Tower blocks swap waking watch for cost-effective hybrid wireless solution

Costly waking watch patrols, deployed at half a dozen high-rise potentially flammable exterior-cladding-covered apartment blocks in the home counties, are no longer needed thanks to the installation of a hybrid wireless fire alarm extension system specified and commissioned by Tann Synchronome, part of CDS.

The six 11- and 17-storey blocks, a mixture of local authority and privately owned flats, are among the hundreds of multi-storey buildings across the UK whose management has employed round-the-clock in-person patrols to ensure residents can sleep soundly at night without fear of fire breaking out.

Tann Synchronome technical sales manager Grant Wheeler explained: “The management company had been paying a fortune for a waking watch to patrol the buildings floor by floor every night. It proceeded with a programme to install sprinkler systems throughout the flats to negate the need for the patrols. However, there was a resistance from the private owners not wanting ugly sprinkler pipework through their flats.”

The management company’s struggle to find a safe, cost-effective and aesthetically suitable solution to the problem saw it turn to electrical contractor James Ferguson Ceejay Electrical and Tann Synchronome for an alternative to sprinklers in the private dwellings.

“My solution was to extend the existing hard-wired systems with radio heat detection in the flats into the rooms with windows above the cladding. The communal analogue addressable fire alarm systems which are in all the blocks were originally designed solely to protect the escape routes and are made up of Kentec Synchro control equipment employing either the Apollo or Hochiki protocols,” said Grant.

“Another option would have been to install a completely separate wireless system which would have involved far more extensive radio communication infrastructure, as well as being more costly and disruptive to install.

“Extending the existing systems means that as they are already remotely monitored no further remote connection is required to summon the fire brigade in the event of an activation.”

CDS has been heavily involved in designing, supplying, installing and maintaining complex fire safety detection systems in multi-storey residential blocks, many with numerous lifts, for several decades.

These include buildings for student, private rental and housing association tenants across the UK.

CDS backs Women in Fire Safety’s mission to address the industry gender gap

CDS is to sponsor a national award aimed at celebrating the achievements of women working in the fire safety industry.

The training provider of the year award is just one of several categories to be celebrated at this autumn’s Women in Fire Safety Awards event.

Other prizes will include celebrating the most inspirational woman in the industry and recognising the best contractors and recruiters.

Women in Fire Safety, which aims to encourage more women to choose a career in the industry, was set up by two women who met when they worked together at a fire alarm manufacturer.

The organisation also focuses on recognising women’s achievements in the industry, educating younger people about career opportunities and helping the sector become more progressive.

CDS national sales manager Sophie Kelly, who moved from a career in outdoor services to one in fire safety last year, said she has found discovering a group of like-minded professionals incredibly supportive.

And she hopes her own experience is echoed not only by women currently working in the industry, but also by those who haven’t yet chosen to make it their career.

Sophie said: “The organisation’s co-founders Kate Blake and Chloe Vickery are inspirational. They had a vision to bring highly skilled and successful women together and they made it happen. The WIFS has allowed me to find a community, somewhere where I can develop my knowledge and grow my contacts within the fire industry.

“They immediately provided the support I was looking for. Kate totally knocked my socks off when she invited me to attend the group’s annual awards event last year as a guest. It was a lovely evening celebrating women in the fire industry and allowed me, someone who was totally new to the industry, to mix with some very important people and to gain knowledge, information and contacts.”

Women in Fire Safety, which has created an educational video about roles available in the industry, aims to see fire safety careers discussed in educational settings and would like girls and boys to have equal opportunities to experience the industry from a young age.

CDS managing director Simon Abley added: “We are delighted to support the Women in Fire Safety Awards and the organisation as whole. A recent Gender Gap Index report stated that it would take 108 years for society to close the global gender gap. As with construction and other traditionally male-dominated industries, we must do what we can to encourage and welcome women and show both the old guard and our young people that the outdated idea of ‘pink jobs’ and ‘blue jobs’ belongs in the past.”

A number of entries have already been received for the 2022 awards, which will take place in November.

CDS acquires electrical testing and compliance specialist

CDS has acquired an electrical testing and compliance specialist as part of its ‘buy and build’ strategy to expand its services across the UK.

The purchase of Durham-based Safety Checked Ltd, whose core focus is on PAT testing, emergency light testing and EICR, will enable CDS to offer additional services to its growing customer base.

It follows the acquisition last year of water and energy consultancy Genex and represents the fourth compliance specialism to be offered within the wider CDS stable, alongside fire, water and energy compliance.

Safety Checked offers its services to the university, student accommodation, education and facilities management sectors – areas in which CDS has more than thirty years’ expertise.

The purchase consolidates CDS’ recent investment within the North East, which saw the opening of an office in Durham, although the electrical compliance services will be offered nationally.

Safety Checked owners Martin Hurton and Richard Leckenby will remain with the business.

CDS chairman Simon Cashmore said: “We’re pleased to welcome Martin, Richard and the Safety Checked team to the growing CDS family. Their experience and expertise mean we can add another string to our compliance bow. As well as our capabilities in fire detection and life safety, water and energy, it means we can now offer electrical testing through this NICEIC accredited business.

“This is the latest stage in our ‘buy and build’ strategy which sees us expand both our geographical reach and the range of services we offer. This should make life more streamlined for facilities managers needing to source expertise in various compliance competencies.”

Richard Leckenby added: “We’re delighted to be joining CDS. Our expertise in electrical compliance brings extra capability to the group and supports CDS’ regional expansion in the North East.”

Martin Hurton added: “I’m excited about supercharging our regional development and looking forward to seeing the business grow nationally by becoming part of the CDS group.”

Simon Cashmore and CDS managing director Simon Abley, who acquired CDS in 2020, were the team behind outdoor services specialist TCL Group. They grew the business 14-fold over 12 years up to 2019. Its expansion was achieved in a similar way – through strategic acquisition of complementary companies to broaden both its geographical reach and service offerings. TCL was named one of the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Europe in 2017 by the London Stock Exchange.

  •  CDS chairman Simon Cashmore and MD Simon Abley welcome Safety Checked Ltd’s Martin Hurton and Richard Leckenby to the CDS fold. The acquisition means CDS can now offer electrical testing services as well as fire detection and life safety systems, water and energy compliance expertise.

CDS team marks International Women’s Day to raise awareness of gender bias

We’re marking International Women’s Day here at CDS by talking to some of the female members of our team about their experience of working in the fire safety industry.

Here’s what they have to say.

First up, here’s fire alarm service engineer Grace McDonald.

What do you enjoy best about working in the fire safety industry?

I enjoy the camaraderie between other engineers, regardless of the company you work for. Everyone I’ve spoken to is willing to help you out which means you always have a solid support network behind you if you’re not 100% sure on something or if you need someone to bounce ideas off. I really enjoy working on a variety of sites in lots of different sectors to ensure they have the best fire system to suit their needs.

What do you think can be done to encourage more women into what is seen as a ‘male’ profession?

At school, the trades were never presented to the girls as an option; it was more about “go and get A levels and a degree or go to college and get into the beauty industry”. I think all trades (whether that be fire alarm engineering, plumbing, heating, electrical, bricklaying etc.) should be presented to girls throughout school so they can make an informed decision about whether that’s something for them or not. I was really fortunate to have stumbled across the fire alarm industry whilst unhappy in an office job, and just found the industry clicked with me and presented a career path I was really eager to follow. I have no regrets in doing that.

What is your message to girls at school looking into future career ideas?

Be open-minded. Take every opportunity and give it a go because worst case scenario, you don’t like it and therefore don’t do it again. If you can get any work experience or have a college open day in the trades, you may find that something you enjoy.

Have you ever encountered any bias or negative comments about being a woman in this industry?

Never. I find most people are surprised to have me on site but I think that’s more to do with the baby face than the being a woman. If anything, I find lots of customers having a really positive attitude towards me and are willing to help me out should I need it. I’ve done a few jobs where they had female site staff in the engineering team and they are always really excited to see another woman on the tools and they will always root for you. I’ve found that trady ladies all stick together and it’s fantastic.

National sales manager Sophie Kelly has this to say:

What do you enjoy best about working in the fire safety industry?

As this is a new industry for me every day is a learning day, with new skills to develop and people to meet. I also feel that this is an industry where I can make a difference.  Knowing that the work we do provides safety and compliance through our on-site engineer experts. Being a part of that is great!

What do you think can be done to encourage more women into what is seen as a’male’ profession?

Seeing other women in the industry and creating communities, such as Women in Fire Safety ( to support all of us is vital. We are lucky at CDS to have a number of women, working in the company, I hope this number continues to rise so it becomes the norm to have a balance of women and men in the industry.

What is your message to girls at school looking into future career ideas? 

Come and work with us! There is a lot of support within the industry to develop the right people, be confident in what you can offer. Compliance is vital across all industries so you can work with people to give them a happy and safe working environment.

Have you encountered any bias or negative comments about being a woman in this industry?

Having been to a number of fire events, the thing that strikes me is the general lack of any diversity, lets hope that this gap continues to narrow! I have been accepted into the industry and I guess there is a keenness to bring the industry up to date and encourage and develop women.

Project coordinator Marie Mason has this to say:

What do you enjoy best about working in the fire safety industry?

I think a lot goes on behind the scenes when working within the industry and it’s rewarding to know you have contributed to the successful rollout of a new project that will inevitably save lives. I have found there is a real sense of community within the fire sector and I regularly receive support from other industry professionals. Everyone works together to achieve the same goal and it’s lovely to be a part of.

What do you think can be done to encourage more women into what is seen as a ’male’ profession?

More female representation and role models are definitely needed. I think a space where women in the fire industry can come together and network would be great. Whether this be online or through in person events, it would really elevate the female fire community and encourage women to gain confidence in a male-dominated profession. Businesses also need to celebrate and encourage diversity to embrace the skills that women have to offer.

What is your message to girls at school looking into future career ideas?

Be brave, step outside your comfort zone, have confidence in your own knowledge/skills and don’t be afraid to enter a male dominated industry. It’s not as scary as it seems!

Have you encountered any bias or negative comments about being a woman in this industry?

Everyone has been super supportive of my new career and I can’t wait to see where it leads in the future.

CDS’ Manchester office celebrates year of successes on its first birthday

CDS’ Manchester office celebrates its first birthday this month – and looks back on the successes it has achieved over the past year.

The office was the first to open in the North of England and has since been joined by two more to cover the region as well as North Wales and the Scottish borders.

A satellite opened in Bangor, Gwynedd in the autumn, with a further office opening in Durham in the New Year.

The team has expanded under the management of regional director Derek Stacey – and the region now boasts a lucky 13 colleagues.

It has also gained an impressive portfolio of clients in the warehousing, student accommodation, university, education, local authority, fire and rescue service, nursing home and high-rise apartment sectors.

“We have been very successful since we opened just 12 months ago in the core sectors in which we specialise. It has been an amazing year and has absolutely flown by. The team are superb to work with and with the opening earlier this year of the Durham office we are planning yet more growth across the region.”

Derek has more than 30 years’ experience in the life safety and fire detection industry and the new manager of the Durham office, Brian Frampton, has more than two decades of expertise under his belt. Both are specialists in CDS’ main tech platform Honeywell Gent as well as Advanced, Kentec, Morley, Hochiki, Vesda and Airsense.

CDS offers Leicester law students insight into fire safety career options

A career in bid writing in the fire safety industry is one of the ‘alternative’ professions to which law students would be well-suited – as around 200 young people discovered when they took part in a careers event at Leicester University.

CDS bid manager Nigel Smith, himself a Leicester law graduate, was among guest speakers invited to discuss opportunities with students in their final year at the institution.

Other alumni talked about their own experience in careers such as social media legal policy, asset management, legal recruitment, public procurement, the police force, merchandising, tax accountancy, IT and the Ministry of Justice.

Bid writing is an area in which CDS is actively recruiting as it expands both geographically and in the services it offers. The company has already moved into Wales, the North, the West Country and along the M4 and M5 corridor into London and recently acquired a water compliance company.

As well as Nigel’s personal connection with the university, it has become one of the latest higher education establishments to benefit from CDS’ expertise in fire safety systems specification, supply, installation and maintenance.

The life safety systems specialist is currently installing Honeywell Gent three panel network fire alarm solution systems on two phases at the university’s space park site, where it has also installed a Baldwin Boxall Care 2 refuge system. It also manages the maintenance of all the fire alarm systems across the campus.

Nigel explained why he chose to move into bid writing: “Having started my professional career as an electrical estimator back in Canada, I saw an opportunity to combine my practical experience with what I’d learned during my degree. I found the ability to understand risk and negotiate contracts invaluable when managing tenders day-in-day-out. The ability to piece apart technical questions and work with team members from other disciplines to solve problems was also an advantage.

“While it’s not the normal career route for a law graduate, I can see a lot of opportunities for students to enter into the bids and tenders sphere. With countless opportunities to network and a chance to use the skills developed through their degree, bid writing and management should definitely be a career prospect for law students.”

CDS also works closely with its university clients in helping students stay safe during national Student Fire Safety Week, offering potentially life-saving advice in the form of posters in halls of residence and on social media including Instagram, in partnership with the National Union of Students.