No postcode lottery for fire safety

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   Government eventually bowed to political pressure to                                     It is also of concern that statistics for the last 12
                                                                                        months show an increase in the number of accidental
   allow a debate on the fire and rescue service national                               fire deaths. The next set of quarterly statistics need to
                                                                                        show a reduction in the number of all fire deaths rather
   framework document, although not on the floor of                                     than showing no increase on the last quarter due to fire
                                                                                        deaths now plateauing out at this higher level. It is crucial
   the House of Commons. The work was given to a                                        that any long term trend is closely monitored.
                                                                                           The FBU supports the introduction of meaningful
   special cross-party standing committee of MPs, all of                                national performance indicators to measure progress
                                                                                        towards fire death reduction and other targets on a
   whom were given a detailed briefing by the union …                                   regular basis.
                                                                                           The union is concerned that the current national
                                                                                        targets only become ‘measurable’ in the year 2010 and
            HE union supports the new risk-based approach                               that no targets or indicators have been set that will
         to planning fire and rescue service activity and                               require fire authorities to demonstrate that their fire
         resource deployment.                                                           and community safety activities are improving public
       But this approach needs to be underpinned by a                                   safety standards and reducing death and injuries from
   national risk-based standard and comprehensive national                              fire before that date.
   fire service strategy policy to replace the 1985 standards
   of fire cover. This is to avoid the 58 varieties of IRMPs                             IRMPS
   that appear to be developing.                                                        We have serious concerns about the lack of time allowed
       National standards                                                               for constructing integrated risk management plans, and

                                   No postcode
   are needed to ensure that                                                            the failure to pilot the IRMP process.
   both the public and the                                                                  At national level there has to be a far more integrated
   workforce are protected                                                              and common approach to developing guidance on IRMPs
   and that service provision                                                           and the setting of targets and best value performance

                                   lottery for
   doe s not degener ate                                                                indicators. (BVPIs) for fire and rescue authorities. The
   into a postcode lottery                                                              government needs to produce benchmark standards
   for levels of prevention,                                                            that fire and rescue authorities will be both guided and
   detection or intervention.                                                           measured by.

                                   fire safety
       The union believes
   that such a national                                                                 COMMUNITY FIRE SAFETY
   standard and national                                                                    The four areas of community fire safety need to be
   strategy should have zero                                                            placed under the one heading of prevention but this is
   fire deaths as its central                                                            not a panacea for all fire problems. While undoubtedly
   target.                                                                              important, it is just one element of a fire safety strategy
       While the commitment to further reduce fire deaths                                and in itself no quick fix solution to reducing fires in
   is welcome, the FBU believes that the new targets are not                            buildings and deaths and casualties from fires.
   ambitious enough.                                                                        CFS should not be viewed in isolation nor should it be
       In 1988 the report of the community fire safety task                              allowed to siphon off skilled resources from other fire
   group established five-year targets as follows:                                       safety factors, notably fire safety enforcement.
   ● To reduce the number of accidental fires in dwellings
      by one third                                                                      ARSON REDUCTION
   ● To reduce the number of accidental fire deaths by                                  As with community fire safety, arson reduction programmes
      40%                                                                               have to be developed as part of an overall strategic
   ● To reduce serious non-fatal casualties by 5% year on                               community safety plan that develops local tactical initia-
      year                                                                              tives to deal with the growing problem of arson.
   ● To achieve measurable annual improvement in fire                                         The proposals for arson reduction in the framework
      safety awareness, attitudes and behaviour.                                        document demonstrate a lack of understanding of what
       But under the government’s proposed fire death                                   a properly developed and fully integrated arson control
   reduction targets, more people could die in fires than                                programme could achieve when merged with other
   at present, yet brigade targets still be achieved. This is                           fire safety programmes under the common title of fire
   because the fire reduction targets only cover reducing                                prevention.
   deaths in accidental fires in the home.                                                    It is not purely a fire and rescue service issue. It must
       Deaths as a result of arson are specifically excluded,                            be approached in a fully developed partnership flowing
   but fire statistics for the last 12 months show the number                            from a comprehensive and strategic IRMP process.
   of deaths due to arson are rising.                                                        Another problem has been the lack of any real co-
       The FBU believes that a target of zero fire deaths is                             ordination between the Home Office – which has respon-
   not simply desirable but is achievable through effective                             sibility for police and criminal matters – and the Office of
   planning and resourcing of preventive, protective and                                the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) which has responsi-
   emergency response strategies.                                                       bility for fire matters.
       It is also a simpler method of judging whether all fire                                The FBU recommends that the work and planning
   deaths are being reduced and avoids the temptation of        ■ A full copy of the    of the ODPM’s arson control forum (ACF) should be
   some deaths being attributed to arson simply to help hit     document is available   combined with other groups such as the practitioners
   the targets for reducing accidental deaths.                  on       forum and the business and community safety forum

   22 Firefighter April 2005
                                                                                            Wider FBU
into one common national fire safety body. At a local
level these issues should be combined into fire and rescue
service IRMPs and fully resourced.

The building regulations offer a long-term solution to           FBU AND
many fire safety problems in the built environment. The           RAYNSFORD
government says in the framework document that it is
                                                                                            group meets
keen to improve fire safety by all reasonable means and
that it will consider carefully the role of sprinklers as part   FOR ONCE!
of a package of measures in buildings.                           THIS was fire
    We have to ask which part of government this is as           minister Nick

                                                                                            for first time
not all departments seem so keen to consider sprinklers.         Raynsford’s answer to
The Department for Education and Skills is responsible           parliamentary question
for school buildings that have one of the highest fire loss       last month:
rates for any type of building. Yet we understand it is          Nigel Waterson
positively hostile to such a proposal.                           (Con, Eastbourne;          A WIDENED FBU parliamentary group was due to hold its
    We also understand that there may be concerns about          Opposition                 inaugural meeting in March as Firefighter went to press.
existing fire safety standards. It is a simple equation: if       spokesperson on                 General secretary Andy Gilchrist was set to attend,
business saves money by lowering building fire safety             Economic Affairs):         along with John McGhee, national officer responsible
protection standards, then fire and rescue authorities            To ask the Deputy          for the union’s political work. Andrew Dismore MP (Lab,
and the taxpayer may have to pay more to increase inter-         Prime Minister             Hendon) is chairing the group, Michael Clapham MP (Lab,
vention response levels to deal with the increased risk.         what assessment            Barnsley West and Penistone) will be vice-chair and John
                                                                 he has made of the         McDonnell MP (Lab Hayes and Harlington) is expected to
HEALTH AND SAFETY                                                implications for           be secretary.
The service still needs to improve its health and safety         tackling domestic               The group was to be fully briefed by Andy Gilchrist and
record and the FBU needs to continue to play a full role in      fires if regional           John McGhee on our key workplace campaigns – pensions;
the improvement of health and safety standards across            control centres are        regionalisation of emergency fire controls; retained fire-
the whole of the service.                                        established; and if he     fighter recruitment and equality; and attacks on fire-
    The union expects the fullest use and provision of           will make a statement.     fighters.
facilities for worker health and safety representatives in       Nick Raynsford: The             MPs in this new group have already sent letters
meeting this challenge.                                          technology to be used      requesting urgent talks with deputy prime minister John
                                                                 in the regional control    Prescott on the issue of FBU members’ pensions and
NEW DIMENSION                                                    centres for the Fire       the need for a new national standard for fire and rescue
The FBU would like to see included in the framework              and Rescue Service         service emergency response planning (see page 20).
document a more specific explanation of how the govern-           will automatically             “An effective parliamentary voice for firefighters
ment intends to ensure that fire authorities can meet the         locate callers from the    and emergency fire control staff is greatly needed as we
additional resource requirements as envisaged in the New         telephone network,         approach the Government’s planned changes for the Fire
Dimension initiative.                                            detect the appliance       Service,” said Andrew Dismore.
     While the capital investment in equipment is signifi-        with the appropriate           “The FBU parliamentary group will be invaluable for
cant and welcome, there are clear resource implications          skills and equipment       the FBU to have an effective and co-ordinated parlia-
for personnel and training. Any major incident or incidents      which can be most          mentary group consistently raising the union’s concerns
will need the response of a number of entire brigades over       quickly mobilised to       with Ministers and fellow MPs and using every available
what may be considerable periods of time.                        the incident and direct    parliamentary channel to advance our cause. I am very
     We have major concerns that there will simply not           it along the most          honoured to be an active member of the new group.”
be enough personnel to deal properly with either the             effective route to the         John McDonnell said the establishment of a parlia-
incidents themselves or their aftermath.                         incident. This will help   mentary group of MPs on behalf of the union provided
     Continuing to seek a reduction in the numbers of            the fire and rescue         firefighters and emergency fire control staff for the first
the frontline service which will have to deal with such          service to reach all       time in the history of the FBU with an organised voice in
incidents will, in our view, seriously undermine the ability     incidents, including       Parliament to represent the union and its members. “We
of the service to properly respond to such incidents. We         domestic fires, quicker     will be standing up for the rights of FBU members and the
believe such an approach is self-defeating.                      and so save more lives.    future of the Fire Service,” he said.
     We recommend an increase in wholetime personnel in                                          David Drew, Labour and Co-operative MP for Stroud
                                                                 No we don’t agree
the region of 2.5% (around 1,000) as the minimum needed                                     welcomed the development, saying he greatly valued
                                                                 with you on regional
and that the number of retained personnel be brought up                                     his links with the FBU. “The previous group brought us
                                                                 controls Mr Raynsford,
to at least the full establishment.                                                         together during the very bitter and painful pay and condi-
                                                                 but we applaud the
     If this does not happen, entire understaffed brigades                                  tions dispute,” he said.
                                                                 fact that as fire
are likely to be tied up dealing solely with such incidents as                                  “I was pleased to be able to make representations on
                                                                 minister you finally
best they can with far fewer (if any) left to deal with what                                behalf of that group during the path of the legislation
                                                                 acknowledge, quite
may be other serious incidents such as fires or flooding.                                     and by lobbying government.
                                                                 correctly, that reaching
     The union would also like to see significantly larger                                       “I hope that this group can further bind us together
                                                                 any emergency incident
sums than currently earmarked spent on training all                                         so that we can make sure that the future of the fire and
                                                                 quicker, and not just
personnel in New Dimension incidents. We recommend a                                        rescue service is properly debated and that there is
                                                                 fires in people’s houses,
serious rethink of the current approach to both personnel                                   better understanding of the needs of firefighters and
                                                                 will save more lives!
and training with a view to increasing both.                                                emergency fire control operators in parliament.”.

                                                                                                                       April 2005 Firefighter 23

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