Following the Government’s announcement that 1,200 soldiers have been placed on 24-hour standby to assist with flooding this winter, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has responded in support of the news, while highlighting the essential role of UK Fire and Rescue Services.

Last winter’s floods in Cumbria and Lancashire impacted upon thousands of families, with many being evacuated, homes severely damage and more than 60,000 properties being without power, due to the flooding of a power station.

The Fire and Rescue Service makes the largest contribution to the national flood response capability, with more than 100 powered rescue boat teams and 36 non-powered rescue boat teams immediately available for deployment.

CFOA is committed to working alongside the police, ambulance service, the military and other partners to ensure the best possible response is delivered to communities when affected by wide area flooding.

During Storm Desmond last Christmas and Storm Gertrude at the beginning of 2016, Fire and Rescue Services from across the UK worked tirelessly to assist.

This was part of a national response, coordinated by CFOA’s national resilience arrangements. This means teams can be quickly mobilised nationally to assist with equipment, rescue teams and expertise.

Fire and Rescue Services across the UK worked together to deliver a co-ordinated response to the widespread flooding with high volume pumps and other specialist equipment being mobilised, alongside personnel trained to deal with the flooding caused by the severe weather.

This included the deployment of fire appliances, teams, high volume pumps, wading teams, swift water rescue trained firefighters on powered rescue boats, tactical advisers, logistical support and standard fire pumps.

High volume pumps are capable of moving up to 7,000 litres of water per minute, while powered boats crewed by swift water rescue trained firefighters and wading teams are essential in helping to rescue people and ensuring vital supplies can be delivered.

These numbers are supplemented by almost every fire appliance in the UK; with firefighters trained and equipped to provide as a minimum an initial rescue capability. This response can be sustained over an extended period of time.

The National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT), supported by lead CFOA officers, coordinates the national response and provides vital support to government.

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Dan Stephens, CFOA National Resilience Strategic Lead, said: “All of the emergency services work together closely around the clock to assist people at times of flooding. Being able to mobilise our national assets quickly and effectively is an essential part of our national resilience response; the public need to have confidence that the emergency services can – and will – respond quickly when they need us.

Both Storm Desmond and Gertrude highlighted how essential an efficient national response is for the UK and Fire and Rescue Services play a leading role in delivering this. The government must ensure national resilience assets are not understated, to ensure CFOA can continue to coordinate a national response and continue to offer this level of response as and when required.”

CFOA believes the way forward in delivering an efficient, resilient and cost effective national response to major flooding events should be based on a clear statement of duties, with Fire and Rescue Services playing a leading role. In addition it is critical that the government continues to properly and fully fund National Resilience Assets to ensure they are always available to emergencies such as this.

Highly experienced Fire and Rescue Service strategic and tactical advisers support affected areas and strategic and tactical coordination groups to resolve incidents as has been consistently demonstrated since the Cumbria floods in 2005.

The Fire and Rescue Service also coordinates a national response to wide area flooding on behalf of DEFRA through a well-established and highly effective National Coordination and Advisory Framework


Firefighter to collect OBE today

A West Midlands firefighter will today visit Buckingham Palace after being awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list. The award was given for his services to national and international search and rescue.


Group Commander Sean Moore (49), who has spent most of his career based in Coventry where he was brought up, says he is “humbled and honoured” to have been awarded.

West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service outlined why he received the award and his reaction to the news when he found out.

His OBE recognises his dedication to search and rescue which, over more than two decades, has seen him deployed to disaster zones around the world.

Sean was among the personnel who responded to Hurricane Rita in the US, and earthquakes in Turkey, Indonesia, Haiti, New Zealand, Japan and Nepal. Last year he coordinated the UK response to flooding in Bosnia.

His humanitarian work has also included trips to Romania, Bosnia, South Asia, China, the Middle East and Tanzania. In 2014 he coordinated fire and rescue service resources supporting logistics for the UK response to the Ebola crisis.

Married to Sam, with two daughters Katie (18) and Hollie (15), Sean has lived in Brandon near Coventry for 23 years. He went to Cardinal Wiseman secondary school.

He said: “I feel very humbled and honoured to be recognised with the OBE. It was a total surprise – I had to read the letter several times before I understood what it was! I only wish my mum, who passed away five weeks ago, could have been here to see it.

“I see my search and rescue work as an extension of what firefighters do every day. I simply enjoy helping people, especially at their greatest hour of need.

“I get a great deal of satisfaction from working with some of the most highly motivated and professional firefighters and rescue personnel, both in the West Midlands and across the country.

“I have witnessed many distressing situations across the world, where people have quite literally lost everything. It never fails to amaze me how we can, at very short notice, mobilise and deploy our teams to support the rescue and humanitarian missions and do whatever we can to relieve people’s suffering.”

Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer for the West Midlands, said: “Sean’s OBE is fitting recognition for someone who has put service to communities at home and abroad before personal aspiration.

“Sean has made a number of personal sacrifices to undertake his search and rescue work, and I’m sure that his colleagues and people throughout the West Midlands will join me in congratulating him.”

Sean joined West Midlands Fire Service in 1989 after serving in the Royal Navy. He went on to be based at Binley, Canley, Foleshill, and Coventry community fire stations. He has also worked in contingency planning, recruit training and on a number of specialist projects for the service.

Three years ago he began his current secondment to the Chief Fire Officers’ Association’s (CFOA) National Resilience and Assurance Team. He provides guidance and support to fire and rescue services, other agencies and the Government on national resilience issues. These include Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), CBRN, high-volume pumping, flood response and international response.

He is a Capability Advisor for 20 UK-based USAR teams, and also National Coordinator for the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team supporting 15 fire and rescue services.

Previously, Sean was seconded to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and was part of the project team that introduced Urban Search and Rescue across the UK fire and rescue sector following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.

He is currently a trainer and evaluator on various courses and exercises for the EU. For the last eight years he has been the Africa, Europe and Middle East representative on the UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.


Update from the Didcot incident

Following the major incident at the former Didcot power station in Oxfordshire, emergency services are continuing work at the site of the building collapse.

Police, fire, search and rescue and ambulance crews were called to the site of the former coal-fired Didcot A shortly after 4pm on Tuesday. To date, one person has died and three people have been reported missing.

The major incident at the now defunct power station saw a 300 metre, two storey section of a building collapse. The site closed in 2013 and was due to be demolished in the coming months.

The Chief Fire Officers Association is also working with colleagues to offer invaluable assistance. This includes colleagues from Merseyside and Cheshire, who worked on the Bosley Mill incident last summer, which saw an explosion claim lives which lead to an extensive search and rescue operation.

Dave Etheridge, CFOA’s Vice President and Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“We have spoken with the police to the families who are obviously distraught and we have explained that we have not picked up any signs of life from our listening devices. However we are doing everything we can to locate their loved ones, regardless of whether they are still alive or not.

“The extent of this incident, the nature of the collapse and the location where the missing people were working means that it is unlikely the three missing people are still alive. We have tried the construction site radios and had no response and we see this as significant.

“The rescue teams are working through the debris, with their safety being my first consideration. However everything we are doing remains consistent with a rescue operation. The rescue teams are working under very difficult circumstances, with a structure that is unsafe and with unstable piles of materials from the collapsed building.

“We are currently using scent detection dogs, listening devices, drones and we are looking at the possibility of using remote controlled probes to access dangerous parts of the site. This enables us to cover areas that are too risky for rescue teams to go themselves.

“We have called on our colleagues in Cheshire Fire & Rescue, Merseyside Fire & Rescue and the demolition company which supported Cheshire Fire & Rescue that supported the search following the fire at Bosley Mill fire last year to share any learning from that incident. I am very grateful for all their professional help and advice we have received from other places.

“Progress has been slow, but we are making progress working through the debris. We anticipate that this exercise is going to be prolonged and difficult. People need to be prepared for this operation taking several days, possibly several weeks.

“I have given a personal undertaking to the families that we will do everything we can to recover their loved ones, and their loved ones, and that is what we are trying to do. My heart goes out to them as they wait for news.”

Fire engines from Oxfordshire attended the scene, along with specialist Rescue and Command Support Units, Urban Search and Rescue units from Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and West Midlands along with live scent detection dogs. Six ambulances and two air ambulances also assisted at the scene.

USAR trained Firefighters are working in conjunction with the live scent detection dog teams to search the collapse utilising cameras and seismic acoustic equipment. Heavy plant will be utilised to delayer the collapse to expose voids within which persons might be able to survive.

It is anticipated the search will be a considerable undertaking due to the instability of the site and is likely to last for a number of days. Drones with thermal imaging cameras have also been used.

The Health and Safety Executive has been informed and will conduct an investigation, which will be supported by Thames Valley Police. It has been confirmed it is not being treated as a terrorist attack.

Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton from Thames Valley Police said: “Yesterday at just after 4pm there was a partial collapse of the disused  Didcot A Power Station resulting in the tragic death of a member of the demolition team and injuries to a further five people. Overnight, Fire and Rescue have been searching the scene for three missing people.

“The sincere thoughts of all the emergency services, including Fire and Rescue, Police and South Central Ambulance Service are with the families of all those involved.  This is a tragic event and we are doing all we can to support the families of those affected and establish the facts that led up to this incident.

“We are now working closely with the HSE inspectors to understand the cause of the incident.  The priority at this time is that the recovery of the bodies is undertaken safely and that any evidence that will assist in understanding the cause of the incident is recorded.”