Fire Australia 2022 is over for another year. For the first time, we sought the contribution of attendees in workshops on skills and gender diversity, and we foreshadowed a future project on mental health in fire protection.
Returning to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Fire Australia 2022 Conference and Tradeshow once again showed why it is the largest dedicated fire-protection event in the Southern Hemisphere.
From 3 to 5 May, attendees were treated to three days of thought leadership, innovation, networking and industry excellence.
This year our programme boasted leading industry experts across various disciplines within the fire industry, and looked towards the future of the sector, with insights from the plenary sessions from:
- Dr Jonathan Barnett, on behalf of the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition, who noted that ‘fire impacts have no geographical, socio-economic or political boundaries’;
- Victorian State Building Surveyor, Andrew Cialini, who outlined how the regulatory focus is changing in his state;
- former Deputy NSW Coroner Hugh Dillon, who discussed some of his notable cases involving fires, including the 2011 Quakers Hill nursing home fire and the 2012 apartment fire at Bankstown, and reminded attendees that a compliance focus is not the same as a focus on safety;
- demographer Bernard Salt, who showed how the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the nature of work; and
- Inspector John McDonough of FRNSW, who gave insights into the experience of firefighters when they enter a burning building. He observed that ‘the biggest risk to the safety of firefighters is changes to, or the relaxation of, current legislation, coupled with the introduction of new and untried building systems.’
Creating a dialogue
Core features of this year’s programme were an increase in panel sessions and the introduction of workshops, which created an opportunity for delegates to participate and allowed for more discussion on stage.
Panels of experts from various backgrounds gave their perspectives and insights into relevant issues, and (where time permitted) were able to explore differing views about the future of the industry, the complexity of tall buildings, the value of fire safety, the roles of sustainability and digitisation, and strategies to improve mental health, among many others.
Two workshops were held about skills and gender diversity, seeking attendee feedback, and the Association is now collating the survey results to develop strategies to encourage new participants into the industry, in order to replace a retiring workforce.
The key message was that we need to promote pathways into the industry that will inspire women and men to consider a career in fire protection, and to encourage seasoned veterans of the sector to consider helping to train the practitioners of the future.
Innovation and technology in the tradeshow hall
Once again, the Tradeshow demonstrated the latest in new technology and practices from some of the leading suppliers in Australia and overseas.
The exhibitions were popular – FireMate stall won the People’s Choice Award for best exhibition stand for the second year in a row, Johnson Controls took out Best Exhibition Stand over 12sq.m, and Fusion Fire Systems the best under 12sq.m.
The exhibitors showed tradeshow visitors some of the best available solutions in fire protection and we received consistently positive feedback from them about the displays.
Off-site tours pull back the curtain
Two off-site tours were held this year, revealing the state-of-the-art fire-protection systems at Crown Entertainment Complex and some live demonstrations at Warringtonfire Australia’s Melbourne laboratories.
The latter showed attendees the effects of fire on materials and the former showed how the casino stopped that from happening!
Charitable endeavours and awards
As always, one of the highlights of the Conference is the Conference Gala and Awards Dinner.
We celebrated the best in the fire industry on the night and raised over $30,000 for the Fiona Wood Foundation, in a very successful night.
Winners of the awards can be found at the FPA Australia website.
In a special gesture, former President William (Bill) Lea and former Board member David Isaac were inducted as Honorary Life Members of the Association on the night, in a well-deserved recognition of their contributions to FPA Australia and the industry.
FPA Australia thanks the presenters, exhibitors, attendees, and staff for their support of, and participation in, this year’s Conference and Tradeshow. We look forward to seeing you in Sydney in 2023.
For more information, go to www.fireaustralia.com.au