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Serious solutions to fire safety

31 January 2018

Specialist fire services providers, such as the Fire Solutions division of PTSG, are well positioned to deal with proposed regulatory changes.

The demand for reliable and effective fire prevention and suppression systems is on the rise.

A new regulatory system and improvements to safety standards are imminent with the full government-commissioned independent report into Building Regulations and Fire Safety due in spring 2018.

Following publication there will be an inevitable increase in the demand for dependable safety systems. Yet putting safety first to ensure that complex buildings are safe and continue to be so doesn’t hinge on the publication of the report.

For some of those providing comprehensive fire solutions the time to improve safety measures has always been a priority grounded in the present.

The new Fire Solutions division of Premier Technical Services Group PLC (PTSG) helps clients across the UK by offering consultancy, design, installation and maintenance support to keep buildings and their users safe.

PTSG’s Chief Executive, Paul Teasdale, said: “Changes to the regulatory regime are imminent but our culture, attitude and rigorous approach has seen us take ownership of the meaning of fire safety. What drives us in this area is the delivery of safety systems that endure throughout the life cycle of a building, going beyond the minimum requirements of compliance.

“We already understand the importance of putting safety first and it’s in our DNA to take responsibility for playing a leading role as the industry’s working methods transform and we build a safer future.

“Like many others we’re waiting for the publication of the report but we’re not waiting to respond to it. We’re acting now to provide confidence in systems of fire regulation and improve fire safety measures for our clients.

“We deliver all works to the highest standards of safety and compliance to ensure that, in the event of a fire, buildings and all building users are protected.”

The government-commissioned interim review has already drawn the conclusion that the current regulatory system needs changing.

In a submission to the review the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recommended that improved fire safety measures are taken in all residential buildings.

All of which highlights the need for cultural and behavioural change across the sector in line with PTSG’s attitude. For those like PTSG, who are on the front foot, any challenges that new regulations bring to compliancy will be embraced.

Paul Teasdale said: “If you choose to work in an area where the stakes are so high it is not good enough to just comply with legislation.

"You need to pro-actively drive the constant wide-ranging change that ensures the safety of everyone, and to work with those who are not waiting for the regulations to change before work is done. Safety is paramount, it’s as simple as that.”

PTSG is firmly established, providing comprehensive provision to public bodies and private companies across the UK that keeps their residents, students and customers safe.

The Group’s Fire Solutions division is comprised of the installation and maintenance of wet risers, dry risers and sprinkler systems, emergency lighting and fire extinguisher services, with skilled installation, testing and maintenance teams located across the UK.

PTSG is also the leading specialist installer of wet and dry riser systems in the UK and provides a complementary maintenance service for installations.

Wet risers are systems of valves and pipework which are kept permanently charged with water for firefighting purposes, while dry risers are empty systems that can externally connected to a pressurised water source by firefighters, for distributing water to multiple levels of a building during fire hazards.

While the retrofitting of fire protection measures to existing buildings come into sharper focus in the coming months and years, the reliability, efficiency and effectiveness of sprinkler systems is not news.

With good reason RIBA, the National Fire Chiefs Council and other official bodies are recommending their installation. The reasons are obvious. There have been no multiple fire deaths in the UK as a result of a fire in a dwelling with a working sprinkler system.

In most cases, just one sprinkler is capable of extinguishing a fire; when a fire reaches extremely high temperatures, the sprinkler closest to the fire activates, spraying water directly onto the flames beneath it.

Sprinkler systems are not currently mandatory in schools in England and Northern Ireland. The proportion of new schools built with sprinklers has dropped from about 70 per cent a decade ago to just a third, with just five per cent of all schools in England and Wales fitted with sprinkler systems.

In September 2017, PTSG announced it had extended its fire solutions provision to encompass the installation and maintenance of sprinkler systems through the acquisition of UK Sprinklers Ltd. – a business acquisition that was six months in the making.

The organisation was integrated into PTSG’s Fire Solutions division following a strategic reorganisation of the Group’s four dedicated divisions.

Subsequently, in 2017 PTSG’s highly trained Fire Solutions team installed sprinkler systems to more than 3,500 residential buildings, including at One Regent in Manchester, Salford’s MediaCityUK, the Royal Arsenal Riverside Complex in south east London and Coventry’s Belgrade Plaza.

It will come as no surprise that current Fire Safety Building Regulations are focused on ensuring the safe evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire.

However, buildings, and businesses that operate there, are regularly damaged and destroyed because of fire. In the case of Grenfell, the consequences were much more serious.

While it is a fact that the number of fires is declining, any new regulation will aim to do more to protect both people and the buildings in which they live and work.

The construction of buildings, along with retrofitting that creates resilient buildings will, of course, also ensure that the tackling of fires is also safer, easier and cheaper, along with reducing the cost of fire to the economy, the national finances and communities.

This sector is clearly facing a turning point but it is one at which the leading players will increase the size and scale of the work they deliver. Yet, given the sensitivity surrounding regulatory change, it is understandably the type of expansion that can only be built on existing experience, capabilities and track-record.

The shift in the sector’s approach will only suit those that are as resilient as the buildings they protect. The strength of PTSG is not only reflected in its growing customer base.

In 2017, the Group was awarded the Corporate LiveWire Innovation & Excellence award for Excellence in Commercial & Residential Safety Solutions, recognising its work to install, test and maintain a vast range of building safety solutions.

PTSG already offers the thorough, high-quality service that the market of the future will demand, from initial design and feasibility, through to installation, testing, replacement, maintenance and certification.

The company provides a complete fire protection solution to ensure that facilities remain safe and compliant and one that protects all building users. It’s a turnkey fire services solution that building managers, construction companies and local authorities have already grown to trust.

The Group’s other divisions and niche know-how also enable it to offer a number of complementary building access and safety services as well as maintaining everything needed to ensure the safe and efficient operation of buildings.

Paul Teasdale said: “Our Fire Solutions division has teams on standby across the UK to meet the demand for dependable fire safety systems in all kinds of public and private buildings.

"Whilst most organisations operate addressable services in this important area of work, we supply core services that help to prevent problems.

“We have skilled teams around the country ready to provide a range of installation, testing and maintenance work around the clock.”

As for the future, building on the Group’s enviable strategic approach and forward-thinking will stand it in good stead. The publication of the independent report will be a milestone but PTSG is already acting in a way that others in the sector would do well to replicate.

Paul Teasdale added: “The regulations will be overhauled, building safety rules will be rewritten, and there’ll be a clamour to retrofit buildings. There is definitely a need for big change and improvements and it is in everyone’s interests.

“Recent tragic events have been a wake-up call. There will be many challenges ahead but, ultimately, everyone needs to be satisfied that their own home, school, hospital or workplace is safe and that everything that can be done is being done.

"That’s always been a priority in our thinking which is why we don’t need to wait for the final report in order to do what we do.

“We already have industry recognition for our work and can be confident that what we offer is fit-for-purpose.

"The consequences of fire are very serious and there’s no room for anything other than a serious, strategic and thorough approach to fire safety. We’re working in changing times and our Fire Solutions division will continue to lead the way.

"The level of reassurance we provide is what buildings, their owners, users and residents rightly deserve.”

The independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety is being led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Its purpose is to make recommendations that will ensure we have a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future and to provide further assurance to residents that the complete system is working to ensure the buildings they live in are safe and remain so.

It is examining the building and fire safety regulatory system, with a focus on high-rise residential buildings.

This interim report provides the findings to date and direction of travel for the review, ahead of a final report expected to be submitted in spring 2018.

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