Fire chiefs are warning the public to take extra care to be safe ahead of this week’s planned firefighters strike.
The Fire Brigades Union has declared the first national strike in England and Wales for a more than a decade will take place on Wednesday 25th September. As part of the ongoing dispute over government pension scheme proposals, fire crews across the country will walk out between noon and 4pm.
The Local Government Association, which represents all 46 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, said contingency plans are in place across the country to try and manage the impact of the industrial action.
Reduced service inevitable
But, despite arrangements with private contractors and other arrangements which include senior fire officers and volunteers being primed to step in, a reduced fire and rescue service is inevitable.
Cllr Kay Hammond, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said: “Communities and businesses which rely on the essential service provided by firefighters will be hugely concerned by the FBU’s strike action this week. Fire and rescue authorities will do everything they can to minimise the risk to public safety and all have contingency plans in place for day-to-day cover.
“But it would be wrong to pretend the service provided by fire crews, who are also regularly called to road accidents and weather incidents such as flooding, will be unaffected. That is why the public needs to be more careful than ever to reduce the risks of fire and to help them make the best use of their resources by avoiding preventable 999 calls.
“Making sure your smoke alarm is working, ensuring boilers are properly serviced, turning off unused electrical items and taking extra care when cooking are all simple ways to make sure people remain safe.”
The LGA has provided a list of ways in which people can conduct their own fire safety checks and advice to help reduce preventable call-outs including:
• Test your smoke alarms – you are twice as likely to die in a fire in your home if you don’t have one. Also change the battery if needed.
• Smoking – never smoke in bed or in a chair in which you might fall asleep, stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully.
• Candles – keep out of reach of children, never leave them unattended, put them out properly and leave them to cool down before moving.
• Boilers - Make sure boilers have been serviced in the past 12 months to ensure they are safe.
• Electrics – turn off electrical appliances and unplug when not in use.
• Open fires – have your chimney swept regularly, avoid burning wet wood, always use a fireguard and never use flammable liquids.
• Cooking – don’t cook if tired or if you have been drinking, never leave pans unattended and make sure cookers are turned off when you have finished using them.
• Exits - keep door and window keys where everyone can find them and keep escape routes clear of rubbish or bulky items.
Local firms are also being urged to ensure their businesses, employees and customers are protected by taking simple steps such as testing fire alarms, keeping fire doors closed and making sure lifts are maintained and used correctly.
Meanwhile, individual Services have made their own preparations, with several hiring part-time 'relief firefighters'. Hereford & Worcester Head of Operations Jon Pryce explained how operations will be conducted in his area.
"While the industrial action is ongoing we will still be responding to 999 calls, but we will be asking members of the public to take extra steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home," he said. "We would ask people to ensure they have working smoke alarms in their homes as this can provide them with an early warning if a fire should break out in their home. Above all else please remain vigilant."