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.


CDS helps NTU students in pursuit of their dream career

Final year students at Nottingham Trent University have been learning about careers in the fire safety industry – with advice from the company which is helping protect the lives of tens of thousands of fellow undergraduates, visitors and staff.

Two of the team from fire detection and life safety systems specialist, CDS, joined representatives from other industries at this month’s careers fayre to provide insight and advice on professions they have been mulling over during their time on campus.

They discussed graduate careers in bid writing, finance and business development – all roles CDS is seeking to fill 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.

CDS specifies, supplies, installs and maintains fire safety systems for many of the country’s universities and has worked with NTU for more than 30 years. In fact, the Honeywell Gent Vigilon networked fire safety system it installed and maintains there is one of the largest in the UK and operates across more than 60 buildings and three campuses.

The scope of the work has grown enormously over the decades and CDS now exclusively oversees NTU’s fire safety strategy throughout all three of its campuses. Each has numerous Gent Vigilon analogue addressable systems which are networked together and then ‘globally networked’ between each of the three sites – Clifton, City and Brackenhurst.

The project, which saw CDS install an integrated visual fire alarm and detection system using ‘Text and Graphics’ software, was implemented throughout the university’s estate a few years ago. It can be managed via PC, tablet or mobile device, making it the ultimate in system control and end user management.

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.

CDS national sales manager Sophie Kelly and bid manager Nigel Smith will be repeating the experience later this month at Leicester University, whose fire safety systems are maintained by CDS’ Leicester-based team.

CDS colleagues raise funds for Leicester hospitals and Lutterworth food bank

Patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary and the city’s general hospital, along with families in need, have benefitted from the fundraising efforts of CDS colleagues over the past year.

Dressing up in ludicrous outfits is the money-gathering vehicle of choice for the CDS team.  A Hallowe’en event which saw a terrifying number of ghosts and witches descend on the offices selling ghoulish cakes helped them raise £500 for the Leicester Hospitals Charity.

The money went into the charity’s ‘area of greatest need’ fund, with recent purchases including a microwave and portering chair in the discharge lounge of Leicester Royal Infirmary, cordless phones for the pharmacy homecare department at Leicester General, a mini fridge for the blood sciences quality team and games for one of the wards.

The charity is also raising funds for chairs for its chemotherapy suite, with each item carrying a £5,000 price tag.

A Christmas jumper day – and another cake sale – raised funds for the Lutterworth Food Bank for the second year running.

While last Christmas saw CDS employees donate luxury foods and toiletries, this year organisers invited financial donations to enable them to buy specific items for families in need.

The food bank is one of around 1,200 nationwide overseen by the Trussell Trust, a charity whose longer-term aim is to end the need for such facilities in the UK.

CDS managing director Simon Abley said: “We chose to focus on the Leicester Hospitals Charity as it serves the community near our head office and several of our team and their families have been treated at its hospitals. The food bank was the choice of one of our directors, Martin Illiffe, who has supported it for many years wearing his Rotary Club hat. While market towns like Lutterworth seem relatively affluent on the surface, there is an undercurrent of families who are struggling, and we are keen to play our part in supporting people in these difficult times.”


CDS wins maintenance contract with kings of the vegan sausage roll, Greggs

CDS has won a contract to maintain and service the fire safety systems at a new distribution centre for one of the best-known bakery chains in the UK.

It will provide annual maintenance at the Greggs’ 66,000 sq ft bakery in Amesbury in Wiltshire, which employs around a hundred people including operatives, supervisors and drivers.

The centre, along with four sister sites scattered across the country, supplies some of the company’s 2,300 stores nationwide which together feed a staggering six milion customers a week.

The contract will see the CDS team maintain the warehouse’s extensive network of Gent Vigilon Panel fire alarm and detection systems, originally installed by CDS, fire alarm and detection systems and portable fire extingushers.

The complex fire safety system has to be rigorously maintained and needs a fast, effective, responsive repair system.

CDS will also carry out twice yearly fire risk assessments at the premises, a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) in England and Wales.

With stricter rules surrounding such assessments due to become law later in the year, more companies are choosing professionals such as CDS to act on their behalf, even though they can legally be carried out in-house.

Building owners could face extensive fines for fire safety breaches under the Building Safety Bill currently going through the House of Lords, making the need to ensure fire risk assessments are kept up to date even more important.

The new measures will also make it easier to identify who is responsible for fire safety, with anyone impersonating or obstructing a fire inspector facing unlimited fines.

CDS managing director Simon Abley said: “We offer a comprehensive and highly technical range of fire and life safety services. As well as helping organisations protect their workforce, residents and visitors, we can ensure they remain compliant.

“Getting to grips with what is required from both a safety and a compliance point of view is a specialised area.

“As well as specifying, installing and maintaining systems, often in multi-building environments, we can help companies avoid the potentially huge costs of false alarms, reduce outgoings by installing remote monitoring systems and consolidate disparate existing systems under one roof.”

• CDS national sales manager Sophie Kelly celebrates winning CDS’ new contract to carry out annual maintenance for Greggs bakery

CDS issues ‘stay safe this Christmas’ message – with advice on fairy lights and trees

The season to be jolly can also be a time for fire hazards – and while not wanting to pour cold water on anyone’s Christmas, CDS is playing the part of a wise Santa and offering a few seasonal safety tips in the run up to the big day.

Its technical team has been talking to fire services across the country to find out what they identify as the biggest seasonal no-nos to ensure householders avoid the issues most likely to cause a domestic blaze.

Top of the list comes the traditional pine-scented real Christmas tree. A dry tree is a hazard and can fill a home with fire and toxic gases with alarming speed if not properly cared for.

When buying a tree, they recommend carrying out two important checks – on the needles and the trunk. On a freshly cut tree, the needles should be hard to pull back from the branches and shouldn’t break. If they do, it has probably been cut down too long ago and dried out – making it a fire hazard.

The trunk should be sticky to the touch. If it’s not, then it’s too old.

They advise not putting the tree up too early or leaving it up for longer than two weeks as it will become overly dry and could catch fire. And it’s absolutely vital to keep it watered at all times. A six-foot tree can devour as much as a gallon of water every other day – so check it frequently. The water isn’t just to keep the tree looking nice – it’s to stop it becoming a perfect combustible material.

Lighting is another potential fire hazard.

LED fairy lights are safer than the traditional alternative because they are cool to the touch and less likely to set fire to flammable Christmas tree decorations. But while the bulbs themselves are safer, the transformer element does get very hot and should never be covered, hidden behind curtains or come into contact with presents piled around the tree.

Missing bulbs on traditional strings of lights actually cause the remaining bulbs to burn hotter,  increasing the risk of fire if they touch a nearby decoration or dried out branch – so they must be replaced. And old flickering lights should be disposed of, however much they remind you of your childhood Christmases.

Fairy lights should be switched off when no-one is around and when the hosuehold goes to bed as an unexpected power surge could see the tree catching fire.

Delicate paper, cardboard or fabric decorations hanging on the tree can also be a hazard if they come into contact with a hot bulb. The same goes for present,s whose wrapping paper represents an easy source of fuel.

Non-tree decorations are another cause for concern. While draping garlands around the fireplace or near candles may look pretty, the risks are evident.

And all fire services offer their year-round reminder that sockets shouldn’t be overloaded and that cooking and drinking alcohol never mix – however much fun it may seem at the time.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has even created its own ‘12 days of Christmas’ fire safety campaign. Daily activities include checking your Christmas lights conform to British Standard BS EN 60598, switching and unplugging your fairy lights off when going out or retiring for the night, and not attaching Christmas decorations to lights or heaters.

CDS managing director Simon Abley said: “We don’t want to say ‘bah humbug’ this Christmas, but these sensible precautions should help minimise the fire risk. Of course, it’s also important to check your smoke and fire alarms and fire extinguishers – so that if the worst should happen you and your family have time to escape.”