Nick Rutter, chief product officer at FireAngel, explores how housing providers can use the internet of things (IoT) to identify those most at risk of a fire in our communities and intervene to prevent future incidents.
In the past year, purpose-built properties had around 7,000 fires reported, according to government figures. However, it’s estimated that this number represents just a quarter of annual fires, due to either the fire dying out or residents extinguishing it themselves without calling the fire service.
By introducing smart technology such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), to gather data on all fire events, including those unreported, housing providers can reduce the number of fires through proactive intervention.
The intelligent way to catch near misses
When only 25 per cent of fires are known to the UK fire services, pinpointing those at risk can be difficult. However, connected technology can be used to expose these unrecorded fires in communities, and is already being used to do so in many property portfolios across the UK.
In a public appeal, Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service’s prevention team leader, Tina Collett, explained why preventing these near misses is so important; she said, “We have seen a series of near-miss incidents recently which could have been so much worse. We urge people not to leave it to chance and to have an eye out for warning signs that perhaps cooking is being forgotten, smoking is unsafe or indicators that, if a fire was to break out, someone wouldn’t be able to get out safely.”
By using connected technology in properties, housing providers can receive instant alarm activation alerts to support rapid containment of a fire and contact the fire service or, if needed, prioritise the evacuation of residents.
These rapid alerts would also provide vital cost-effective support and potentially reduce the need for the 400 ‘waking watch’ crews deployed across the country (each costing around £18,000 per building per month) and enable housing providers to establish a more holistic approach to the safety of their residents.
The past 18 months has proved there has never been a greater need for remote monitoring to mitigate risk. With many families unable to visit loved ones due to the pandemic, changing behaviours may have been missed and an individual showing the early signs of an illness such as dementia, which can lead to an increased fire risk, could have easily slipped through the gaps.
However, with IoT-based property data monitoring over time, housing providers can be aware of trends and be informed when they need to check in with residents.
By integrating with other telecare systems, this smart technology can help to provide holistic care and support for tenants who need it most. It also helps to highlight unidentified vulnerable tenants, including those suffering from other conditions which affect their safety.
For example, up to 30 per cent of fire deaths in the UK are related to hoarding, with 16,000 homes deemed a fire risk by the fire services. The remote monitoring capabilities of connected technologies ensure residents are still protected without requiring access to their properties.
A time-saving alternative to spreadsheets
Many housing providers are already drowning in data and often can’t allocate swamped staff with the task of manually sifting through spreadsheets to decipher it.
Connected technology can support busy teams by integrating with other asset management systems, enabling data to be accessed via one centralised dashboard and removing the burden of manual data trawls.
Pairing this connected technology with predictive analytics can also support active interventions to reduce the probability of future fire incidents. By processing, sorting and structuring data in real time, housing providers can instantly identify the residents most at risk in individual properties.
This clear, tiered risk assessment for each property means there can be an instant, targeted response.
The National Fire Chiefs’ Council lead, Dan Daly, reflected on the role connected technology and predictive analytics will play in fire prevention and protection; he said, “Fire services have adapted the way we conduct our prevention and protection activities, working with partners to continue to support our most vulnerable and target those premises that present the highest risk through virtual delivery and desktop approaches, among other activities.
“Connected technologies play an essential role in how businesses have adapted, presenting an intelligence-led way for service delivery by using remote monitoring of residents, systems and facilities to reduce physical checks and only responding to issues that are identified.
“It’s important that we evolve to the challenges presented during the past 18-months and that we take the opportunity to evaluate what worked well, not only so we are better placed to meet this sort of challenge in the future but also to improve the reach and coverage of vital services to vulnerable people and the targeting of risk for essential services.”
By combining intelligent, connected technology such as IoT and AI with remote monitoring and predictive analytics, housing providers can provide a higher level of fire protection and prevention within current resources.
Highlight high-risk properties with FireAngel Predict
Developed with support from the UK Fire and Rescue Service, FireAngel Predict™ runs a unique algorithm with a patented application that spots trends of behaviours logged by smoke and heat alarms, creating a map of fire safety triggers and categorising properties as high or low risk.
Talking about the impact Predict will have in the industry, Humberside Fire & Rescue Services’ director of service support, Steve Topman, said, “FireAngel Predict will provide a step change in fire safety. This unique cloud-based technology evaluates numerous criteria in real time, allowing us to pinpoint high-risk scenarios and intervene to prevent fires before they start.”
Tried, tested and trusted after 10 years’ development, FireAngel Predict gives visibility of previously hidden trends within social housing properties, such as alarms activating through the night or devices being removed.
Automatically highlighting these potentially dangerous behaviours to housing providers enables active interventions to mitigate risk with a personalised ‘safe and well’ check by the resident safety team or the fire service to help prevent a life-threatening event.
To find out how FireAngel’s extensive range of connected fire safety solutions can suit your housing portfolio or to discover more about FireAngel Predict, get in touch with our team of specialists by visiting fireangel.co.uk/connected-contact.
Nick Rutter is the chief product officer at FireAngel.