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Nichola Brooke-Hughes has joined Oakleaf’s fire team as Director of Operations Fire. Find out how a passion for the sector coupled with knowledge and expertise is driving a solution-based fire safety approach for clients…

With a career in property management that has focused on building safety, Oakleaf’s newly appointed Director of Operations Fire, Nichola Brooke-Hughes is no stranger to guiding clients on their building’s fire safety requirements.

Although Nichola started her early career in financial services her segue into property management was a natural progression. Property had always been a topic of interest for Nichola and being heavily involved with property sales in the financial sector meant that when her career pivoted into property, her skill set complemented areas such as budgeting and service charge accounting.

But, it was Nichola’s role on a specialist building safety project that sparked her passion for fire safety. We sat down with Nichola to hear how her passion is steering a solution-based service at Oakleaf that supports those navigating fire legislation and regulations.

It’s more than ‘just a job’, it’s a vocation.

“In the fire safety industry, it’s fair to say that you never stop learning,” says Nichola.

“Every day is a challenge. Every day is different. And they’re the things that I think make it such an exciting place to work, such an interesting industry to be involved in.

“I think most people involved in the fire safety industry have got a passion for it. It’s almost like a calling. You get involved in a project or you get involved in a piece of work and you dedicate yourself to see it through. You can get tunnel vision while you’re dealing with it because you’ve got that drive to support your client and finish the project.”

Working on a property management building safety team for three years meant that this work ethic enabled Nichola to help clients with the recent changes in fire safety legislation.

“Over the last couple of years, post-Grenfell in particular, the emphasis on fire safety, predominantly in residential blocks of flats, has been huge,” says Nichola. “Changes to legislation have happened quickly and there’s a lot for people to comprehend and act on.

“The regulations that the government has brought out, are there to ensure that the buildings that we live and work in are safe. And that means that there’s going to be a lot of education, documentation and competency that needs to be built into that process.”

Nichola’s work on the specialist building safety team meant interpreting the legislation and putting policies together for clients, training and developing management teams so they were able to comply with the changes. “Clients were having to shift their mindset,” explains Nichola. “They suddenly became accountable, through default, for a raft of legislation and fire safety, and the new requirements of the building safety regulators.”

Solution-based approach meets growing demand for fire safety support

Nichola’s expertise and knowledge now feeds into the work of the fire division at Oakleaf. The consultancy side of the business is growing rapidly to meet the demands that new pieces of legislation are putting on clients.

“There’s a whole safety piece clients are having to consider – building safety cases and safety reports, Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls (FRAEW) and the structure of a building, which creates a lot of uncertainty and people are naturally nervous,” explains Nichola.

“But, this is where we can step in and support them, offer them a solution-based approach, which is the side of my job that I love – problem-solving. Letting clients know that if they’ve got a problem, they can pick up the phone and know that someone’s there who will firstly understand and secondly provide an answer.”

“We have a very talented and focused group of people at Oakleaf, where everybody has the same mindset, the same desires and goals, which makes for a great working environment and benefits our clients hugely.”

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