Devon PCSOsPolice Community Support Officers in Devon are putting on fire helmets to attend emergency calls and provide valuable prevention advice to the public in an innovative pilot scheme designed to improve public safety and save money.

The scheme has already drawn national interest from other force areas and the Home Office who are actively promoting closer working between the police and fire services nationally. Devon & Somerset CFO Lee Howell says public safety will be improved while saving costs at the same time.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Tony Hogg added: "The police service is very clear on where it wants to go and this scheme fits in to the changing vision of the police. The police and fire roles in the community can complement each other to address vulnerability and provide a better service to the public."

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The programme sees the creation of a new position of PFCSO - combining the roles of PCSOs and retained firefighters as PCSOs have been trained to operate as retained firefighters and will carry pagers and respond to fire calls when they are on duty as PCSOs.

This scheme will initially operate from seven fire stations in Devon but if successful, may be extended. Whilst there are some similar approaches with tri-service officers adopted in other parts of the country, this scheme is different as the powers that PCSOs have are drawn from police powers rather than the local authority.

Area Manager Neil Blackburn, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, has been instrumental in assisting to move this work forward and says it will "help provide fire response cover in communities where we have struggled to recruit sufficient retained officers who can provide cover during office hours because of their own work commitments".

"It really does provide both services and the community with significant benefits. We feel that the role of a PCSO fits really well with that of locally-based fire officers and have had a great deal of interest from PCSOs locally which is really encouraging," he added.

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones said: “This is an exciting pilot project. Greater collaboration between the police and fire services is a sensible and efficient use of resources, which also provides better coverage in terms of public safety. I’ve visited both the fire service and the police in recent months and am hugely impressed with the work they do. This pilot project takes it one step further, and I will be watching it with great interest.”

The scheme will run for two years and feedback from those involved as well as the public will be collated and inform future delivery options.

Get more insight on the programme in March's FIRE Magazine