At the time of writing the end of 2018 is fast approaching and we look forward to 2019 and new opportunities awaiting us. The current business climate in the Middle East, particularly in the UAE, remains challenging. The branch license renewal date is 24th December 2018 through the Dubai Association Centre (DAC) and we will get new office accommodation in January 2019 in purpose built facilities at the Dubai World Trade Center. This new office accommodation has been specifically designed to house international associations and forms part of the Dubai Association Center initiative to attract new associations to the region. The modern open plan office arrangement will support collaboration and networking between the different organizations which now total c.90 associations – the IFE being the 4th to be licensed under the scheme.
The branch covers all Countries that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and we are starting to receive membership enquiries and information regarding establishing IFE Groups under the branch from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The blockade of Qatar in the GCC region has made travel difficult to Qatar with flights only going from Oman and Kuwait directly to Doha in the region. Regional membership remains primarily from ex-pats registered with the IFE through the UK. These members are predominately working in industrial fire & rescue services within the Aviation and Oil & Gas (Industrial Sector), Regional Civil Defence Officers, Fire Training officers and Fire Engineers, however there are several members from the insurance sector and loss adjusters.
The branch is now well established as a regional hub for facilitating examinations supporting both March and October examinations. For the recent examinations on 8th October 2018 we supported 2 No. candidates sitting their respective papers. I personally invigilated and oversaw the examinations and it is warming to see that the candidates were well prepared for the exams and that they had the opportunity to sit these examinations here in the Middle East. Previously an examination centre only facilitated the March examinations, however with the introduction of the October exams candidates have more flexibility in preparation for sitting papers and also mapping their career progression.
95th Annual General Meeting (AGM) & International Conference (31st October – 1st November 2018)
The AGM and conference was well attended by the IFE’s global membership body of fire experts with the collective aim of striving to build a safer society. This year’s venue was the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and included workshop sessions running alongside the main conference presentations.
Following the AGM, the International Conference opened with Alasdair Hay, Chief Fire Officer of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, which focused on the centenary theme of `Young People and fire; reducing risks and saving lives’. The IFE was delighted to host Dame Judith Hackitt who provided an update on the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The conference also had a series of international speakers from around the world presenting on subjects including fires in nightclubs; school fires and the importance of sprinklers; wildfires; and fire safety strategies in healthcare facilities. Delegates also benefitted from updates from LABC, the NFPA and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The Centenary drinks and gala dinner took place in the National Museum of Scotland on 31st October 2018 with W.L. Gore & Associates (UK) Ltd sponsoring the drinks reception giving attendees a great platform to network with friends, colleagues and international delegates – the dinner was sponsored by UL. This event took place on the exact date that the IFE founding fathers formed the Institution 100 years ago.
International Presidents Address
Richard Fowler was installed as the incoming International President of the IFE for the year 2018-2019 and the retiring International President, Martin Shipp, handed over the Letters Patent for the Grant of Arms for the Institution. During his speech at the Gala Dinner Richard looked forward to the coming year and his main area of focus would be on competency and ethics and will conclude with the 96th International Conference to be held in Brighton on 17-18th July 2019.
International General Assembly (IGA) Update
The IGA took place on the 30th October 2018 prior to the AGM and Conference. The IGA was well attended by the international branches and it gave the opportunity for the Head Office teams and CEO to present reports to the IGA and also for the branches to highlight key items from their reports submitted to the board.
It was pleasing to hear in the HQ reports that international membership has now risen above the 10,000 mark (10,092) with online membership now available and the referee process only applying to Fellow, IEng and CEng. The online membership programme (OMAP) is nearing completion of testing etc. and will hopefully be available for all grades of membership during the summer of 2019. The Affiliate Company Membership is under review by the HQ team and applications for the Risk Assessors register were up over 100% on previous years. It was also reported that examination entries were up 8% and 864 candidates sat the Level 2 Operations and Command examination. The Finance Team are continuing to develop a better and more efficient operational platform to improve efficiency – a good example is the use of electronic members voting which saves c.10,000 GBP.
Neil Gibbins provided an update to the IGA on the Grenfell Tower incident. Neil highlighted that there are approximately 450 buildings with similar cladding issues and the police investigation and public enquiry are on-going at the current time. Neil, the CEO and International President also highlighted key areas the IFE are looking at for its future development and these included:
- The online membership application project – affiliates and students can already make online applications with the benefit of reducing paperwork and administrative costs.
- The petition for a Royal Charter – the Privy Council application has been submitted and is currently undergoing due diligence by the Privy Council to determine if there are any objections to the IFE receiving a Royal Charter. With the on-going enquiry into the Grenfell Tower incident it may be prudent to put the application on hold and this is being discussed at the IFE Board level.
- Membership – to focus on growing the IFE and providing enhanced membership benefits to attract and retain members.
Planned CPD events and visits
Locally within the region we are looking to work with other associations for joint events and our own standalone IFE events. We will be meeting with the RIBA Gulf Chapter committee in the new year to discuss an event in 2019 and future collaboration and we are also in discussion with the British Institute of Facility Managers who have recently registered at the Dubai Association Centre. We will be having further dialogue with UAE Training Academies and are working on planned events that give groups such as architects a `taste’ of a fire-fighters role.
Significant challenges and risks
Key personnel on the committee have changed jobs recently which requires a change to their residency visa in the UAE – this impacts on all local applications and has been a key frustration in delaying the opening and operation of the bank account. Currently the account is dormant to avoid unnecessary bank charges until we can get sufficient sponsorship to maintain minimum funds to operate without receiving banking charges.
The primary short term challenge remains to obtain a sponsorship programme to ensure that the branch has sufficient funding and can operate with a formal licence and business address which is mandatory for the region. The full establishment of an effective committee to implement the Branch Business Plan also remains a key target and we are hoping to announce new committee members early in the new year. A medium to long term goal remains to encourage and promote local nationals to become committee members to reduce the risk of ex-pat officials relocating back to the UK or their home country.
Establishing a programme of events and meetings for regional members and to encourage expansion of the Branch Membership is a primary focus in the business plan and it is encouraging to see both enquiries for new and upgrading membership coming through. There has also been a lot of activity from companies applying to receive formal IFE recognition of Training Courses, Training Providers and Educational Programmes. To this end the IFE review specific training courses, the general quality of training providers and educational programmes of study. Successful applications result in IFE recognition, the use of the appropriate IFE recognition logo (for use on certificates and promotional materials) and inclusion within the relevant online IFE recognition directory.
Moving forward it is encouraging to see the IFE is well placed and has the international standing and expertise to promote and introduce best practices within the built environment – wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2019.
For more information, go to www.ife.org.uk/branches/GCC-UAE