The Editor, Fire Safety Engineering

Dear Sir

I am writing on behalf of the British Fire Consortium to express the concern of our members following the recent publication of the 'Guidance Notes for Fire Services Trading Companies'.

The British Fire Consortium is the largest trade association in the fire industry and the majority of its members operate companies in potential direct competition with the services that may be offered by some fire authority companies.

We welcome the arrival of official guidance over the way fire services should conduct private trading in the future. However many of our members are still very concerned over what they believe to be a totally unfair trading situation when competing for business with an organisation operating under what may well be perceived to be an official government department. We note for example one Fire Authority Trading Company using literature promoting the unique benefits of using such a Local Authority service and trading under a name and logo that will be clearly interpreted by many businesses as 'official'.

We strongly support the suggestion of setting up a Liaison Body representing both fire service and private businesses to oversee and regulate all trading practices.

We trust that any Liaison Body set up will also verify that all fire service personnel who engage in commercial activities, including the installation and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems and other fire safety equipment will be 'competent' as defined in the relevant British Standards and will individually hold the appropriate third party certification. For example, the Code of Practice concerning the inspection and maintenance of fire extinguishers (BS5306 Pt 3) stipulates that this work should be carried out by a person who has participated on a training course run by a recognised body and subsequently passed an examination at the end which has been supervised by an independent body. Engineers working for BFC member companies achieve this level of competency by successfully completing the Consortium's own BSI/BAFE approved examination, required as part of BFC membership.

With regard to the provision of consultation services, we strongly feel that such services whatever the trading mechanism applied are not compatible with an enforcement authority's primary role and may indeed be considered as conflicting in many cases.

Yours faithfully

Roger Chamberlain

General Secretary British Fire Consortium

PO Box 2915, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 8PX
Tel 01273 297 274

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