As the year closes out and we move into 2021 there is a general feel of optimism for 2021. The year 2020 has challenged us all, whether this has been in our work or personal lives or within the wider community – looking back with fondness at 2020 may prove difficult for many of us. Rather than looking back, it’s a time for looking forward and within this update I’ll look at the wider international picture.
97th Annual General Meeting – Tuesday 3rd November 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IFE’s 97th AGM was held as a closed AGM on Tuesday 3rd November 2020 at the Institution of Fire Engineers HQ in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.
Roy Bishop informed the meeting that one election had been held for two vacancies for Directors this year and announced the duly elected and appointed directors serving office from the AGM in 2020 as Mark Chubb and Peter Wilkinson. Congratulations to both Mark and Peter who I know continue to support and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the board.
Bruce Varner CFO CFIFireE delivered his valedictory address from retiring as the International President and reiterated his commitment to focusing on the IFE as a truly global Institution and acknowledging the growth and development that the Institution is continuing to make. Bruce introduced and installed the incoming International President for the year 2020-2021 and we welcome Andrew Sharrad GradCert EngTech CFIFireE to continue the good work done by Bruce and the preceding international presidents.
Address from the International President
The AGM gave Andrew the opportunity to give his inaugural address and began by speaking about the fire industry in 2021 and beyond and the need for significant reform of building regulations and fire safety principles particularly considering notable world fire incidents. Andrew highlighted the need for governments, regulators, and others to enable and implement change but also that greater fire engineering resources and skills are required to ensure the success of reform and deliver permanent change. In his role Andrew as International President, he is committed to supporting our diverse and influential membership in their ongoing improvement of the industry as a whole and in making the changes needed for the future safety within the built environment.
Strategic Plan 2020-2024
In July 2020 an updated version of the strategic plan was endorsed by the board and the IFE is guided in all that it does by the objectives contained within the Strategic Plan 2020-2024. This document highlights the strategic priorities for the period 2020-2024. Collectively the IFE members share a commitment to envisioning, preparing, mentoring and building for the future, ensuring that the fire profession remains relevant and valued, protecting people, property and the environment from fire. IFE members, representing the whole spectrum of the fire sector, as well as giving to the Institution, benefit greatly from opportunities to meet, exchange views and develop professional networks and friendships on a global scale. As a professional engineering institution (PEI) the IFE assesses suitably qualified and experienced members for registration as Chartered Engineers (CEng), Incorporated Engineers (IEng) and Engineering Technicians (EngTech). It also operates a UK based Fire Risk Register for Assessors and Auditors as well as offering examinations proving competence. The primary objectives of this plan for 2020-2022 include:
Over the first two years of this plan we aim to:
- Introduce a recognition scheme for volunteer members
- Introduce a new resourcing model to support our activities
- Introduce a UK Initiatives Programme
- Introduce an International Initiatives Programme
- Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of all core business units
- Implement a performance management framework
- Deliver the business plan for IFE Global Ltd to generate a surplus
IFE Technical Director
The IFE have announced the appointment of Dr Peter Wilkinson CEng FIFireE CSci MIScT, as the new Technical Director. Peter will assume responsibility for developing the IFE’s position on wider issues within the sector, as well as informing members of the Institution’s involvement in the various working groups and industry forums, and the subsequent knowledge and guidance that will result from these. His remit will involve working closely with similar organisations and institutions worldwide, whilst also acting as liaison for global professional registration. Peter will support the existing IFE Technical Strategic Advisory Group (TSAG) and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to develop the Institution’s involvement and views on contemporary issues in the sector, as well as working closely with IFE headquarters staff to ensure the improvement of technical resources for members.
IFE Conference 2020 – Modern Methods of Construction
The conference and AGM were both heavily impacted by COVID and both were staged on a virtual platform allowing delegates from around the world to gather at the Fire 2020 digital conference which took place on 4th November 2020 to explore the theme of Modern Methods of construction.
With almost 400 delegates in attendance, the conference hosted global speakers from across the fire sector exploring issues related to the day’s theme of Modern Methods of Construction. The morning’s speakers included Jonathan O’Neill from the Fire Protection Association (FPA) who launched the organisation’s new ‘Know Your Building’ campaign, followed by Lord Stephen Greenhalgh who provided an insightful update about the Fire Safety Bill that is currently before UK Parliament.
Throughout the remainder of the day, delegates enjoyed presentations focusing on a range of themes including the future of Modern Methods of Construction, the challenges and risks these methods pose when it comes to fire safety and the role that standards play.
International speakers including Daniel Madrzykowski, Senior Research Engineer at the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute; Shane Ray, the President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association; and later in the day Dr Lori Moore-Merrell, the President and CEO of the International Public Safety Data Institute.
As his first official duty in his new role as IFE International President 2020-21, Andrew Sharrad GradCert EngTech CFIFireE brought the conference to a close with a wrap up of the day’s events, as well as a look to the year ahead for the fire sector.
The date for next year’s Fire 2021 conference is set for 9th November 2021. Planning for the event will begin shortly with further details and booking information will be made available in due course.
Membership – International Perspective
Here in the Middle East one of the most frequently asked questions about membership relates to holding an international qualification and the need for assistance with UK comparability, and where can this support be found? Having provided guidance personally to many colleagues and interested parties regarding joining and upgrading IFE membership status I thought it would be useful to highlight that The National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC) helps professionals that are qualified internationally who wish to practice in the UK.
UK NARIC is the designated United Kingdom national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills. It performs this function on behalf of the UK Government. UK NARIC can provide an official document that states how your international qualifications compare to UK qualifications. This is a Statement of Comparability and is widely used by those wishing to work, study or practice in the UK. More information can be found at www.naric.org.uk
Setting the Bar – the final report of the Competence Steering Group
A notable milestone for our industry came in October 2020 with the release of the Setting the Bar report published by the Competence Steering Group (CSG) of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) which the IFE has been heavily involved with.
The CSG was set up following the Grenfell fire tragedy to improve competence in the built environment. This work was initiated by the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review ‘Building a Safer Future’ which identified the need for competent persons to help make buildings safe as a key priority. The IFE took a central role in developing the industry response as a founder member of the CSG, leading the fire engineers’ group and giving support to many others, especially Building Control, Fire and Rescue, Risk Assessors and the overarching engineers group. The report represents two years of work that has brought 150 organisations together and the output is clear. Everyone taking on a safety related role in the design, construction and management of buildings should be competent in their role. Those with critical roles should have their competence tested and assured and the systems to provide that assurance are in place for all involved in fire engineering through membership of the IFE and registration through its Engineering Council license.
Alongside the report, the CSG has also published a separate report covering the new role of Building Safety Manager; Safer People, safer homes: Building Safety Management. This report again highlights the importance of, and competence requirements set out for the new role of Building Safety Manager.
Expo 2020 and UAE 50th Anniversary
In 2021 the UAE will be celebrating the Expo 2020 which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a big decision to take however, the resilience to continue and the drive shown by Expo 2020 Dubai for gearing up to help shape a post-pandemic world and create a better future for all should be commended worldwide. The global mega event will now run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, and during this period the UAE will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
There are few countries in the world that have experienced the upward trajectory of the UAE in the past five decades. In December 2021, the UAE will celebrate its 50th anniversary and the accomplishments that have seen the country go from an undeveloped desert to missions in outer space. The union of the emirates was announced on December 2nd, 1971 and the changes in the nation since that moment could not be starker. Embracing a truly cosmopolitan country more than 200 nationalities now call the UAE home, the country has the world’s tallest building, record-breaking attractions and some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Now, the UAE is ranked 17th in the top 20 economies in the world, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are leading tourist destinations, global and local events have gained worldwide attention and acclaim from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Dubai Rugby Sevens to the Special Olympics World Games.
As previously highlighted, we are continuing to work with our sponsors to develop programmes that add benefit to our local membership and beyond the region. At the centre of these discussions are training and enhancing opportunities to gain qualifications. The first initiative with our sponsors is to develop the idea of IFE qualification/ CPD in the Passive Fire Protection (PFP) arena, in particular, the knowledge around passive fire protection which has been a concern across the fire sector for a number of years. You will see that we are taking this very seriously and I will be embracing the pilot scheme and upskilling of qualifications for future regional roll out.
IFE Examinations 2021
The regional examination centre will be operational for the IFE exams which will take place on 11th and 12th March 2021. I personally will be looking forward to participating in the examinations as both a candidate and invigilator. It’s never too late to return to study and I will be looking to sit the IFE Level 3 Certificate in Passive Fire Protection. The content and structure of the qualification has been established to reflect best professional practice and covers key knowledge and understanding required by those working in the passive fire protection industry. As the industry embraces competence, I have decided to `upskill’ my knowledge through a formal examination route and hopefully promote the importance of self-development and enhancing international best practice.
In closing we should be looking forward to a more positive year ahead with the continued easing of global lockdown and getting back to `business as usual’ in whatever form this may be. We should also be looking forward to the Expo 2020 and 50th Anniversary of the UAE which should receive well deserved accolades and associated celebrations. In the interim it is important to stay safe and keep alert to avoid any future setbacks.
For more information, go to www.ife.org.uk/branches/GCC-UAE