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Manufacturer's viewpoint - January 2019

30 November 2018

Ian Moore talks about the steps the Fire Industry Association (FIA) is taking to ensure it can become a one-stop-association for the industry.

THERE IS a lot of divergence of various organisations in the fire industry, and the FIA wants to become the go-to position for anybody centrally – be that LGA, central government or home office. They are often in the position where they simply do not know who to speak to about something. Now as much as we at FIA like to do our bit, and we are very influential when it comes to a degree of areas, we also have to protect the interest of our own members. So, although we have a foot in the camp with Fire Safety Federation, we also do our own things at the same time in parallel with that.

If the Fire Sector Federation becomes the organisation that we all want it to be, then there will be no reason for us to pursue more lateral areas. As an example, we have got people looking at fire doors, we have extinguishing systems, we have some passive areas – even though there is another organisation ASAP. The truth of it is, we are constantly looking to diversify to make sure we become that one-stop-shop.

There is a double-edged sword. You need to stay focused and have an area of excellence. We are the experts in fire detection and alarms, portables, extinguishing, fire engineering, and all these disciplines. ASAP is specifically focused on passive areas. The sprinkler organisation is specifically focused on sprinklers and I absolutely get the need for that specialised and focused. The problem is, if you are a minister looking generically and holistically at fire safety, you have to search through a directory to decide who you want to speak to about certain issues.

It is of great importance that we stay focused, which is why we do it through councils. But we can extend the number of councils to take in other areas of expertise, so we can become more generic, and still maintain our focus.

What trade associations need to do is to be focused on certain areas, but also offer an answer to somebody who doesn't know the question is to start with, such as 'I've got a high-rise building, what is the best route for me to make sure that fires don't happen again'. It's an easy question with a horrendous answer. Where does it start? It can start with construction, but construction can have their own views. Do we put sprinklers in? Somebody else can say to put active fire detection in. But then there could be false alarm issues. Some say about evacuating, and others the Stay Put policy. So everyone has their own views and known concepts, so you need an organisation that has a foot in all camps, to give a very balanced view on it. The conundrum basically is focus, narrow focus and diversification all at the same time if possible.

We are looking to see what comes out the back of Dame Judith Hackitt's work and the approved documents and any other policy changes, and we need to adapt to that. Although we have been involved in the initial stages, and very heavily involved in a number of areas, we really need to see what has been listened to and our members – because they sell the stuff – will want to know that they can continue to sell stuff and how they adapt what they sell to meet new regulations and standards. Our direction will be based on what changes come through and we will focus on those areas.

Ian Moore is managing director of the Fire Industry Association. For more information, visit www.fia.uk.com