responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and this was highlighted in the first official review of the legislation. It beggars belief that local authorities or their housing bodies – who by definition are much closer to central government and especially the Communities and Local Government department – can have been so ignorant about their fire safety duties over the last three years.

Let us hope that at the very least, the tragedy at Lakanal House has thrown the spotlight on fire safety duties under the law, and that organisations and individuals will act to make their buildings safer.

Fire safety clarification for landlords?

December 19, 2008

I hear on the grapevine that residential landlords can expect some form of futher guidance on the fire sfaety measures they need to take under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The recently published LACORS guidelines were the first attempt at providing national standards for the private rental sector, but landlords are still concerned that some local authorities impose higher standards. The additional guuidance is to come in the form of Frequently Asked Questions on interpretations such as whether battery powered detectors will suffice rather than hard wired ones.

Insurance industry renews interest in fire safety?

November 27, 2008

Is the UK insurance industry finally throwing more of its weight behind fire safety standards and thereby reducing losses from fires? After a decade during which the industry seemed to exert less direct influence on specifiers and businesses, it has come up with its own guide to fire safety in buildings – an enhanced Approved Document B. It succeeds the Design Guide previously published by the Fire Protection Association, but for the first time it integrates the provisions of Approved Document B with enhanced measures for increased building protection and business continuity. Copies are available from RIBA Bookshops.

I was beginning to wonder whether insurers had given up being a major player in fire safety. Just a few months ago, there was controversy over the relative merits and claims of mineral wool and PIR insulated panel suppliers and the approval scheme, LPS 118.  A campaign drew in MPs and fire chiefs and subsequently resulted in a change to the wording in the Guide to the Fire Performance of Sandwich Panels, published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). But try as I might, could I get someone from the ABI to explain the rationale of the amended wording and perhaps bring an end to the very public criticisms being thrown around? I would have had better luck getting free car and home insurance for life!

Update on 12 December 08: More signs of insurers becoming more closely involved. Norwich Union urges companies to carry out fire risk assessments, but says these needn’t be over complicated. The company also provides businesses with guidance on all aspects of managing their risks on a dedicated website. And US-based FM Global has carried out research suggesting that companies that manage their risks properly are more likely to get higher ratings from investment analysts. Read more here.

Does anyone have more examples?

Are new homes safe from fire?

November 13, 2008

Pacific Wharf in London's RotherhitheA recent report about non-existent or sub-standard fire protection in a luxury riverside apartment building in London’s Docklands throws a spotlight on the building control approval process. Is the fact that a modern building can be constructed, inspected and passed with such a lack of fundamental fire safety a rare event, or does anyone know of other examples of this happening?

Channel Tunnel fire-update

October 15, 2008

Another major issue for Channel Tunnel fire safety is that of using open sided freight shuttles to transport lorries and their cargoes. For a good analysis of the issues involved, see Dover and Deal MP Gwyn Prosser’s column at

Channel Tunnel fire

October 1, 2008
Service disruptions are set to continue for several months

Service disruptions are set to continue for several months

Although the official cause of September’s fire in the Channel Tunnel has yet to be determined, it’s highly likely that operators EuroTunnel will be reviewing whether to install some kind of suppression system on their open freight wagons. After the official report into the last major fire in 1996, EuroTunnel did conduct tests into a watermist suppression system but concluded that these were not operationally viable at the time.

Safety in the Channel Tunnel is regulated jointly by the French and UK governments under an intergovernmental commission. UK representatives to that commission are advised by the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority. When I spoke to EuroTunnel after last month’s fire, they told me that “cost has never been an issue when Channel Tunnel safety has been concerned”. But the reality is that under UK and French law, the commission can only require safety measures if they are “reasonably practicable”. In other words, like all risk management and safety issues, the cost of implementation is part of the decision process.