Following the recent Radio 5 Live programme ‘5 Live Investigates’ on fire appliance response times, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) would like to clarify a key point made in the programme.
During the programme, it was stated that firefighters are not allowed – by law – to enter a burning building before a second appliance arrives as back-up.
CFOA would like to reassure the public that this is not the case; this is an untrue statement which misrepresents fire and rescue services and the thousands of firefighters working across the UK to keep the communities they serve safe.
In the example given during the news item it implied that there was no intervention by fire crews before the second appliance arrived. This is not a true record of events; the first attending appliance had commenced firefighting and rescue immediately on arrival.
National Operational Guidance allows firefighters to enter a property to conduct lifesaving operations within a safe system of work, even when crew numbers are limited.
CFOA has also highlighted the Fire and Rescue Services operate to their own local plans, called Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP).
These allow individual services to assess risks to communities, meaning resources can be targeted to prevent incidents and ensure resources are in the best location. These plans are tailored to meet the needs of the community, the environment, commercial activity, local needs and also economic factors.
This approach allows services to more responsive to local needs and the plans are reviewed, monitored and updated regularly.
The programme itself focused on response times based on a Freedom of Information request by the BBC. 60 per cent of fire and rescue services stated that second fire engines were slower to respond to house fires currently than in 2010.
While Government figures show response times across the UK are up by 20 seconds for dwelling fires, CFOA firmly believes that these figures should not be taken in isolation; risk management plans and National Operational Guidance must be taken in account when looking at these statistics.
Following the Home Secretary’s Fire Reform announcement earlier this year, CFOA made a commitment to work with the Government to drive reform forward, including CFOA taking a leading role in seeking assurance that fire and rescue service funding will be sustainable.
It is a well documented fact that austerity measures has led to fire budget cuts of more than £300 million during the last six years (28% of government funding), which has had an impact on recruitment.
In addition, the number of operational staff has fallen by almost a fifth in the last five years. All Services use their resources in the most effective way to serve their communities.