Meet the Expert – Billy Robertson

Billy Robertson, our Fire and Security Team Leader talks about the new updates to the Fire Detection and Fire Alarms Systems regulations. Billy has worked at McGill for over 30 years and his team are currently delivering several Smoke Detector replacement contracts for Housing Associations and Local Authorities.

Q – What type of work does the Fire and Security department carry out at McGill?

A – The Fire & Security team at McGill carry out a wide variety of work covering all aspect of the security industry including; the installation of both domestic and commercial Fire alarms, 24-hour maintenance cover and testing. We also deliver Intruder alarm installation and maintenance, CCTV, Door entry and access control and nurse call. Although our team are exceptionally experienced and qualified in all aspects of the security industry we specialise in the installation and maintenance of warden call systems for various housing associations and councils.

Q – What does the upgraded Fire regulations mean for McGill?

A – Due to the fact all houses have to meet the new standards by February 2021 there is a lot of this kind of work currently out for tender, therefore many opportunities to win more of this type of work, which is great for McGill as we continue to grow.

With so many of these contracts available due to the new regulations, many electrical companies without Fire & Security experience are competing to win this type of work. We have a team made up of some of the most experienced Fire & Security engineers in the industry and fantastic relationships with key suppliers such as AICO, whom we work with constantly to ensure our guys are always fully trained on the latest products and practices.

We are currently involved in the installation of domestic smoke/heat and CO detection for several Housing associations in approximately 5000 properties and hope to pick up more of these contracts.

Q – What are your thoughts on the updated regulations?

A – Having worked in this industry for many years I have seen many new regulations implemented. My view is that, when we are talking about the adoption of technology that is designed to prevent unnecessary loss of life, any new regulations are welcome! After the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower it became apparent that changes had to be made. A ministerial group met, and as part of this work, agreed that a consultation period on fire detection originally planned for later this year should be prioritised.  As a result, all homes must now have an agreed amount of detection depending on the size and layout of their properties.

Q – What do the new standards mean in reality?

A – The new standards require; one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for daytime living purposes, one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey such as hallways and landings and one heat alarm installed in every kitchen.

All alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. There is also a requirement for carbon monoxide detectors where there is a carbon – fuelled appliance (such as boilers fires (including open fires), heaters and stoves) or a flu.

The requirements also govern that you have all alarms interlinked. You may not hear the alarm closet to the fire but, by having an interlinked system, you will be alerted immediately.

Q –Do all alarms have to be hard wired?

A – No, not all of them. The new regulations allow you to install tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms along with mains wired alarms

Q – How achievable do you think the Governments deadline of February 2021 is?

A – By now most Housing associations and councils are well on the way to meeting these deadlines, with most having either already appointed a contractor to complete the necessary work or are currently going through the procurement process. A lot of home-owners are not aware of the regulations and tenants of private landlords should also be aware of the new regulations and that it is their landlords responsibility to ensure their property complies with the new standards.