The difference between fire marshals and firefighters is often hard to explain for the outside world. What is the difference in their work? What distinguishes fire marshals from firemen and when are they called in?
If a fire alarm system is down or if maintenance is being carried out on it, a fire marshal is required in order to monitor fire safety. The fire marshal patrols the area to check for any fire hazards. And if a fire does break out after all, the fire marshal will call the Fire Service and evacuate everyone from the building.
A mandatory requirement imposed by the environmental authorities
Environmental authorities may impose the mandatory requirement of having a fire marshal present. For example, they can do so if a fire alarm system is partially or completely non-compliant. A fire marshal will then have to be present until the system has either been repaired or replaced.
Active in case of shutdowns
A fire marshal can also be active in case of shutdowns. If there is a major risk of fire, clients often ask for government-certified fire marshals as they are more experienced in fighting fires. They then have a preventive role and are ready to intervene quickly if things go wrong.
Becoming a fire marshal requires several diplomas, such as the Dutch BHV (Company Emergency Response) and Beheerder BMI (Fire Alarm System Manager) diplomas. Some clients ask for several different certificates. An example is a company where fire-hazardous materials are used and for which a government-certified fire marshal is required. These fire marshals have been trained by a fire brigade and have, as a minimum, a government-accredited fire marshal diploma (the Dutch Rijksdiploma Brandwacht) or a Crew Member A (Manschap A) diploma.
Fireman = fire marshal?
Lots of firefighters have taken up fire marshal activities as a way for them to keep working within their profession. There are also firefighters who combine their regular fire service duties with fire marshal assignments. It is thanks to these people that Brandwacht Huren has an extensive pool of government-certified fire marshals who are available to be hired.
Fire prevention versus firefighting
There are definitely similarities between a fire marshal and firefighters in the Fire Service. The main difference is that fire marshals have a preventive role and mainly focus on preventing fire, whereas the Fire Service focuses on fighting fires.