Wales’ emergency services test flooding resilience

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) hosted over 15 organisations, with 250 personnel, from the emergency services and voluntary agencies as part of Exercise Polygon on 12 7 13 April – a resilience test of emergency response should South Wales be hit by severe flooding similar to Cumbria or Somerset.

Locations in Newport, Cardiff and Bridgend were used to create challenging scenarios for the crews involved from the three Welsh FRSs, RNLI, RSPCA Cymru, South Wales and Gwent Police, Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Rapid Relief Team, Cardiff International White Water and other voluntary agencies such as Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA), Civil Aid Voluntary Rescue Association (CAVRA) and the Mountain Rescue Group.

Scenarios included using the International  White Water Centre in Cardiff Bay to replicate a car submerged  in water with casualties trapped inside and people clinging to a fence in fast flowing water.

SWFRS worked with the RSPCA in a horse and rider rescue. The rider was in fact a 30 kilo dummy trapped under a 300 kilo model horse in mud with a rising tide threatening them. Both ‘horse and rider’ were successfully rescued

horse and rider on mud back (c) RSPCA Cymru
Dummy horse and rider are rescued from the mud and incoming tide. Image courtesy of SWFRS

Group Manager Andy Davison from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and Exercise Director said, “It has been a pleasure to welcome my colleagues from across Wales, whether blue lights or voluntary agency, for Exercise Polygon over the last two days. This was one of the biggest exercise in Wales this year and is about ensuring that as a Service and beyond that we are able to effectively deal with flooding incidents, keeping our communities safe and hopefully reducing damage where possible.

“While it is unlikely that South Wales will suffer severe flooding in the immediate future, with the onset of global warming we are seeing an increase of 1 in a 100 year flooding events all around the UK. Exercise Polygon ensures that we are able to mobilise and effectively deal with any flooding incidents that do occur. We also work closely with the Met Office and their teams to monitor the weather systems to ensure that we can alert our communities to any potential flooding in their area.”

Exercise Polygon was established through the All Wales Inland Water Rescue Group, which has members represented from the 15 organisations involved with the Exercise. The hashtag #exploygon was used during the event so take a look at the images and tweets by searching for the hashtag on twitter.

For more information on how to stay safe in and around water, visit www.southwales-fire.gov.uk or www.rnli.org. Look out for CFOA’s upcoming Drowning Prevention campaign from 25 April – 1 May and look out for the hashtag #BeWaterAware.

Information provided by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Enabling Collaboration between Emergency Services – Government Consultation Response

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The Home Office, Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health have today published their response to the consultation held on enabling closer collaboration between emergency services.

CFOA welcomes the confirmation that a duty to collaborate will be introduced and we will support instances where a robust local business case is made for collaboration. We will provide guidance and input to the Home Office and local services to ensure that all plans for collaboration consider the full range of issues and will produce the right outcomes for the services involved and the public they serve. CFOA has already met with the new Fire Minister and officials from the Home Office to discuss the advice and guidance that the Association can offer as the department seeks to implement its reform agenda.

Fire and rescue services already work closely with colleagues from the emergency services – for example over a third of UK FRS are already co-responding with ambulance colleagues – and we will take steps to ensure this best practice is recognised, shared and replicated where possible. Shared control centres already exist in many parts of the country, both with other police and ambulance colleagues and between fire and rescue services, which has already provided significant efficiencies.

CFOA is pleased that the government will be maintaining the principle of local determination over governance changes, and we are keen that fire and rescue services do not lose their important links to local government, the NHS and other organisations which enable services to make an important wider social contribution. CFOA strongly believes that fire and rescue services can exploit our fantastic record in prevention and enviable public support to deliver a wide range of better social outcomes. We are pleased to see that the government “will encourage wider involvement in collaboration by other bodies such as local government, health bodies or the voluntary sector.

There is scope for further collaboration between emergency services to ensure effective local and by extension national resilience, building on existing good work through JESIP and elsewhere. We are pleased that two of the three emergency services are now within one government department, which should facilitate closer working at a central government level.  However, the government will have to consider the impact of ongoing funding cuts on fire service capacity to deliver local and national resilience, especially at a time when both Police and Ambulance have seen their budgets protected.

We are pleased that the government has reiterated that police and fire services will remain operationally distinct.

There remain some areas for further consideration, such as financial model that would be put in place where PCCs do take over, and the potential implications of allowing a joint “Chief Officer” to designate certain police powers to their fire personnel. The Government also intends to consider further how assurance and assessment can be improved, building on the Peer Review system and the potential for the reintroduction of an inspectorate for fire in some form.  CFOA will work with the Home Office and our police and ambulance colleagues to consider all these issues and others in more detail.

Paul Hancock, CFOA President said;

“CFOA will work with the Home Office to help them implement their reform agenda to ensure it produces the most benefit for the fire and rescue service and the public we serve. The UK Fire and Rescue Service is a world class emergency service with a distinct brand and reputation, but there are opportunities for closer working with colleagues in the police, ambulance and beyond.”

“CFOA remain committed to a locally determined approach to the future of the fire and rescue service, and believe that local people and partners should support any proposed collaboration.  It will also be important to consider how ongoing funding reductions might impact on services and their capacity to deliver an ambitious reform agenda.”

CFOA President Paul Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Today programme this morning to discuss this issue with the Sir Ken Knight, author of the “Facing the Future” report in 2013. You can hear Paul and Sir Ken from around 1 hr 30 min.

CFOA’s initial response to the consultation can be found here.

The Chief Fire Officers Association Launches “Beyond Blue Lights” News-Style Programme at AGM Conference

Following a unique communications partnership with ITN Productions, CFOA premiered its first news and current affairs-style programme called ‘Beyond Blue Lights’ at the AGM conference on Monday the 14th of September.

With the prevention message cutting through and reducing fire call-outs, officers are extending their skills to help reduce and create safer and stronger communities. ‘Beyond Blue Lights’ uncovers the latest innovations and technology, new preventive partnerships and the changing role of fire and rescue services in our society.

Introduced by national newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, the programme combines key industry interviews and news-style reports along with sponsored editorial profiles of some of the leading organisations in the sector.

Simon Shelley, Head of Industry News, ITN Productions said: “ITN Productions has enjoyed its partnership with the Chief Fire Officers Association as a means of examining the evolving role and relevance of the fire and rescue service. We wanted to bring to life the incredible innovations that are saving lives, but also focus on the people throughout the service who are striving to work collaboratively to prevent tragic incidents. By bringing this all to screen we hope to spark new dialogue that could shape the future of the service.”

Paul Hancock, CFOA President said “CFOA’s partnership with ITN Productions has been extremely fruitful, as this fantastic programme shows. It does a great job of highlighting the wide role of the fire and rescue service, from world class emergency response and national resilience to innovative collaboration and prevention activity. I hope it will serve to show just what a difference the fire and rescue service – and the people that work for it – can make.

Watch the full programme here:

For more information about the programme or about ITN productions generally, please contact adam.harrod@itn.co.uk


About ITN Productions

ITN Productions is ITN’s bespoke production hub producing creative and commercially valuable content for the corporate, commercial, broadcast and digital sectors. Industry News forms part of this offering and is a communications tool for leading industry bodies and national associations produced in a broadcast news programme format, including interviews, news items and sponsored editorial profiles.

For more information visit: www.itnproductions.co.uk


About the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA)

CFOA is the professional voice of the UK fire and rescue service, supporting members to fulfil their leadership role in protecting local communities and making life safer through improved service delivery.

Providing professional advice to inform government policy, CFOA is committed to developing both strategic and technical guidance and sharing notable practice within the wider FRS.

All the senior management within fire and rescue services across the UK are eligible for membership of the Association. CFOA is the driving force in managing change and implementing reforms in the service.