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April 5, 2023

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Training for the future of fire

Director of Training at the Fire Protection Association, Claire Wright, examines the changing demands in fire safety training and looks ahead to future needs.

A post-Covid, post-Brexit 2022 saw a realignment for many organisations of their purpose and core values, as well as their working practices. Individuals in the workplace are re-assessing work-life balance, and those entering the workforce have different expectations of the contribution and value placed upon their time. This includes how training and development is undertaken and how it will be woven into a meaningful and rewarding career path.

In an industry where governing legislation has evolved slowly, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 marked a significant opportunity for those involved in supporting the lifespan of a building and in the responsibility for its design, use, and management. Sadly, however, it has taken further major fire incidents with devastating losses before building fire safety and resilience have started to find a more common place in these considerations. More recent years have seen rapid and unprecedented change in the regulations and duties placed upon those in the design, construction, ownership, and management of both workplace and residential buildings throughout England (and the UK).

2022 saw the introduction of the Building Safety Act and a suite of publicly available specifications. With the Fire Safety Act 2021 coming into force, the momentum for improving change continues. These changes are complex and vary throughout the devolved countries that make up the UK, but represent a culture shift towards a greater understanding of the impact individuals can have on providing safe and resilient places to live and work.

Those involved in interpreting and implementing these changes have seen a rise in demand for services and skills, and the industry has opened to a wide range of new entrants and competitors. To stay ahead of these changes, businesses must be agile and continue the forward momentum to improve our built environment.

Driving competency

The question of competency is being increasingly recognised within industry as vital to providing high-quality fire safety, as well as feeding into the culture change required across the fire safety sector. Consequently, 2023 will see further acceleration in the demands to upskill employees, and the FPA will provide guidance, events, training, and educational pathways to support this.

The FPA is constantly looking for improved ways to assist those assessing fire risk and wishing to improve performance and practice. This involves collaboration with partner organisations at all levels, our members, and our customers. We have seen demand for learning methods to be flexible to allow for digital and remote interfaces or out-of-hours inputs. This requires engaging with technologies to enable us to adapt programmes to suit a complete learning journey, as opposed to an isolated, single learning incident, and we are developing our teams to ensure learning pathways are accessible and inclusive.

2023 plans include providing a more modular approach to courses, so they can be taken as discreet learning inputs or built together to form nationally recognised qualification pathways. Key competence areas involve topics including the management of residential buildings; fire risk assessment; and building performance – passive fire protection including fire doors and external walls.

The management of residential buildings

The Responsible Person has a duty to meet statutory requirements and improve standards. Key areas include:

  • the context in which the building operates
  • leadership and communication
  • risk management and action planning
  • organisational and cultural change.

The FPA delivers hybrid, online, and taught courses for building safety managers (and trainees), clerks of works, estate managers, asset managers, and other learners.

Fire risk assessment at the foundation, intermediate, and advanced levels

Building on the Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications, the FPA is collaborating with partners to provide fire risk assessment training at more advanced levels, including an introduction to fire safety strategy and fire engineering.

Level 4 Diploma in Fire Risk Assessment

This qualification provides learners with more advanced principles for carrying out fire risk assessments in all buildings (except the most complex buildings) as defined by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and devolved equivalents. Learners will gain an understanding of the legal framework, building construction, and the risks posed by fire, fire growth and hazard identification, and fire safety in the protection of people at risk.

Building performance – passive fire protection

The area of building protection is one of the fastest growing with the evolving use of materials. For those involved in the procurement, specification, repair, and maintenance of these products, the FPA has produced courses on how products interact and how poor specification, installation, or management can impact the safety performance of a building. The key outcome is confidence in the questions that should be asked and answered when working with passive safety systems.

Passive Fire Protection Intermediate: Fire Stopping and Compartmentation

This programme is designed for those needing to understand how the use of passive fire protection can control the spread of fire in buildings, and how to ensure the structural fire safety of a building following maintenance or refurbishment.

Fire and non-loadbearing external walls

This course considers how insulated non-loadbearing external wall types have become mature technologies, whether as proprietary systems or as layered construction, built up using separate products. The Fire Safety Act 2021 provides for the fire performance of exterior walls and cladding to be a material consideration of the fire risk assessment. This course provides learners with the knowledge to determine whether a fire risk appraisal of the external wall under PAS 9980:2022 is required.


Those responsible for buildings are seeking assurances that their employees will provide the highest standard of fire safety provision in an ethical and considerate manner. Evidencing professional commitment through up-to-date training and accreditation is one of the ways to support your professional practice and meet competency requirements.

There are several ways to access technical expertise through FPA membership, and member discounts apply to all courses. To discuss your organisation’s training needs, including adaptions to suit your CPD or development pathways, email: [email protected].

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