IFE South Africa Branch held its 66th AGM at Wanderers Protea Hotel in Johannesburg. It was followed by a seminar and workshop themed ‘Fire Safety – 100 years on, are we any safer?’.
The Branch’s annual awards ceremony included academic certificates and trophies to candidates who excelled in the international IFE examinations. There were presentations of certificates for continuous membership. With the most prestigious being a 50-year continuous membership award to Donald Clive Sparks – Life Member.
During the AGM, Branch President Mike Webber was re-elected and will serve for a further two-year period. Andrew Greig presented the keynote address, ‘Fire safety, 100 years on… are we any safer?’ as well as the ‘Recent large loss fires’ presentation i.e. Grenfell Tower and the Liverpool car park fire in 2017 and locally the Durban Warehouse fire and the Overstrand wildfires. Bevan Wolff presented a paper on the Bank of Lisbon fire in Johannesburg that claimed the lives of three fire fighters in 2018.
Richard Fowler, IFE International President was also in attendance and presented at both the AGM and the seminar. Richard provided a presentation on ‘Keeping fire fighters safe: a UK perspective’. Fowler shared an overview of the IFE’s Special Interest Groups including; Fire Investigation and Research, Fire Modelling, Fire Resistance, Fire Fighter Safety, Heritage Buildings, Transport and Smoke Ventilation as well as the Fire Fighter Safety Database. He also provided information on the UK’s incident command system, PPE, the safety officer, BA systems used, training and fitness, site-specific risk information and the responsibility and culture of UK fire fighters.
Kobus Strydom discussed ‘Building façade: construction and materials, fire safety testing and certification’ while Alex Gloster provided insight on standard operating procedures, policy and methodology during high-rise building fires.
Dr Susan Lamont of ARUP Fire Dubai shared her experience in ‘Safeguarding the fire strategy for the life of the building.’ She provided examples of the latest technology used during the design of fire safety systems.
André de Beer provided an interesting presentation on ‘Fire investigation evolution’. He shared videos of post flashover studies performed in the USA, showing the influence that NFPA 921 had on the process of the determining the origin and cause of the fires.
During Thursday’s workshop, Neil Gibbins gave a brief overview of Dame Judith Hackett’s findings on the Grenfell Tower fire via Skype. The delegates workshopped the enquiry’s main findings in small groups (grouped at different tables as fire services, insurers, engineers, risk assessors and others) as to how they saw the findings being of relevance to South Africa. Each group had different takes on the findings:
- Needs to be change in culture regarding fire safety
- Current regulatory system is not fit for purpose
- Problems regarding culture in building industry
- Life cycle of the building problematic and,
- Industry needs to take responsibility for maintaining integrity of buildings once they’re in use
Richard Fowler also provided a brief presentation on professionalisation in fire engineering, which was discussed in groups. Again, different viewpoints were offered from local government fire services, the engineering fraternity and insurance assessors as to how to make these role-players more ‘professional’.