FIRE News September 2020
New Chair for the National Fire Chiefs Council announced
The National Fire Chiefs Council has announced that a new Chair for the council has been appointed, with effect from April 1, 2021
Mark Hardingham, currently Chief Fire Officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service – and Chair of NFCC’s Protection and Business Safety Committee – will take up the role in April 2021 for an initial two-year period.
Mark will succeed NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher, who has been in the role since NFCC was formed in April 2017.
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Teresa Budworth, paid tribute to Roy as the council’s inaugural Chair, while welcoming Mark to the role. “Firstly, I would like to thank Roy for his dedication and hard work for NFCC. Under his leadership, NFCC has achieved so much in a relatively short period of time. It is testament to Roy that NFCC has established a pivotal role in advising government and supporting fire and rescue services across the UK, while implementing national policy and delivering critical national workstreams.
“NFCC was formed only two-and-a-half months before the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. Roy offered the sector and government outstanding help and guidance, during a very demanding period. His membership on the government’s expert panel and now as Chair of the Protection Board has been pivotal in making change for the better.
“It is a credit to his leadership that the NFCC is in the strong position it is today ensuring fire is on the front foot and able to continue to protect our communities with excellence. I would like to give him my sincere thanks.
“I would also like to welcome Mark to the role of NFCC Chair. He brings with him a wealth of experience, especially with his protection role and his tireless work on a new building safety framework. I am sure NFCC will continue to go from strength-to-strength under his leadership.”
Chair of the NFCC, Roy Wilsher, said: “It has been an honour to serve as NFCC’s inaugural Chair since 2017 and I will continue to do my best for the council over the coming months. I have always said a key success factor for my tenure would be the appointment of a second NFCC Chair.
“NFCC is now an influential organisation, based on our technical expertise, professional knowledge and relationships. It is well-established and respected, and I have set sound policy and financial foundations for the future. I will continue to move NFCC forward on its journey until Mark takes on the role in April 2021.
“We have seen big changes since NFCC was introduced and I am proud of these achievements. To lead the fire sector through – at times – a profoundly difficult time and to be instrumental in implementing changes for the better, has been a privilege.
“I would like to wish Mark the very best for when he takes on the role of NFCC Chair. I am in no doubt he will build on what is already in place and NFCC will continue on its journey and achieve many more successes.”
Hardingham commented: “I am delighted and excited to be taking on the role of NFCC Chair in 2021. I have worked closely with Roy throughout his tenure and seen first-hand his commitment and dedication to establishing the NFCC as the trusted and respected professional voice of UK fire and rescue services.
“I look forward to working with my chief fire officer colleagues and the wider NFCC membership and staff as we approach the challenges and opportunities throughout my term.”
New date, same venue for Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards
The fire sector’s leading awards event will return in the spring
- March 19, 2021 is the new date for Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards
- The venue remains the Great Hall at One Great George Street, London
- “More important than ever to recognise contribution and dedication”
The Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards will now take place on March 19, 2021 at One Great George Street, London. Originally scheduled for December 4 at the same venue, organisers and FIRE magazine publishers, Fire Knowledge, have moved the awards to ensure the event goes ahead in recognition of the significant contribution of fire and emergency workers during the global pandemic.
The awards ceremony will again be held in the illustrious Great Hall at One Great George Street and promises to be better than ever.
Commercial Manager Beverley Rees said: “Our sponsors and attendees often tell me that the awards is the highlight of their year and I am delighted that, in the circumstances, we will be able to showcase the blue ribbon event for the fire and emergency services again. It is more important than ever to recognise the contribution and dedication of our fire and emergency service workers and we look forward to welcoming awards finalists, guests and sponsors to the magnificent venue of One Great George Street.”
FIRE Editor and Publisher Andrew Lynch said: “I am pleased that the fire sector’s leading awards are going ahead in March as it is more important than ever to recognise the hard work and commitment of fire and emergency responders during this time. FIRE magazine has provided extensive coverage of the exceptional response of fire and rescue services in support of the NHS and emergency services colleagues and we look forward to celebrating the life-saving contribution personnel have made during Covid-19.
“It is also important to recognise the contribution of the fire industry in providing resources from high-quality PPE to systems software to enable outstanding response.”
The awards entry deadline will be extended until December 31. See pg 43 for more information.
Home Secretary thanks firefighters for tireless efforts during Coronavirus
Home Secretary Priti Patel has paid tribute to the work of firefighters throughout the Coronavirus pandemic as she visited Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service last month
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- Thousands of firefighters have taken on additional duties to respond to Coronavirus
- Home Secretary hears from firefighters about how their roles have changed in the pandemic
- She sees how Merseyside FRS coordinates national capabilities – including high-volume pumps and fire dogs
Home Secretary Priti Patel met with firefighters who have been on the frontlines during the pandemic and heard how their roles have adapted to deal with the challenges posed by Coronavirus.
Throughout the pandemic, FRS staff have taken on a range of additional duties to support the national effort to fight Coronavirus. This has included delivering essential items to over 80,000 vulnerable people, fitting over 4,000 face masks for frontline NHS and care staff, and transporting over 3,000 non-Covid-19 patients to and from hospital, according to statistics collected by the National Fire Chiefs Council.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our brave firefighters have played a crucial part in our fight against Coronavirus. They have provided invaluable support to other emergency services – assisting vulnerable people and NHS staff – in addition to their usual life-saving duties. I am extremely grateful to them for their selfless service of our country.”
During her visit, the Home Secretary was briefed on Merseyside’s role in coordinating national resilience capabilities for fire and rescue services across England and Wales.
Merseyside FRS provides specialist training to other fire authorities and maintains specialist vehicles and kit required to protect people and property in local and national emergencies. The Home Office is providing over £11m in total funding for Merseyside’s role in national resilience work.
Her visit included a demonstration of how firefighters use high-volume pumps – which can pump 7,000 litres of water per minute – to respond to major flooding incidents, such as the Whaley Bridge dam breach in August 2019.
She also met with the urban search and rescue team to see how fire dogs are used to locate missing people following natural disasters and building collapses.
Merseyside FRS Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said: “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to show the Home Secretary some of the work we do here at Merseyside – both in our own right as a local fire and rescue service but also as part of our national role in relation to the coordination and deployment of national Fire and Rescue Service assets.
“We have also been able to show how we have maintained our operational responsibilities despite the current pandemic and despite concurrent events taking place elsewhere. For example, the Home Secretary was able to see first-hand how we are currently preparing our teams should they be needed to aid in the response to the terrible events in Beirut this week as part of the UK International Search and Rescue team.
“Throughout the pandemic, fire and rescue services up and down the country have gone above and beyond the call of duty, helping to support our NHS and blue light colleagues wherever possible.
“The way in which operational and non-operational staff have stepped up during this crisis is incredible but not in the least bit surprising. Locally, Merseyside FRS staff have delivered thousands of prescription medications and hundreds of food parcels to those most in need. We have worked with our local authority partners, housing associations, charities and sports teams to ensure that those most at risk have not been forgotten.
“We’ve continued our day to day work alongside these additional roles. We train for all scenarios but could not have coped so well without our incredible staff. I’m very proud of them and we will continue to do everything we can to support our frontline workers and amazing NHS colleagues.”
To support the Fire and Rescue Service during the pandemic, the Home Office recently launched a £6m Fire Covid-19 Contingency Fund. This fund will provide financial support to fire and rescue authorities who incur significant costs as a result of taking on additional duties during the pandemic.
The government has also provided £3.7bn to local government to support their response to the outbreak. This included around £35m for standalone fire and rescue authorities. County councils and unitary authorities with responsibilities for fire also received a share of the funding as part of a wider allocation that reflects the totality of their local government responsibilities.
Scottish firefighter issues Covid warning
A senior firefighter has encouraged communities to remain vigilant and follow safety guidance after the Covid-19 virus left him barely able to walk. Steven O’Neill reportsLocal Senior Officer for Ayrshire, Ian McMeekin, contracted the virus at the start of lockdown and has donated plasma antibodies to help treat others following his recovery.
Heralding the “fantastic” work of the NHS, LSO McMeekin wants to remind people to follow government guidance and social distance as much as possible. He said: “This is something I would never want to go through again – it could have been a lot worse were it not for the outstanding work of my local GP.
“I still have no idea how I contracted the virus which is why I’d urge people to avoid becoming complacent as lockdown eases. It can be easy to forget basic things such as standing too close to someone – the big thing to remember is prevention.
“I witnessed first-hand how amazing the NHS staff are… but if we can prevent contracting the virus in the first place, then we can ultimately help them for the benefit of everyone.”
LSO McMeekin, who is responsible for protecting communities across Ayrshire, spoke candidly about the debilitating effects of the virus. After being diagnosed, he spent two days in a Covid-19 ward at Ayr Hospital and was still suffering the after-effects two months later.
He said: “I couldn’t even walk five yards without being out of breath, but I was very lucky – there are many people, including close friends and colleagues, who have lost loved ones or suffered a lot more than myself.
“I had a hangover from the virus. I still had a cough, I experienced cold symptoms and constantly felt drained. That’s why we need to be consistent in our thinking, whether that be in shops, at work or anywhere else.”
The 48-year-old has since donated plasma from his blood. During this process, blood is removed from the body and the plasma antibodies are extracted before the blood is filtered back into the body.
By agreeing to donate plasma, LSO McMeekin is able to assist the process of treating Covid-19 patients. He underlined: “We need to change the way we work, follow guidance and really start to think about the steps we need to take to make our workplaces Covid-compliant… and what a new normality will mean to us all.”
Fire brigade condemns violent attacks
Cleveland Fire Brigade is appealing to the public for support after violent attacks on firefighters left one fire engine damagedFirefighters were called to attend a wheelie bin fire on Cass House Road in Hemlington in the early hours of Monday August 17. On arrival around 30 youths were found setting fire to wheelie bins and wood. They became violent and gave crews verbal abuse and threw missiles, damaging one fire engine.
Repeated entrapment calls were received and Cleveland Police attended to support firefighters, but both services came under even more abuse. Steve Johnson, Senior Area Manager Prevention and Engagement, said: “It is completely unacceptable for our staff to be subject to violence and acts of vandalism whilst protecting the public. Our job is made even more difficult by the thoughtless actions of a minority who in this instance deliberately set fires and damaged a fire engine, making that vehicle unavailable for emergency response.
“Such violence puts firefighters at risk of injury or even worse and Cleveland Fire Brigade will not tolerate such attacks. Our vehicles are fitted with CCTV cameras and staff are equipped with body cams and we will use any evidence we have to support the police to secure a prosecution of anyone who has been violent towards our staff. Deliberate fires such as these divert resources and run the risk of us not being able to respond to a life-threatening incident.”
A Cleveland Police Spokesperson said: “In the early hours of this morning, police received several reports of anti-social behaviour in the Cass House Road area of Hemlington. It was reported that a large group of adults and youths were causing damage to nearby properties and vehicles and were burning items in the middle of the road. When colleagues from Cleveland Fire Brigade attended, they were subjected to abuse.
“This type of behaviour will not be tolerated under any circumstances and our colleagues from the fire service should not be attacked when they go work. Officers are investigating the incident and are carrying out enquiries to try to trace who is responsible.”
Just last month the emergency services united to condemn assaults on staff. Cleveland Fire Brigade, Cleveland Police and North East Ambulance Service came together after an increase in such attacks during lockdown.
Cleveland Fire Brigade saw 13 incidents during March, April and May, including a tree trunk thrown through the windscreen of a fire engine and bricks aimed at crews as they tackled a garden fire that threatened to spread to other properties.
“To do more, we need more”
John Buckley, Chair, National Fire Chiefs Council Finance Committee, reports on the forthcoming Spending Review and argues for sustainable funding for all fire and rescue servicesResourcing to risk, maintaining the number of firefighters, better resilience, investing in people and vital protection work are all areas the government must consider in the forthcoming Spending Review. This is to ensure fire and rescue services can continue to provide the services communities have come to expect.
This year’s Spending Review submission was a collaborative effort between NFCC, the LGA and National Employers. It has now been presented to the Fire Minister and Home Office.
For the first time, NFCC – in conjunction with the LGA – had a dedicated full time resource in the Home office to work on the Spending Review. This was to ensure we were involved in and influencing discussions at the earliest opportunity, based on reliable data and a robust evidence base. This approach has ensured all aspects of requirements have been explored and provided a rounded and expert view.
We had a very clear focus: the base case for fire and rescue funding and productivity opportunities; significant cost pressures, and improvement activity arising from Grenfell Tower and other recommendations. These all align closely with ministerial priorities of People, Professionalism and Governance.
The Hackitt Review recommendations and subsequent Fire and Building Safety Bills – currently going through the parliamentary process – put increased pressures on services. It is imperative these are funded properly.
It is clear that fire and rescue services across the country are willing to take on more and change how they work. This became more apparent during the current Covid-19 pandemic with 14 additional activities being taken on.
We currently do not know what the economic impact of Covid-19 will be on the public sector. However, we must accept there will be an impact, but it is essential people continue to receive an excellent level of service; this must not be compromised. This is further complicated by having a number of different governance models across the sector. How do we ensure all services receive a fair share of funding in such difficult times?
This additional work, alongside the backdrop of recommendations from HMICFRS’s first State of Fire report, clearly highlighted how funding positions and pressures varied widely. It is now more imperative than ever that the right funding must be provided to carry these out in a sustained and methodical way.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher has for a long time been calling for fire services to be resourced to risk, as well as demand. This is an area I strongly support; while FRSs are more than willing to take on more, this is a finite resource. To do more, we need more.
We need enough resources to provide an emergency response even in times of exceptional demand. This includes the ability to deal with large scale emergencies, potentially for a protracted period of time.
The LGA and NFCC would welcome a review of fire and rescue statutory duties to include response to flooding; we need support for a consistent approach, requiring investment similar to that made by the Welsh government.
Pay is another key area which needs additional government funding; the sector is under pressure to deliver a large pay rise this year. It is estimated that a two per cent increase would cost the sector at least £25 million per year, representing more than one per cent of total funding for fire and rescue services.
These areas are key to our Spending Review submission. We need to focus on resilience and resources to support improvement. This can only be achieved via investment against the backdrop of financial uncertainty caused by Covid-19. We are clear that fire and rescue services need to be protected from these impacts.
If the numbers of staff continue to decline, certain activities cannot continue to be delivered. This must be a serious consideration by government when considering future funding, constraints and pressures on fire and rescue services. To put this in context, there has been a 21.7 per cent decrease in wholetime firefighters since 2010.
This coherent and joined-up submission means we are in a much better place to have ongoing discussions about sustainable funding, delivering real improvement for fire and rescue services.
Support for Surrey wildfires
National Fire Chiefs Council Wildfire Tactical Advisors have provided vital support to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service as a major incident wildfire was declared
Working with the local command team, the national specialist advisors helped to develop a tactical plan, protecting infrastructure and neighbouring homes and ensuring the safety of crews and partners at the scene on Chobham Common.
At its peak, 40 engines, specialist units and 4X4s from Surrey, West Sussex, Royal Berkshire and Hampshire fire and rescue services attended the scene. Over 125 hectares have been destroyed, with the cause yet to be determined.
The last few months have seen a spate of wildfires, devastating local country sides and habitats. The wildfires in Surrey are another reminder of how quickly they can take hold on hot, dry ground and the risks associated with these types of fires – putting significant pressure on local fire and rescue services.
As part of NFCC’s national resilience work, the council provide 24/7 support to fire services that are dealing with these incidents. Following a request from Surrey FRS NFCC deployed two tactical advisors to assist.
NFCC would like to thank the tactical advisors and the crews who worked tirelessly to get the fires under control.
Solid foundations in turbulent times
National Fire Chiefs Council Chair Roy Wilsher looks back at the impact of Covid-19 on fire and rescue services and forward to continued investment in key FRS activity
Now feels like a good time to reflect and take stock; to both look back at the impact on fire and rescue services due to Covid-19 and, just as importantly, to look forward to other areas of work. I, along with NFCC, remain focussed and dedicated to working hard on behalf of all FRSs across the UK.
Whilst in general lockdown restrictions have eased somewhat, we remain in a time of uncertainty and fire and rescue services (FRSs) continue to step up. The Tripartite agreement has been extended to September 30, the number of FRS Covid-related activities stand at almost 400,000, absence remains remarkably low with overall absence at 3.6 per cent and Covid-related absence at just 1.5 per cent.
I will reiterate what I have said before: this is remarkable and my thanks to everyone in fire and rescue for all their efforts.
“The challenge is to see this level of investment continue and even improve as we face financial uncertainty”
The economic impact of the pandemic is not yet fully known, but it is fair to say that many of us will be surprised if the aftermath doesn’t bring fiscal constraint.
Last year was the first time in more than a decade when the spending round didn’t mean reductions for fire and rescue services. I spent many hours talking through the budget financial figures with government colleagues, ably supported by John Buckley and the Finance Committee. This led to government investment in fire and rescue services in England. Fire protection in FRSs has seen investment of £16m, another £7m has gone to support implementation of the Grenfell Inquiry recommendations, £5.4m direct to FRSs. Personally, I am particularly pleased that £4m has been invested directly in to the NFCC Protection Hub with yet another £3m invested in NFCC central structures, including the Central Programme Office.
The challenge is to see this level of investment continue and even improve as we face financial uncertainty. I worked with the Fire Services Management Committee to agree support for a dedicated resource to be placed within the Home Office, to ensure our bid is better formed than ever before. Further work on the NFCC Digital and Data programme over the next few years will help produce the data we need to make our future bids even stronger in future.
Much of the investment referenced is focussed on building safety and the need for us to help fix the broken building safety system highlighted in the Dame Judith Hackitt review.
The investment in protection in FRSs will assist, but so will the £4m invested in the NFCC Protection Hub. This will see the Building Safety Team joined by other colleagues to support the work of the Protection Board, the Building Risk Review, support fire and rescue services and develop guidance equivalent to National Operational Guidance for Protection.
One of the unintended consequences of the building safety failure – and the fact that 160 ACM clad buildings still need to be remediated – is the financial and psychological affect on leaseholders. We are trying to support them and have redrafted the simultaneous evacuation (Waking Watch) guidance to be more supportive of leaseholders.
I have not even covered the terrorist attacks, national wildfires and flooding, the introduction of HMICFRS, police and crime commissioners and the different ministers, permanent secretaries, director generals and directors; all needing NFCC to be a steady and authoritative organisation in turbulent times.
It doesn’t feel like the next few years will be any different; economic impact, pay claims, pension remediation, a probable new framework for England, New Dimensions 2 project, Covid, EU exit and the enactment of the Building and Fire Safety Bills.
However, NFCC has the financial investment that has moved us from an organisation turning over less than £1m in 2017 to a £10.5m organisation in 2020. NFCC will have more full-time staff as a result, plus the dedication and commitment of our programme executives, steering group, committee chairs and workstream leads.
This will enable us to do even more good work and I think solid foundations are in placed to meet those challenges.
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