The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) has been a key player in the global fire sector for more than 100 years. We work on an international level to make the world safer from fire, enabling our membership (10,000 strong and growing) to enact this change.
The pressure on the fire sector to change and adapt has never been greater. The increasing toll of bushfires and wildfires cannot be ignored, with the last fire seasons being among the worst on record. Whatever the reason, climate change is playing a real and pervasive part in placing whole communities and eco systems at risk. With active members and branches in Australia, New Zealand and North America, we hear first-hand about the devastation fires of this scale leave behind. Alongside this are the enormous dangers and logistical challenges our fire service colleagues face protecting people and the landscape within which they live. The IFE extends our heartfelt thoughts and best wishes to all those affected by the Australian bushfires.
The imperative to provide new and innovative methods of construction to reduce the carbon impact of building is providing new challenges to architects, builders and firefighters alike. Recent experience in the UK of building fires behaving differently to how we expect them to behave with significant and unexpected fire spread is one such manifestation. Fire and Rescue Services recognise the need to adapt procedures and equipment to meet those challenges, as do the construction industry who need to learn from these lessons and ensure new buildings are as safe as possible. Additionally, the rapid spread of fire across the external facias of buildings has been a challenge worldwide, with the devasting impact felt in the UK with the Grenfell tragedy, which is never far from our thoughts. The IFE works with colleagues across the world, sharing best practice, resources, knowledge and technology and providing expert opinions on a range of panels, working groups and boards as a professional, technical and non-biased voice of the fire sector. These include participation in the working groups arising from Dame Judith Hackitt’s work post-Grenfell, to working alongside Fire and Rescue Services in projects to capture operational learning, and providing a database of firefighter safety events and significant fires as an open source on our website.
But research and development and participation in reviews is only one part of the process of change. The challenge of ensuring and demonstrating competence in fire professionals is something the Institution has been playing a role in for all of its existence. However, never before has the Institution been called upon in such breadth and depth to assist the sector. The IFE’s examinations are now used as a benchmark worldwide with many Fire and Rescue services using them as a prerequisite for promotion. Additionally, the IFE as a Professional Engineering Institution (PEI) provides third party accreditation that many governments and bodies seek. This has led to substantial growth in all grades of our registered engineers and our registers of professions including Fire Risk Assessors and Auditors. This model (originally UK-based) is attracting interest from other countries where the IFE is represented.
At IFE International HQ we have launched an internal Programme for Change to ensure that the provision and capabilities we give to our membership and the fire sector as a whole is the best it can be. We’re excited to continue the growth and awareness of our Institution on a global platform and the Programme provides us with the blueprint and momentum to do so. Part of this is ensuring we represent the whole fire sector, from Fire and Rescue Services, Fire Safety Engineers, insurers and risk assessors. I cannot overstate the breadth of knowledge and expertise coming out of this organisation and the pride we have in enabling our diverse and international membership to progress the sector we all feel so passionately about.
So, the IFE is undergoing a significant and sustained period of growth in membership, engineering council registrants, examinations and CPD events. This growth recognises the need for members to be supported by their employers and employers to be actively involved in our activities and offerings. The new corporate partnership with Fire and Rescue Services (UK and international) and commercial organisations, will form the link and partnership between the Institution, the member and the employer and we see this as a welcome evolution in the Institution’s activities. It is our intention that Corporate Partnerships will allow the IFE as a Professional Body to provide Examinations, Membership, Registration and competency frameworks as an organisational solution to employers, who will then share this with people within their remit. The increasing growth in membership brings the ability to commit to other opportunities to support the fire sector in countries where the IFE is, as yet, not well established and where the dangers from fire are even greater. The next phase of the Programme for Change will provide a focus on developing new branches in these countries, to assist wherever and whenever we can as part of the IFE’s charitable aims and objectives.
I hope many of you will join us at our International Conference held in Birmingham, UK from 22nd to 23rd July this year. It’s sure to be a great event, full of networking, CPD workshops and best practice sharing. Find out more here: www.ife.org.uk/events and I’d encourage you to look at our membership if you haven’t considered joining us before: www.ife.org.uk/membership