Tag Archives: Fire

Thank you

5 Jan

Guest blog by @savesouthwark:

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With the assistance of our good friend Jules (@julieanneda), now seemed the right time to put down in words our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who has supported our campaign to try and keep Southwark and nine other London fire stations open. 140 characters on Twitter would never have allowed us to do justice in adequately conveying such thanks to you all. To thank each and every one of you individually would be a massive task and whilst we would happily do so, we would be equally concerned that we had left somebody out in error.

Why we have ended up where we are is well documented. Our starting point right from the very beginning was that if the station was to close, we would leave knowing that we had done everything possible to prevent such a thing from happening.

On many an occasion we were told it was pointless, but at no point did we ever give up. We have attended numerous Tenants & Residents Association meetings, delivered in excess of 5000 leaflets, hit the road and attended numerous Borough consultation meetings, engaged with the local and national media and maintained a presence on Twitter, Facebook and on our website.

Twitter has been an inspiration to us and has allowed all the London fire stations to have a voice and engage with the public throughout the campaign. Hands up, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing at the beginning, but with the help and advice we received from so many of you, we’d like to think we got there in the end. There are ever growing numbers of fire stations, police officers, paramedics, nursing staff, coastguard officers etc. taking to Twitter and other social media. Whilst there are many pitfalls that one can come across in doing so, with care and attention to what is being said you need not fall foul of any guidelines. We would urge every fire station in London and beyond to consider having a social media presence. Being on Twitter and Facebook has allowed us to engage with so many great people and receive some fantastic advice too. It’s also kept us going when inspiration was low. But most importantly of all, regardless of the outcome, it gave US a voice.

As this is being written our four watches will be coming to the end of their final shifts at the station. It’s not lost on us that there has been a fire station at the current location in Southwark since 1878 when Captain Sir Eyre Massey Shaw was Chief Officer of the LFB’s predecessor, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Quite what he would make of it is anybody’s guess. Though interestingly, it is reported that when his Fire Brigade was taken over by the London County Council in 1889, he disagreed with the administration and resigned in 1891.

In closing, we’d like to pay tribute to all the fire-fighters and officers at Southwark Fire Station, the fire-fighters and officers at the nine other stations listed to close (Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Westminster and Woolwich) and to our colleagues at surrounding stations, not affected by closure but none the less who supported the campaign, for all their hard work and campaigning.  Additionally, we’d like to thank the FBU-London Region and all of you who wrote such great blogs.

Our last thanks go to you, the public. We have been humbled by the support we have received throughout and couldn’t have carried on without you. Thank you for all the advice, comments and encouragement. You have been outstanding.

From the Red, Blue, White and Green Watches of Southwark Fire Station, thank you.

Fire Warning

21 Dec

wolf in fire2

As well as the public, Firefighter’s lives will be at risk due to Government austerity cuts, writes John Maggs, Avon FBU Health & Safety Coordiator.  I am delighted to host his writing here: 

You can follow him on twitter @john_maggsfbu

As well as the public, Firefighter’s lives will be at risk due to Government austerity cuts, writes John Maggs, Avon FBU Health & Safety Coordiator.

It has just been confirmed that the citizens and workers of London are to lose 10 fire stations in less than three weeks’ time as part of a cost cutting plan.  These will by no means be the only fire stations to close or lose appliances and firefighters in the near future due to austerity measures.  All over the UK cuts are being made to emergency services.  The total cost of the fire and rescue service per year is just £44 per adult, less than £1 per week.  However, over the last three years, as part of the Government’s spending review, drastic cuts to Government funding to local authorities, including Fire & Rescue Services have been made.  David Cameron’s pre-election pledge to protect front line fire services has been broken.  The question is how will this affect the safety of, not only the public, but also the firefighters who are left?

Nine firefighters died whilst on duty between April 2007 and March 2008, the worst 12 month period since 1985, with the deaths of four firefighters in Warwickshire in 2007 being the most tragic single incident since 1972.  The trend for firefighter deaths was falling until the turn of the century, and then started to rise significantly afterwards.  This led the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to commission the Labour Research Department (LRD) to research and produce a report into the rise of firefighter fatalities.  The resulting document In the Line of Duty was published in September 2008.  This report detailed how firefighters died and how an “on duty” fatality is defined.  It also attempted to establish why the trend has increased and laid out several recommendations to improve the situation.

Since the publication of this report, there have been four more fatalities, one in Edinburgh in 2009 and two in Southampton in 2010 and one in Manchester this year.  Clearly the fatality rate of on-duty firefighters is continuing.  Any workplace death is a tragedy but an increase in avoidable deaths is criminal!

The report also touches upon the distinct possibility of firefighter deaths through work related diseases.  Very little research has been carried out in UK, but there has been research carried out in USA concluding firefighters are at much greater risk of certain cancers and other diseases than other groups due to many factors such as long term exposure to toxins (including asbestos), repeated exposure to high temperatures and even unusual sleep patterns through shift working.  How many firefighters die an early death, post retirement from work related diseases is unknown.

The document concludes that a possible reason for the increased on –duty deaths is due to the Government devolving national standards of fire cover, incident attendances, training and procedures to individual Fire Authorities who are tasked with devising their own standards through an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP).

Another document that needs considering is the FBU’s Critical Attendance Standard (CAST) planning scenarios which lays out the minimum number of firefighters required to safely carry out a task at any given scenario. Examples are: a small outdoor fire (4 firefighters), a house fire confined to one room (10) and a high rise fire, again confined to one room (13).  It’s important to emphasise the word minimum; if any of the above escalates, extra resources will need to be at the scene as soon as possible.

Now we get down to the problem; a few years back, many Fire Authorities started to make budgetary cuts to their Services, justified, through their IRMP, by claiming  programmes of fire safety education to the public would mean less incidents to attend.  Their logic followed if there are less incidents then less resources, ie. firefighters, would be required to attend.  Although fire safety work is vitally important, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the flaw in this thinking: less fires does not mean smaller, less dangerous fires.  Even so resources attending incidents were reduced and attendance times increased.

To give a couple of examples then:  A burning vehicle will generate a lot of heat and extremely toxic smoke; there is also a danger of explosions due to a tank full of fuel  and compressed gas activated air bags and seatbelt tensioners.  CAST states a minimum of five firefighters need to be in attendance to allow two properly supervised firefighters wearing breathing apparatus to fight the fire with an adequate water supply.  With some Fire & Rescue Services cutting this to a crew of three in a mini appliance with a small water tank (or even one on a motorbike with a foam extinguisher!), the firefighters are left in a vulnerable position, possibly exposed to toxins, inadequate water supply and supervision.  If anything goes wrong, firefighters are in real danger in what should be a straight forward incident.

Moving up to a more serious fire in a high rise block, CAST says a minimum of 13 firefighters are required, but this is for a small single room fire.  Such fires have a habit of escalating due to wind driving the flames as windows fail and poor ventilation pushing temperatures up to several hundred degrees.  Add this to this the amount of water needed to be pumped up several floors, zero visibility and the danger of obstacles, especially entanglement in electrical cables collapsing onto firefighters (a real problem contributing to firefighter deaths), and the dangers rapidly increase.  If extra resources aren’t available quickly, Firefighter will be in real danger as evidence shows-  four firefighters have recently died in such scenarios.

On top of the ‘Spending Review’ (cuts!) the Fire & Rescue Service also faces recommendations made in the recently published  Chief Fire Officers Association spending review, which calls for ‘efficiency savings’ (read more cuts!), the indications are cuts will continue for many years to come.  Despite FBU’s response in their Facing Reality document, every FRS is expected to make several million pounds worth of savings.  With the biggest proportion of the budget of any Service being the wage bill it is clear how best to save money – cut jobs.  Over the next few years significant cuts will be made across the UK to the amount of front line firefighters.  Fire appliances are being withdrawn from service and stations are closing.  This means in many instances less firefighters will be sent to each incident.  Where standards are kept and the same level of response is sent, those resources will take longer to reach the incidents allowing fires to develop.  This in turn may mean further resources are required more often, which will of course take longer to arrive.  No great mathematics are required to see that this will put the firefighters already in attendance in more danger as they attempt to contain a rapidly expanding fire or search for casualties in a burning building.  It is a very real fear of mine that more firefighters and members of the public will be killed and severely injured as a direct result of austerity measures.  Even without the life risk, a fire to personal property, especially your home is devastating.  If you dial 999 you expect and deserve a rapid response, the fire service will never arrive quickly enough for you.  This is a fear shared by FBU who published It’s About Time in answer to the drop in standards.

Further, great strides have been made internationally into the science of fire behaviour in recent years.  If the knowledge is used properly, firefighting techniques can become much safer.  However, this knowledge needs to be passed onto the firefighters who need to apply it in a practical manner, or that knowledge is useless.  The only way to do this is through a robust training plan.

So what needs to be done?  First of all the Government needs to rethink their spending plan regarding the fire service, along with all the other emergency services (where the dangers are also increasing).  We need a fire service that can provide adequate resources for the job in hand with a fast response when back up is called for; that means more fire appliances adequately crewed.  We need firefighters who are given the very best equipment available which can be relied upon.  We need adequate training facilities and training time for all firefighters so they can practice the very latest techniques in order to protect themselves and the public.  We need a fit workforce capable of doing the onerous work they are often called to do.

Only when the Government, not only rethinks its ‘Spending Review’ of the emergency services, but starts putting more into its resources, can a Fire & Rescue Service be rebuilt that is suitable for protecting the public, and the firefighters providing the service. The public deserve a fire & rescue service fit for our modern times.

 

 

Why I support the fire fighter’s strike

13 Dec

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I support the fire fighter’s in their strike against the government’s decision to increase their working age, change the terms of the pension that they signed up for, and to make harsh cuts to their service. Just as I do for the police service.

Most of us are woefully ignorant of the wide remit of the challenging work that you do. I know it’s not simply fire fighting or rescue work. It’s prevention also.

I remember as a small child the house next door burning from an electrical fault. I remember the smell of burnt flesh. It seered into my consciousness in a way that I can’t ever describe.  You put yourselves out there for a barely adequate living wage. Trying to protect us mostly from ourselves.

As populations grow despite the tremendous preventative work you do. Incidents will occur. Accidents on roads etc.  I want to know that you are there. Within 5 mins of me or my family and friends.  I want to know that your service to us is fairly paid and adequately rewarded.  I want to know that you are fully equipped. 

Surely that is not too much to expect?

Keep fighting for us please. Stay unified and strong. If you can weaken the paralytic grip the gvt has on emergency services then it becomes more possible for the rest of the public sector to succeed also.

The frail excuse of austerity is not the whole truth.  Most people are seeing it’s lies now as the reaction to the MPs wage increase shows.

Even if it were true there are some services that are essential.  The infrastructure of the country needs a stable core.  Fire, police are part of that core as are ambulances,  hospitals and schools.

You ALL provide the framework that our society is undepinned by. Thank you for that.

Jules

Fire Service

18 Nov

Another excellent guest post via  @Artemiska999

Thank you!

00:00:46
Added on 23/11/2010
1,487 views

Dear Friends,

Over 9,200 of us have signed!  Thank you for signing the petition, “Save our fire stations”.  Please can you continue to the word by forwarding the link below to your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues?

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-our-firestations

Save London Fire Stations 10 (SLFS10) will be holding another Red Balloon Event at the London High Court on 26 November to coincide with the judicial review of the decision to close these stations.  Please contact them for more details:savelondonfirestations10@gmail.com.

These closures will affect us all and make us vulnerable at home, at work, at school, at university, on the bus, on the underground, on the train, on our bikes, in a restaurant, in the cinema.  Mr Cleverly, Chair of LFEPA and appointed by the Mayor to that position, describes LSP5, the plan which on 9 January 2014 will decimate the London Fire Brigade, as “risk based”.  It is not risk-based.  A risk-based plan would not equate places with low density of population like Orpington with places with high density of population like Kingsland or Westminster.  It would not equate Stanmore with Southwark, the borough where fire deaths have increased by 300% in the last few years, or Clerkenwell.

The plan is not risk-based.  Is it based on a competent model?

Recent fire incidents have shown that fires do not queue up politely and wait their turn.  For example, on 24 October, crews were busy at St Thomas’s Hospital.  This required engines from Southwark (due to close), Westminster (due to close), Lambeth and Dowgate.  Lambeth will be taking over Westminster’s responsibilities and Dowgate will take over Southwark’s after 9 January.

At the same time there was an incident in Warwick Way which needed four engines, including two engines from Brixton.

Or there was the fire on Oxford St.  Soho, the nearest station, was already busy.  It took the first engine, Knightsbridge (due to close) 11 minutes to get there.  The target for the first engine under LSP5 is 6 minutes.

There are questions about the competency of the model. So is the plan based on cost?  Yes, it does seem that money is the driver of this plan, but perhaps not in the way one would hope.  Allegedly, the Mayor wants to make £28.8 million savings this year by cutting these ten fire stations:

Belsize, a Grade II* listed building, already being viewed by free schools

Bow, a busy station

Clerkenwell, a Grade II listed Building, also being earmarked as a free school

Downham, a busy station

Kingsland, a busy station in an area of high-density population. Property prices rising due to Crossrail

Knightsbridge, a busy station, just behind Harrods and located in a conservation area

Silvertown, located in the crash zone for the City Airport and in an area approved by the Mayor in June 2013 for £1.5 billion redevelopment

Southwark, a Grade II listed building and a busy station. 26 fire deaths in the last five years, making it the deadliest borough. Also being eyed as a free school location.

Westminster, a Grade II listed building and a busy station. Located in a terror zone which is also 75% conservation area. Station for Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and Houses of Parliament

Woolwich, a Grade II listed building and also busy.

In 2010, Southwark Fire Station was valued conservatively at £10 million.  LFEPA at its recent meeting to discuss disposal of the ten fire station sites estimated their value at £50 million (which is questionable, given the value of Southwark alone).  Is the driver of LSP5 the value of the station?  Is LSP5 about delivering safety or harvesting a one-off windfall?

The Mayor will tell you that fire deaths are down.  That much is true (down but not by much).  That is because fire fighters do home fire risk assessment visits where they also fit smoke alarms for free.  They visit schools and universities, housing estates and high rise buildings, making sure to visit the old and disabled.  If LSP5 goes ahead, the stations taking over the duties of the closed stations will not have time to do more home safety visits in addition to their existing workloads.  They will not have the capacity to absorb that.  Westminster’s nearest station will be south across the river in Lambeth, but Lambeth is already busy.  Southwark’s nearest station will be north across the river in Dowgate, a busy station which also serves the City.  So will the Mayor send firefighters from outlying, less busy stations into central London to do these visits?

Why do we have fire stations?  For much the same reason that we have home, travel or car insurance.  Fire fighters and fire stations are insurance and the majority of us to date have not needed OUR fire stations and OUR firefighters to rescue us from a road traffic accident, chemical spillage, gas leak, flood, helicopter accident, terrorist attack, smoke-filled station or a fire.

Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans will change that.  And, just as President George Bush said, “Read my lips: no tax increase” before breaking that pre-election promise immediately upon election, Mr Johnson promised no fire cuts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlNCf82iIBE

We should have a properly-funded fire service.  The Mayor has stated that one cycle death in one too many (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-24932541).

I agree.  Later he says, “Every death in London’s streets is one too many.”

He will spend £386 million over three years on cycling.  Yet he will cut £45 million over two years from the London Fire Brigade (and recoup at least £50 million by selling them).

Surely every fire death is also one too many? Please save YOUR fire stations.

Thank you

Artemis

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