Fire and Risk Management – training feature 4 Sep 2020
Derrick Hall, Director of Sales at leading manufacturer of life-critical control systems, Kentec Electronics Ltd, discusses why installer training has become increasingly important in recent years and how Kentec has continued to safely provide installer training throughout lockdown.
The Grenfell tragedy’s impact on the fire safety industry has been significant and reaches far beyond the specific systems and materials deemed now to be at fault. It has brought about increased scrutiny on all works carried out in public buildings, and a stronger culture of culpability for contractors, providing a tragic reminder that fire safety should never be an afterthought or considered in silo, but instead must be an integral part of a building’s design.
It is therefore our role as a fire safety manufacturer to provide the businesses that install our fire panels with detailed, robust and genuinely engaging training that provides them with the confidence and competence to specify systems that take into account the entirety of a building and the needs of their customer. Fire panels are sophisticated systems that need to be properly understood if their true potential is to be realised. Looking at it another way, failing to understand the technology you are handling could lead to claims of negligence should something go wrong.
To this end, in 2019 we launched the Kentec Installation Partner (KIP) scheme. It is a commitment to furthering standards and ensuring that we equip our installers with the necessary skills to make the most out of our systems. While training modules cover all fire detection and extinguishant systems in Kentec’s portfolio, our Taktis fire panel is a priority for the scheme, as its advanced networking, remote monitoring, reporting and smart building integrative technologies require thorough expertise.
Kentec Installation Partners
The scheme provides Kentec’s registered customers with a wide-ranging programme of bespoke training and best-in-class technical support, as well as dedicated software and enhanced product functionality. It has been designed to further professionalism within the industry and assure end users that their installations take best advantage of even Kentec’s most advanced and sophisticated panels.
It also provides access to Kentec’s protected partner site, Virtual Resource, as well as Taktis LE2 commissioning software and enhanced Bridge Functionality – the solution for migrating Syncro panel networks to the latest Taktis technology.
The KIP scheme has been designed to support legislation, as engineer competency is a requirement of BS5839-1: 2017 (Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises). Within this standard it defines a ‘competent person’ as being someone with the relevant training, experience and access to the correct tools, equipment and information to carry out a defined task.
It is also about enabling installers to demonstrate their capabilities within tenders and to their customers. Registered members are provided with certification logos and their details listed on our website, to help provide end users with the necessary assurances that the installer has been trained by the manufacturer. The next planned stage in the scheme is to provide installers with what effectively works like a driving license – a small card that identifies the systems and software that the installer is trained to install.
Key to championing installers is also that we remain true to our ethos of supporting open protocols. Our training covers how our systems integrate with third-party devices, providing installers with the flexibility to design systems to maximise what is already installed (protecting legacy investments), as well as their own and end-user preferences. This is especially useful within large and complex installations, such as hospitals, airports, rail stations, academic institutions, industrial sites and shopping centres – essentially where sites are spread over vast and sometimes disparate areas and where public safety is critical. These sites incorporate vast networks of fire panels and life safety systems, requiring the attention and knowledge of competent installers.
To support such high levels of expertise, in the KIP programme we have adopted the SMART principal of training – standing for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This methodology allows us to focus training to the necessary areas, setting goals for attainment that are measured and achievable, ensuring training clearly relates to real-world installations and detailing how much time will be required to instil training effectively.
It’s a professional training process that has been developed by personnel that have been chosen for their field experience, having lived and understood installation engineering, commissioning, technical support and product development, as well as with specific training expertise. Our current trainers have backgrounds in the Royal Navy and competitive sports worlds, providing useful transferrable structures and methodologies.
Introductory modules are all in an e-learning format, enabling installers to work at their own pace and ensure they have a good foundational knowledge before putting theory into practical modules.
Our practical training is physically hands-on, enabling our partners to literally test out panels, designed specifically to a building or site’s configurations. Key to the training ethos is that they are able to test systems out without any fear of making mistakes. When on site, an engineer may be understandably cautious not to do anything that could jeopardise a system’s integrity, which can mean taking the simplest route that does not take full advantage of available capabilities. In a training environment they are given the opportunity to fully test the programming and configuration options in a safe manner and without risk or consequences. Training starts with the more straightforward scenarios and becomes increasingly complex to include sector specific examples, until installers are equipped with a full understanding that can be replicated in any environment, regardless of complexity. Training modules are living documents, that change and evolve as technology changes and advances.
Impact of Covid-19 and lockdown
Following the Covid-19 pandemic and the global lockdown, we have had to adapt training to ensure there was no reduction in service while face-to-face interactions have not been possible. The challenge has been in providing hands-on training while it’s still not possible to have installers physically present in our training rooms. Video and document sharing platforms have been extremely useful in helping us to create ‘virtually-practical’ training courses. Through webinars and virtual training, we have been able to demonstrate in great detail how systems work – taking them through the same processes as you would if they were present, highlighting the inner workings of a panel and where necessary demonstrating where you can go wrong or not utilise a system to its full capabilities.
We are now re-starting classroom training, with reduced numbers in line with social distancing rules. But we have been encouraged that installers are still choosing virtual options over on-site training. Remote training continues to enable and encourage installers to ask questions, either during a live tutorial or subsequently through the portal. Through this portal, we can communicate directly with installers and point them to ‘how-to’ videos. It is proving a valuable tool and prompting installers to ask questions without fear of losing face.
This is also helping us to provide training further afield. Not only can we deliver training at short notice to installers on the other side of the country, but in fact we are also expanding the scheme to include our wide network of international customers. This also means that we are able to provide a far greener learning experience, supporting Kentec’s environmental goals.
We’re proud to now have more than 100 KIPs registered to the scheme and have welcomed our first international KIPs from China and Europe, and we look forward to delivering training across South East Asia and the Middle East. Our registered KIPs span the entire professional lifecycle, including both engineers and technicians, and from apprentices to business owners with decades of experience, all looking to ensure their knowledge is current and able to take advantage of the latest technologies.
Mark Wheeler, Managing Director of EA-RS Fire Engineering Ltd, says the Covid-19 outbreak has been a good opportunity to invest in training:
“We predict there will be a surge in business in coming months with projects that were put on hold due to Covid-19 being re-scheduled. It therefore makes sense to use training to put the company in the strongest position to meet additional demand.
“Creating the KIP scheme was a bold step for Kentec, acknowledging that a higher industry standard was required. It has been an important step in furthering the assurance we provide to end users that critical life safety systems are only being installed by fully-competent firms, that have received training on the latest industry innovations. This ultimately ensures that life safety systems are optimised.”
Daren Pool, Managing Director of Triple Star Fire & Security Limited, joined the scheme as his business saw Kentec’s Taktis panel becoming increasingly prevalent:
“Taktis has become one of our preferred panel choices for its networking capabilities and easy-to-use interface. As we are installing the panel into more and more customer sites, across a range of critical sectors, I felt it was important that me and my engineers fully understood the latest developments and full capabilities of the panel in order that our customers are able to realise its full potential. The scheme has worked very well in providing us with full confidence that we are providing all our customers with this service.”