You may have seen advertised the consultation into fire services in Surrey. Not a Borough matter, however due to our close proximity to Heathlands and their tendency to catch fire, I do talk to SCC Councillor colleagues about the fire service and I was very pleased when dedicated heathlands fire fighting equipment was introduced to Woking Fire Station.
Both Guildford and Woking have had brand new, state of the art, Fire Stations built and opened in the past three years. Surrey Fire and Rescue was recently exempted from making financial savings, and was allocated an extra £900,000 for 2019 for new fire engines, recruitment of new staff and changing its services.
Over the past 10 years the number of fires in Surrey has reduced by 50%, but in the same period road traffic accidents (RTAs) have increased by 50%. And more people die by drowning in our rivers than in RTAs. So Surrey Fire and Rescue are looking to reconfigure their services to the demand with more emphasis on preventative work.
There is a current consultation on changes. A three month public consultation about Surrey’s fire and rescue service began in March and closes in late May 2019. Details below.
The three proposals for 2020-2023 are:
1) Spending more time on community and business safety to help prevent emergencies occurring in the first place. When firefighters and fire engines aren’t needed at 999 calls, Surrey Fire and Rescue will be undertaking more community safety work to prevent incidents occurring in the first place. Much of this is done during the day when people are at school, work, home and most active in the community, some of this would also be done during night shifts. For example , Surrey Fire and Rescue works very closely with Adult Social Care, to visit elderly and vulnerable residents.
2) Maintaining the number of fire stations in Surrey and changing how some of them are crewed. Independently verified risk analysis shows that Surrey needs 20 fire engines during the day and 16 at night to keep Surrey safe. The proposal would mean we have more fire engines than this – this additional capacity allows extra resilience for larger and longer emergencies as well as training and practice in the increasing variety of emergencies our firefighters now respond to. Changes are also proposed to widen the catchment for on-call firefighters in some areas to assist with recruitment.
3) Recovering costs from some non-emergencies to reinvest in SFRS. It’s being considered looking at charging for some 999 calls which are false reports of fire, and animal rescues, to reinvest into the service.
These proposals are based on a detailed analysis of the risks that exist in Surrey, including understanding where the most vulnerable people are, and ensuring that Surrey Fire and Rescue have the cover needed to keep Surrey safe.
Information about risks is used to decide how best to allocate fire and rescue staff, resources and equipment to prevent these risks from happening and plan how best to respond to them if they do; this enables Surrey Fire and Rescue to focus its prevention activities on the areas where they’re most needed and have the most impact. This is a key element of the plan which proposes a shift in focus from mainly responding to emergencies to being better at preventing them in the first place. Naturally, the service is still focussed on providing the best service that it can to all residents and continuing to prioritise responding quickly to emergencies.
There is a Community Risk Profile that also explains more about how SCC and the Fire Service assess and address the risks in Surrey. Not only are there fewer calls during the night, but the risk picture also changes. For example, there are fewer people driving so there is less risk from road traffic collisions.
The Service has also welcomed 24 new recruits to Fire and Rescue HQ this year, 12 from Surrey, eight from West Sussex and four from East Sussex as part of a joint training course.
The full plan, summary document, online survey and equality impact assessment are available to comment until 26 May 2019. Please give your views in the consultation. The consultation may be examined and responded to by following this link.
Thanks to Guildford Cllrs Elms, Paul and Witham for much of the copy written here.