We put the questions to Gavin Skelly, Founder of Fire Aware, to find out more about the organisation’s goals and aims.
Q. What is Fire Aware and how/why was the organisation created?
Fire Aware is a new membership organisation that has been created in the wake of the Grenfell disaster that looks to promote and encourage moral accountability in the delivery and procurement of fire safety across the UK. It’s not about what you do as a business specifically, more about how you behave when doing it.
Q. What is your professional background and what role do you serve within Fire Aware?
Although I’m the Founder of Fire Aware, I’m from a contracting background and having been in the construction industry for over 30 years, having witnessed the ‘race to the bottom’ and experienced many clients and their supply chain offsetting their moral integrity for the sake of financial gain.
Grenfell was a massive shock to the UK public but not as much as a surprise to those who knew that the issues that conspired to create Grenfell have been, and still are, endemic in the many sectors that have a duty of care to protect people.
Q. What are the aims and goals of Fire Aware?
To provide a singular identity to any business with a fire safety responsibility – irrespective of what that is. To do this, we use a simple corporate identifier that means the same on an electrician’s van as it does behind a hotel reception, on a building site hoarding or in a school.
The Fire Aware logo represents a set of moral obligations that the member company has committed to undertaking over the course of their membership and are aimed purely at the behaviour of the member company as it undertakes its services. The logo is cross-sector and simple in its message – we care about your safety.
Q. What types of individuals or organisations is the scheme targeted at?
It’s aimed at ANY business that in some way holds a duty of care to the end user. From the start of the supply chain right through to the end, these businesses are being trusted to keep people safe and we want the public to be able to recognise companies who are prepared to commit to this.
Q. What are the benefits of becoming a scheme member?
The corporate identity of a responsible business, and importantly, inclusion in a community of multi-sector businesses who all stand against the ‘race to the bottom’ and immoral procurement practice.
This community contains clients who are committed through their own obligations to only trade with other members which, we think, ring-fences the responsible clients and service providers in a protected group, and excludes those companies who are not prepared to join and identify their moral accountability.
Q. Is there a process that members have to go through before being accepted?
There is an initial vetting process where the business in question (where applicable) uploads accreditation and insurances for the services they provide, plus customer references and details on company history. In some cases, the business may also be required to undergo a peer review, carried out confidentially by other members of similar disciplines.
There may be some businesses that are keen to join, but accreditation isn’t available. In this example the applicant must present a case as to why their business is ‘Fire Aware’ – for example a hotelier can’t join/gain a fire safety accreditation, but they can evidence that they’re acting within the law by uploading documents to prove this, such as clean bill of health FRAs, staff training etc.
The annual subscription fee is based on the size of the business as we recognise that one man in a van is just as important in this attempt to change the culture of fire safety, as a Tier 1 contractor may be.
Q. How do you plan to track/vet current members moving forwards?
A combination of electronic upload of evidence which explains how the member is dealing with the moral obligations they have committed to when signing up to the Fire Aware T&Cs, and using our membership base as ‘agents’ of Fire Aware to provide boots on the ground and witness the member business’ operation – this could be a visit to a hotel or school, or a meeting with an electrician on-site.
The inspecting member is chosen from a suitably related discipline but is only there to assess the performance against the obligations committed to via the Fire Aware Charter that the member has signed up to.
Q. What sorted or traction has the scheme created so far?
We launched in late 2021 and have accrued over 100 members in that period including some prolific electrical engineering companies, individual electricians, plus many other multi-discipline specialist fire safety companies across the UK.
We’ve even taken a business from the USA into membership as that company recognises that the USA has very much the same fundamental problems as the UK. We’ve spoken alongside the BSF and the CPI at events such as UK Construction Week and have spoken on the FPA Stage at Firex.
Q. What are the hopes and aspirations for Fire Aware in the future?
Membership fees are being reinvested in subsidising the training courses offered by our Fire Aware members who provide any type of fire safety training. Education is the key to a safer fire industry and getting more qualified people into the industry is the way we believe this should be done.
So, we are using the revenue generated by our members that are acting responsibly now, to fuel the future improvement of the industry and, more importantly, the safety of those who rely on them.
Find out more about Fire Aware and how you can become a member here