How IT service management is making fire safety smarter

Corralling disparate elements and managing many intertwining technologies presents significant challenges such as compatibility, problem and incident management, monitoring and continual service improvement.

In response, ITSM is being increasingly replied upon to ensure that the design, delivery and use of IT within organisations can be optimised.

In this connected age, however, merely ‘keeping the lights on’ is often not enough and ITSM must be used to drive overall business efficiency and service improvement.

There are many examples of how ITSM can do this, and here, I explore how it is being applied to the fire safety industry to optimise maintenance activities while reducing operational costs.

Maintaining compliance in a complex estate

The Fire engineering team at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) School of Engineering have recently turned their attention to how best practice IT service solutions can help reduce the risks from fire; to life, property, assets, service continuity and the environment.

UCLan’s site is made up of a diverse and geographically scattered estate, providing accommodation, work and leisure areas for healthcare, education, university campuses and social housing providers.

While some of the premises are newly built and have been designed with fire safety solutions in mind, they are interspersed with substantially older structures.

Financial and operational constraints mean that on-site building managers are becoming less common and it’s therefore more difficult to regularly monitor critical assets.

>See also: London Fire Bridge launches ‘Uber for fire engines’

To carry out a routine safety inspection, a fire risk manager needs to be able to monitor the performance of many different components, preferably proactively, before any untoward incident occurs.

These incidents could include false alarms, due to poor process control or the deliberate actions of building occupants, electrical arcing at a distribution board, or even arson attempts.

Today, there are automatic fire detection systems that communicate directly with fire watch stations to determine the appropriate emergency service response and summon assistance.

Active fire protection is an area that is starting to exploit cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) sensor-based solutions, and now this is being applied to fire door maintenance.

Optimised monitoring with ITSM

Across the diverse, scattered and aging estates often found in healthcare, education, university campuses and social housing, the monitoring of assets such as fire doors can be neglected.

Fire doors are costly, highly specified and fully certified.

They must be installed and maintained by competent contractors, not simply for basic compliance, but to ensure they will always function as intended if they are ever needed to keep escape routes free from smoke long enough to allow everyone to make a safe exit from a burning building.

>See also: Major sites shut down by DDoS attack after taking over smart devices

However, many organisations lack the expertise to know exactly where all their fire doors are located, how many they have, what level of protection they should provide and more importantly, what condition they are in.

ITSM can help organisations to resolve these issues.

For instance, cloud and IoT developments can be used to effectively manage fire protection assets. But there are some solutions that will not only help fire safety teams gain and maintain basic statutory compliance, but also help them to make more informed decisions about repair, replacement and upgrades.

Revolutionising asset management

The IoT is set to change the way we monitor assets within our organisations.

Every critical component, be it a fire door, automatic door closing mechanisms, a fire shutter, or fire dampers in ductwork, requires a regular maintenance schedule, not just for legal compliance but to provide assurance of performance if a fire ever does break out.

Soon, there could be fire wardens using well-designed smart apps on a range of handheld devices and across platforms, with clear self-guiding instructions to document each asset’s status, checking for non-conformances and raising defects and issues as needed directly to the facilities management team.

But these static assets have the potential to be transformed into smart assets, designed to respond to events themselves.

Predictive maintenance uses data analytics to assess the historical performance of each asset, and, combining this with automated workflow management enables teams to be more proactive than reactive.

>See also: 3 ways smart technology is impacting the office environment

A conventional IT facilities management system will send time-based reminders to managers to contact specialist contractors to carry out a service visit on a certain date.

By using embedded chips, however, the assets could initiate this request themselves.

To do this, it would use low power communication protocols to communicate with nearby IoT devices and daisy chain the service notifications to remote facilities managers.

Contractors could then confirm that the work has been carried out and this would allow managers to concentrate more on contract management and less on administration.

Collaboration is key

As demonstrated here, intelligent asset management, IT self-service and smarter IT service management are bringing real improvement to the monitoring of life-critical resources within fire safety, and there is no reason why these solutions can’t be applied to multiple other service industries in turn.


Sourced by Ian Harris, service management and assurance practice leader, Cyient Europe

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...