Monthly Archives: September 2018

Climate change presents new problems for the emergency services

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The dry summer has caused a record number of wildfires. This may well become the new normal, as climate change suggests that there may be many periods of drought in the future. This will present challenges for the emergency services, who will require new equipment, knowledge and training.

Whether summer 2018, with its extreme temperatures, will retain the record for being the hottest for many years, or whether climate change will make summers such as this the new normal, is a good question.

– Our scenarios indicate that in the future, the summer months will bring more precipitation in Northern Europe and less in Southern Europe. Put another way, there won’t be a great difference in the amount of precipitation, it will just be more divided. It will also be heavier and we can expect longer periods without rain, says Mikael Scharling, a climatologist with the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

A higher level of drought requires more weeks dominated by high pressure, which keeps precipitation away. But whether periods of high and low pressure will become longer – such as the period of high pressure we have seen this year, remains to be seen.

New requirements for operational crew and equipment
With more dry periods in the future, operational crew, who have been on overtime this summer, should be prepared for this becoming a regular occurrence.

– If dry periods in summer become the norm, this will place completely new demands on both men and machinery. The summer has presented new challenges to take into account in our risk-based dimensioning, including scenario descriptions and capacity analysis. For example, we have experienced more wildfires and fires in woodland areas, says Emergency Services Manager, Søren Lundhild and goes on to say:

– In woodland, it’s often difficult to gain access with the equipment we have today, and it’s essential that we get in quickly so that a fire does not develop further. I think we have to look into the possibility of acquiring light vehicles such as ATVs with lightweight extinguishing equipment and other materiel.

Forest fires also burn into the roots of trees under the earth, so ground pins with water attached can also become necessary. The use of drones to gain a better overview of the spread of the fire in difficult terrain will also be useful for the fire manager.

– In addition, we will need to look at emergency management statistics to see how we can improve our competences to take the right decisions. We need to capitalise on the experience of outside experts in managing the threats posed by drought. And training must be combined with knowledge of national wind conditions, Lundhild says.

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25 years of qualified training: The course “Fire Safety: Technical Cycle” at VdS

Preventive fire protection in the company must be lived and implemented by people. Well-trained fire protection managers play a decisive role here. For good reason, they are often mandatorily required by building supervisory authorities, the fire brigade or insurance companies. This summer, the VdS Training Centre celebrates the 25th anniversary of the “Fire Safety: Technical Cycle” training course and has successfully trained more than 10,500 participants to date. And all this right from the start, with high demand and very good customer ratings throughout: 99% of the participants recommend the training to others.

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With the start of the course in June 1993, VdS laid the foundation for a regulated, qualified training of fire protection managers in Germany, which was not available before. The intensive and practical training course was developed in close cooperation with the association for the promotion of fire protection in Germany (vfdb) and in accordance with the training model of CFPA Europe. The extensive teaching material with all important topics of fire protection systems, structural and organisational fire protection is taught by more than 10 different speakers, all of whom are both proven specialists and practitioners in their field.

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Today, the course takes place at six German locations with a total of 18 dates per year. Participants come from all industries, from industrial or manufacturing companies as well as from sales outlets, hospitals or public institutions. They appreciate the high quality of the training and above all the practical relevance, as well as the international CFPA certificate, which is recognised in many European countries.

The VdS training centre also provides regular advanced training, which is so important for fire protection managers: graduates can choose from a wide range of fire protection courses and conferences to refresh, enhance or specialise their knowledge.

In 25 years, VdS has conducted almost 600 training courses of “Fire Safety: Technical Cycle” to date, with great response:

“I can only say that I really enjoyed the course – from start to finish it was full of important information for me. In my opinion, such high quality training is essential for any fire protection manager.” (Cornel Gratz, Immanuel Clinic Bernau/Herzzentrum Brandenburg).

Report prepares the ground for new Building Code in the wake of Grenfell Tower

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The first report following the Grenfell Tower fire in London has been published. It comes with recommendations for a new building code and fire safety system in England.

The fire at Grenfell Tower in London in the summer of 2017 cost 74 people their lives. The incident sent shockwaves through British society, and numerous studies into the Building Code, the fire and the response have been initiated. How could it all go so wrong? The report, which looked into the fire aspects of the building regulations in the UK following Grenfell Tower and a number of other fires, has now seen the light of day.  And, it concludes that new rules and systems are required.

– The report criticises the ‘race to the bottom’ when it comes to fire safety and fire technical requirements relating to construction in England, where the rules have been liberalised with no thought given to the consequences. For example, it is possible for developers to choose whether their project is to be inspected by local authority or private inspectors and, and at the same time, there are private inspectors who complain that building plans are never rejected, explains fire safety consultant Anders B. Vestergaard, who participated in the 5th International Tall Building and Safety Conference in London, where the Grenfell fire was top of the agenda.

Overall systems rather than individual materials
The situation has to change, the report underlines, while, at the same time, presenting a number of points that ought to be included in the forthcoming revised Building Code. Before the report came out, the public had high hopes that it would recommend a complete ban on the use of flammable materials on the facades of tall buildings. It didn’t. Instead, it argues that the solutions used in complex building projects are evaluated on a case-by-case basis whereby the overall solution is looked at.

– It’s all well and good discussing the individual materials, but the most important thing is that you give some thought to, and are able to document, the safety of the system overall. It’s difficult. In Denmark, there is a tradition of looking at both the cladding and insulation, but, for example, not at how the individual components are fitted, which also play a role in the overall fire safety properties of the solution, says Anders B. Vestergaard.

Clear division of responsibilities
The report also proposes that the future Building Code should include a clear division of responsibilities.  At the moment, it’s unclear who has responsibility for which aspects of fire safety and at what point in the process, and this results in carelessness and mistakes in this area.

– A classic scenario is that an architect designs a building that meets all the requirements. However, during the building process, the materials are replaced due to, among other things, the cost. Who has responsibility for that? The supplier has no insight into the final solution, and the developer perhaps has used the material in another context, or just does what he normally does. Therefore, it is unclear who has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the finished building reacts as envisaged in the event of a fire, says Anders B. Vestergaard.

This example is roughly what happened with Grenfell Tower, too. Originally, the building was to be clad inflammable insulation and zinc plates, which do not contribute to the spreading of a fire. However, they were replaced with aluminium plates with plastic cores during the building process, which contributed to the spread of the fire.

– Here, the level of knowledge in the industry is crucial. Consultants, inspectors and others must be aware of these things and know the pitfalls, so that something like this never happens,says Anders B. Vestergaard.

With the clear division of responsibilities recommended in the report, it will be easier to check that everyone is fulfilling their responsibilities. And, at the same time, punish those who aren’t. The report recommends that greater action is taken in the future and that the Building Code is given ‘real teeth’ – i.e. the ability to impose serious penalties. Now, the challenge lies in finding the political will to implement the report’s recommendations and produce the Building Code outlined in the report.