21/08/2018 – Supplier Spotlight- Tunstall: Home Digital Home

BT has announced its intention to complete its transition of the UK’s telephone infrastructure from analogue to IP Voice by 2025, a move that will affect all of us to some degree. So what does the digital switchover mean for housing providers? Karen Senior, UK Sales Director at Tunstall Healthcare tells us more.

The UK’s move to a digital telecommunications network will be a step change in the possibilities offered by technology in group living developments. Housing providers have some pressing decisions to make about their current and future strategies to make the most of the digital journey.

All group living environments require ongoing upgrades and maintenance to their communication and alarm systems to ensure their reliability in life critical situations. These upgrades also offer a real opportunity to deliver new and innovative services that make a real difference for residents.

The opportunities

The good news is that going digital has a range of significant benefits:

  • Functionality – Internet Protocol (IP) systems allow multiple alarm calls to be managed simultaneously on a single line, residents are able to call each other and activate the visitors’ video door entry system all at the same time, improving the user experience and increasing safety for residents.
  • Speed – IP alarm transmission is much faster than analogue, providing additional reassurance for users.
  • More insight – using intelligent platforms, information on activities of daily living such as movement around the home, use of electrical appliances and taking medication can be monitored and intelligently analysed to raise alerts in the event of emergencies or changes in behaviour, this can in turn indicate a need for a change in support. This data may also be used to inform care planning and enable families to take a more active role in caring for a family member.
  • Future ready – we’re continuously developing our digital portfolio, including our Communicall Vi IP platform, in response to feedback from users and the latest advances in technology. Our future-proof platform supports providers in getting the maximum value from their investment, and delivering peace of mind to their residents.
  • Value-added services – digital platforms enable the provision of a range of additional services beyond alarm handling – empowering residents and improving their experience. Examples include WiFi/internet access, supporting social inclusion, health and wellbeing apps, and improved provider contacts.

The challenges

  • Timescales – BT expects to have changed all of their UK phone lines from analogue signalling to IP Voice by 2025. New analogue and ISDN lines will no longer be available for sale after 2020, and BT also proposes to cease selling analogue phone lines in 2023. In the lifecycle of scheme upgrades and new build developments, this essentially means that housing providers need to make decisions now about their digital strategy and approach.
  • Legacy – many group living environments in the UK have alarm equipment that may be 10, 20 or even 30 years old. Some of these systems will not operate on the new digital infrastructure and will need to be adapted or replaced. Tunstall will work with housing providers to help them audit their schemes to establish their current equipment portfolio, to ensure their residents remain protected, and identify opportunities for growth, efficiency savings and investment.
  • Strategy – housing providers need to be confident that their systems and suppliers will deliver resilient, flexible support today and have the capability to continue and develop products and services to meet challenges in the future. Technology is now becoming central to the capability of providers to ensure effective and efficient service delivery. Business structures and services need to be developed with the ability to take advantage of both the available and future technology, rather than simply including technology in existing approaches. By fully realising the potential of digital systems, providers can position themselves to be able to unlock significant opportunity.

Technology providers are working with BT to establish the full impact of the digital switchover on community alarm systems and telecare devices. In the meantime there are still steps that housing providers can take to begin to prepare for the digital future, such as reviewing their existing assets and finding out more about the benefits of IP to themselves and the people they support.

Tunstall has a range of resources to help housing providers plan for the IP revolution. To find out more, talk to your account manager, email or visit, where you can also sign up to receive our  digital updates.


Supplier Spotlight – Horbury Property Services: Getting It Right With Fire Risk Assessments

Richard Sutton, General Manager at Horbury Property Services, looks at the importance of passive systems, such as fire doors and other fire compartmentation.

“For many building owners, businesses and landlords, fire safety starts with the fire risk assessment. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005 requires that this must be carried out by a competent person… someone with ‘sufficient training and experience or knowledge’.  But the question many people are asking is, how do you determine how much training, knowledge or experience is enough? Many organisations are not aware of any third party accreditations for fire risk assessors, or simply don’t know or check just what is required to become a good fire risk assessor.

Obviously practical experience counts for a great deal, as does having an understanding of building regulations, construction methods and building materials, which allows the assessor to better judge the risks.   There have been cases that have gone through the courts that have involved fire risk assessors being jailed for failing to carry out a suitable fire risk assessment.  Without adequate training and the relevant knowledge and observational skills, it is highly likely that breaches of passive or active fire protection measures will go undetected in social housing.

Take, for example, fire doors.  A typical fire risk assessment of a set of fire doors requires only a visual inspection – it does not require that every door is inspected.  According to FDIS (Fire Door Inspection Scheme) potential punishments for fire door related convictions can include up to two years in jail and unlimited fines.

The reason that fire doors are failing in such large numbers is that any problems are not being picked up in fire inspections, or thorough inspections are not being carried out by the responsible person.  Without adequate training, a person would not be able to know whether a fire door would fail, or whether it would perform as it should, offering adequate protection in the event of a fire.

The Exova BM Trada certified course is one that is widely recognised and respected in the fire safety industry and housing providers should check that their contractors are certified to meet this standard.

If fire door inspections are not being carried out by fully approved and certified individuals, how can building occupants and owners be safe in the knowledge that they are being given the best protection.  Often as part of the fire risk assessment, a small sample of fire doors are given a visual inspection.  If the individual is untrained, they are unlikely to pick up any faults with the fire door and could lead to a building having several doorsets that are not compliant.  In the case of a fire, this could be a very serious situation that is putting lives at risk and resulting in serious consequences and fines.  Often after fire door inspections, remedial works may be required to protect occupants and ensure compliance, which needs to be part of regular planned maintenance for a building.

Regular fire door inspections

With the current concerns about fire risks in residential and commercial buildings, then there is a very real need to prioritise inspection of fire doors to ensure that remedial work can be carried out as quickly as possible.

Indeed, there is a lack of understanding about the need for fully certified fire doors.  Budgetary pressures again may mean that an inferior fire door is specified which may not be certified to perform to either 30 or 60 minutes’ fire resistance.  This could mean that it does not meet that building’s minimum fire safety requirements.

The same is true of fire compartmentation.   This needs to be considered as part of the overall fire risk assessment.  However, this is often not given due consideration as the responsible person in most cases will not have the skills or understanding to be able to carry this out effectively.  As fire compartmentation requires just a visual inspection, it needs specialist skills, expertise and equipment.

Fire compartmentation

It is not just fire doors that are critical to maintaining fire compartmentation in buildings. A local authority building that we inspected recently was found to have 168 breaches to its fire compartmentation.  A thorough inspection of its fire compartmentation had not been carried out since it was built.  Most of the breaches were due to IT and mechanical work being carried out on the building without the correct fire stopping being put in place.    It is surprising how often compartmentation has been breached, which leads to the risk of rapid smoke spread in the event of a fire.

An added concern is how, due to budgetary pressures, remedial work on fire doors is being carried out these days on a responsive basis, rather than as a regular programme of planned preventative maintenance.  This has created a bubble of repairs that are required and an increase in the potential risk.  If issues are identified, it may be the case that work cannot be carried out for several weeks if a framework of approved contractors is not in place.

It is quite a worry that many public and private buildings are still not being regularly and competently inspected for their fire doors and fire compartmentation.

The fact remains that the fire risk assessment has to be taken seriously.  As part of this, only fully trained and certified fire door and passive fire inspectors should be carrying out assessments of fire doors and compartmentation.  This will ensure that building are compliant and occupants are offered the best possible protection.”

For more information about fire compartmentation, fire stopping and fire stopping inspections, contact the Horbury Property Services team on: 01709 917555 or visit the website


Press enquiries: Marina Wood, Dragonfly PR, Tel 01709 300130 or email:


Consortium Procurement Surgeries for Electronic Payment Services

We want to speak to members who are you currently working with us on the Electronic Payment Services Framework or who have an interest in electronic payment services in general. We are hoping to undertake a series of surgeries throughout June to find out our members’ views on the current electronic payment services agreement, the challenges, what they would like to see going forward and their requirements in general.

We are planning to hold four surgeries in the North East, Yorkshire and Scotland, the North West and North Wales, the Midlands and the South and South Wales. The events will offer attendees the opportunities to talk with our Head of Procurement, Louise Chase and Procurement and Contracts Officer, Drew Frame about any issues they are experiencing and any feedback they have. The responses will then be taken forward to help improve the framework for members.

If your organisation is interested in attending one of the above events further details can be found here or please get in touch with Drew Frame at or calling by 01915661035.

Supplier Spotlight – Domestic Sprinklers: Safer High Rise Living

Written by Connor Saddington, Domestic Sprinkler’s

From 2007 in England all new high-rise apartment buildings greater than 30m in height have had to fit sprinkler systems fitted. This is in contrast with Scotland where the limit stands at 18m and since 2016 in Wales all new apartment buildings and houses must have sprinkler systems.

Due to this regulation only coming into effect in 2007 there are still a great number of high-rise blocks across the UK without the additional feature of a sprinkler system. We stand with London Fire Brigade’s commissioner Dany Cotton who says; “for me where you can save one life then it’s worth doing,”

“Is it possible to retrofit a sprinkler system?”                              

For a long time, it was deemed impractical and uneconomical to make it a requirement to retrofit high-rise blocks with fire sprinklers. This was something that we felt had to be put right. Domestic Sprinklers were appointed to carry out the very first High Rise Retrofit installation in the UK, at an occupied 13-floor 1960’s High-rise residential block in Sheffield. A project funded and directed by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) for the Sprinkler Coordination Group (SCG).

Work at the building was undertaken in September of 2011. The primary objective being to determine the practicality of installing a complete system, without the need to decant residents. Fitting sprinklers in 47 flats, plus, utility rooms, common areas, bin stores and an office took less than four weeks to complete. This proved to many how practical and cost effective it can be to retrofit a sprinkler system in occupied High-rise buildings in reasonable time and with minimum impact on residents.

More recently, Domestic Sprinklers have been awarded the contract to design, supply and install sprinkler systems in Albion Towers, Sturminster House and Shirley Towers in partnership with Southampton City Council.

Sadly, two fire fighters lost their lives in 2010 when a blaze at the 15-storey Shirley Towers started in a ninth-floor flat. An inquest revealed the blaze started after a resident left a curtain resting on a lamp.

These three towers were prioritised due to the complex scissor block design where flats are divided between two separate floor levels and separated by a landing level.

Canberra Towers, Redbridge Towers and Millbrook Towers are the tallest council blocks in the city and have been identified as the next towers to be fitted with a sprinkler system.

“Will the sprinkler s

ystem cause more damage than the fire?”

Many assume that property fires will cause far less damage than the water from a sprinkler system, this simply isn’t true!

In residential and domestic properties each sprinkler head operates by means of a fusible temperature link located within each sprinkler head. Each concealed sprinkler head is fitted with a cover plate flush with the ceiling, no bigger than a common smoke alarm. The solder link above the cover plate melt upon reaching a temperature of 57 degrees centigrade. The sprinkler head itself then descends at 68 degrees centigrade, discharging water over the origin of fire.

Sprinkler systems are proven to always control and, in some cases, extinguish the fire, limiting the extent of the fire and smoke damage. Ultimately allowing further time for residents to evacuate the building safely.

A chief fire officer has said that having a sprinkler system is like having a fire-fighter in your property 24/7.

“Who can install a sprinkler system?”

It is imperative you choose a sprinkler system contractor who has the skill and experience of installing such a system. The British Standard, BS9251 says that the system should be designed, installed and maintained by a “competent person”. We strongly recommend that you choose a contractor registered with FIRAS and third party accredited. It is common practice to use someone in the Gas Safe scheme to service your boiler, so it makes perfect sense to take the same approach when installing a sprinkler system and use a FIRAS approved company. At the end of the day it could save your life.


  • Fire sprinklers can be retro fitted into high rise properties, with little disruption.
  • High-rise flats can be retro fit with a sprinkler system for around £1,148.00
  • The annual maintenance of a sprinkler system is in the region of £250.00
  • The water from a fire sprinkler system will cause less damage to the property than a fire.
  • Be sure to always use a FIRAS approved company to install your sprinkler system






Supplier Spotlight – SS Systems: Benefits of Integrated Fire and Security Systems

Written by Michelle Reynolds, Commercial Director, SS Systems

In an ever-competitive marketplace, organisations are continually looking for ways in which to make things more efficient and cost effective.

From a property management perspective, it is certainly worth considering integrating your fire and security systems. It can not only save you money, but also make your life so much easier – always a plus!

In this brief article we will consider the benefits of integration and the things you need to consider before embarking on major change.

Historical Considerations

In many organisations, the installations of a fire alarm, intruder alarm, access control, CCTV and fire extinguishers (to name but a few) has happened gradually over years, rather than being a conscious decision to purchase all the systems at the same time.

The purchases are often made by different people, with varying reasons behind each purchase – all very valid when they are made, but over time those needs and circumstances change, warranting an overhaul of existing systems.

Technological Advances

The introduction of IP technology (internet protocol), and the willingness of manufacturers to share product coding, has made it easier for many systems to be integrated. Events registered by one type of system (eg CCTV) can be used to trigger an action on other systems.  This can be in the form of a simple integration (for example, when the fire alarm is triggered, it sends a signal to the access control in order to control door releases), or it can be advanced.

An example of an advanced integration could be a link between intruder, CCTV and access control – on alarm, the intruder system sends a signal to the CCTV system to pan onto the violated area, and on confirmation of an intruder sends a signal to the access control system to lock all doors and will also alert the keyholders.

Benefits of Integrated Systems

The benefits of integrating your fire and security systems include:

  • Fewer false alarms. The systems can be set up so that an alert is made only after confirmation from a number of sources (eg intruder alarm and CCTV camera) thus reducing the chance of a false alarm.
  • Lower maintenance costs. It can often be the case that individual systems are maintained by different companies, each of which attend at different times throughout the year. When the maintenance of all systems is covered by just one company, the costs and disruption can be reduced.
  • Better control. An integrated system can be controlled, managed and monitored by many different people. Technology is such that many aspects of the system can be controlled via an internet connection, making it very flexible and user friendly.
  • Reduced management time. It takes less time for the responsible person to manage one system and contract as opposed to many.

Where do you start?

So, if you are considering an integrated solution for your fire and security requirements, then here’s a guide on how to make a start on the project.

Where to start

Review Existing Systems

A good place to start would be to review what you currently have. We have recently undertaken a comprehensive survey for a local council and it proved extremely useful.  The review should enable you to clarify exactly what equipment you have, the functionality of the systems, the scope covered by existing fire and security systems and the shortfalls/gaps in protection.

As part of your investigations, note down how much it costs you to maintain the system, both in terms of cost and personnel time.

Your Requirements

The next stage would be to consider the level of protection and the functionality you require from your fire and security systems. If you are part of a larger organisation, it helps to gain a wide view so involve as many people as is feasible in your research.

Things to consider in your research could include:

  • Risks or threats already known
  • Speed of response required in the event of an incident
  • Areas of the building & grounds to be covered by an integrated solution
  • Ease of use required
  • Level of protection, specific to areas
  • Essential versus “nice to have”
  • High risk areas – specialist requirements
  • Insurance policy stipulations

Summarise your Findings

When you have completed your initial research, prepare an outline detailing the scope of the project. This helps to clarify requirements for your own organisation, and will assist consultants or suppliers when you speak to them to get a project underway.


If you are keen to explore the benefits of integrating your fire and security systems, then it helps to bring in external support.

When asking companies for advice, always ensure that they have experience in designing, installing and maintaining a wide range of solutions. It can help to ask for examples of where they have installed an integrated solution so that you can ensure their experience is suitable for your requirements.

For further information, contact:

Michelle Reynolds, Commercial Director