Steve Martin is head of the Fire and Security Association (FSA), an ECA specialist group. Here, he explains the variety of ways it tries to keep us all safe – and how SELECT continues to play an integral role after a decade-long partnership
Hi Steve. What exactly is the FSA?
We’re a specialist group within the ECA, working in partnership with SELECT to represent the whole of the fire and security systems sector in the UK. We represent the practitioners’ perspective, i.e. those who are designing, installing, commissioning, maintaining and monitoring fire, emergency and security systems. Like SELECT, we don’t really have any influence on the manufacturers themselves – it’s more the people who install their systems. Anyone with a specific fire or security accreditation is able to join us too, and we currently have about 280 members
What are your aims?
To enhance the credibility and capability of our industry, for example by raising awareness of good practice and seeking to make a positive contribution to industry standards. We also aim to provide high quality services that help our members to succeed and to positively influence the technical, commercial, training and industrial relations environment in which our members operate. As an example, recently our focus has been on skills to ensure we’re helping them to be maintained and also introducing new ones into the sector, which we’ve been very successful at. And secondly, we carry out lobbying if we think something’s not going to work or will present a burden to the industry. For example, a while ago there was a move towards business licensing for alarm receiving centres, which we felt would have caused problems, which we lobbied successfully against. So we use these lobbying skills to try to ensure that we maintain high standards for everyone.
Why is it important?
You only have to look at something like the Grenfell Tower disaster to see why fire safety has never been more important. It really highlighted the need for having the right skills and right systems put in place, in particular for high-rise buildings. National security is obviously another big issue for all of us too, so ensuring we have the right systems, installed and maintained correctly, is tremendously important. These systems must do what they’re meant to – one that isn’t installed correctly is no use to the police and other enforcing authorities. It’s important that these systems are installed properly and that we’ve got the right people doing that.
What are the most common dangers you warn people about?
Again, after Grenfell, fire safety is currently a big issue. People need to understand their responsibilities when it comes to fire safety in all types of buildings – it’s an issue our members face time and time again. The same is also true for security systems. So it’s vital that the correct surveillance is in place, but it’s equally important for people to understand their responsibilities within that system, and also to keep it well maintained. They’re the constant issues across the board.
How do you gauge members’ views?
The FSA has its own standing committee, which SELECT is part of, that helps us gauge the views of the industry. We also have regional meetings and seminars, where we present to clients, specifiers and surveyors – anybody that has an interest in fire or security. We also collaborate very closely with certification bodies such as the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) and the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). And we work very closely with other trade bodies and stakeholders to ensure we get our message across.
Tell us more about your awards event.
We have two FSA awards – the Peter Greenwood Security Award and the Ian Marsh Fire Award. The first recognises individuals for their outstanding contribution throughout the whole security system industry, so it’s not just for members of SELECT, the ECA or FSA; it’s for anyone who deserves recognition. And the Ian Marsh award recognises individuals who have demonstrated enthusiasm and selfless concern in the fire and emergency industry. It’s usually open for nominations during the summer and early autumn, is judged in October time, and then the two winners are invited to the IFSEC Security and Fire Excellence Awards in London in November. Again SELECT is closely involved – president Kevin Griffiths was judge this year. At this year’s event, the Ian Marsh Fire Award was won by Tony Maskens, who is Technical Schemes Manager at BAFE, while Paul Tennent, Sales Director, Tavcom Training, won the Peter Greenwood Security Award.
Do the awards help raise your profile?
I’d say we have a reasonable entry rate, but it could always be better – although I think we could all wish for more! However, the FSA has really gained traction over the past three or four years, especially within England, and is being recognised as an association that really represents its members’ interests in a variety of ways, which is great news.
What about the FSA and SELECT?
When the FSA was formed back in 2007, SELECT was one of the first partners to join forces with us. Strategically it was a very important decision – and still is. Ten years on, SELECT is still a very strong partner and we have regular conversations as we work in partnership together. SELECT is also part of our standing committee, so it’s central to the policy engine going forward and an integral part of the FSA. SELECT’s input is invaluable as we’re mindful that legislation can often be slightly different in Scotland than it is down south. We do collaborate very closely between ECA and SELECT, ensuring that we’ve got the right information out there, but there are some regional variances in the way things are done. That’s why we really represent the FSA within England, Wales and Northern Ireland and SELECT represent us in Scotland thanks to our close partnership. So if any SELECT Members in Scotland do have queries, they should really go to SELECT for their fire and security information and to receive additional support.
To find out more about the FSA and its work, visit the ECA website at www.eca.co.uk