The Team

Jonathan O'Neill OBE

In Memoriam

Jonathan O’Neill graduated in economics and history from Anglia Ruskin University in 1985, and after initial employment in the insurance sector, he joined the Loss Prevention Council (LPC) in the early 1990s. Here he held roles including marketing manager and latterly manager for education and training. But it was in 1999 that he took over as Managing Director, where his first task was to oversee the separation and relocation of the Fire Protection Association from the LPC. The FPA name and reputation had suffered prior to this, and it had become a small, loss-making part of LPC that lacked focus and direction. He began to rebuild relationships with key stakeholders and restructured the business, employing a young but well-qualified, strong management team who remained together throughout the majority of his tenure. Jon was a dynamic leader and a quick decision maker, and he remained the very heart of the organisation for the rest of his life, completing three decades of its leadership in 2022.

Jon’s mission throughout his time at the helm was to give the FPA a clear focus, with an aim to improve fire safety and protection throughout the country. He oversaw its evolution from an organisation which was financially dependent on the insurance sector to one which was a self-sufficient not-for-profit business. With the support of colleagues, he developed it from a small entity of about twenty people to the organisation that it is today - with over 100 staff, a profitable turnover, and an international reputation for provision of vocational training, consultancy, and innovative research. Throughout this time, he ensured it retained its cultural integrity and ethos. Jon recognised that the heart of the FPA was its people and he was unstinting in his support for staff at all levels, who hold the same values as he did.

In the process of building the FPA, Jon twice oversaw its relocation, and since 2004 it has been based at the Fire Service College campus, Moreton-in-Marsh. As the FPA continued to thrive and grow, he led the creation of a fire test facility at nearby Blockley that opened in 2013, enabling the FPA to remain at the forefront of technological advances in fire protection methods and techniques. Jon also drove the expansion of the FPA in 2001 to include RISCAuthority, an annually funded research scheme which conducts research on behalf of the insurance sector.

Under his leadership, the FPA was at the forefront of driving for change in the sector, with successful campaigns, such as Safer Futures and Know Your Building, launched to raise awareness of fire safety issues amongst government and the general public.

His talents also drew him into a range of outside activities. He first rose to prominence as a leading member of a strong team who wrote the influential ‘Safe as Houses’ safety report for the Home Office in 1999. This report started the transformation of the Fire and Rescue Services to focus on preventing fires and reducing their impact by fitting smoke alarms and advocating home safety visits. He served with distinction on the government’s Building Regulations Advisory Committee.

No stranger to Westminster and the wider political world, he had frequent contact with ministers and had a hand in steering All-party Parliamentary Groups as well as local politicians, particularly those who served on fire authorities. He served on numerous government, ministerial, and sector advisory bodies and was one of the industry experts to be appointed to the coalition government’s Fire Future Review. He represented UK insurers on the Prevention Forum of Insurance Europe; was on the Executive of the Fire Sector Federation and the Operational Guidance Group; and he was a member of the Boards of British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC), Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB), and BAFE.

He was at the forefront of trying to knit together the efforts of individual parts of the fire sector. Firstly, bridging the Fire and Rescue Service - insurance industry divide, and then concentrating on creating the fire professional network between institutions, such as the Institute of Fire Engineers, and the Confederation of Fire Protection Associations (CFPA). A focus on conferencing led to the re-establishment of the FIRE conference, also aimed at bringing the sector together. From this endeavour developed the recent sequence of fi re summits and conferences, which provided a valuable platform for the sector to present its thinking on its development to both political and international interests.

One key part of Jon’s ongoing legacy to fire safety in the UK, and one he was very proud to be instrumental in creating, is the Fire Sector Federation’s white paper, Developing a National Strategy for Fire Safety, launched at last year’s FIRE Conference. Jon saw education and training as key to improving the fire safety sector, and championed the cause of structured training, development, and third-party accreditation. Leading by example, during his tenure, the FPA established itself as the premier fire safety training provider in the UK. As a testament to Jon’s vast contribution to the fire safety sector, he was awarded an OBE by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2017.


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