England is now the only nation in the U.K. where firefighters are not given a statutory duty to respond to flooding incidents.
In recent years, as a result of campaigning by the Fire Brigades Union, governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all agreed a formal expectation for fire and rescue services to attend floods.
This helps fire and rescue services, other emergency services and the government as a whole to plan effectively and reduce risk to life and property. In Wales, where a statutory duty was most recently adopted, the government committed £1.8m in funding to replace ageing flooding and water rescue equipment.
During the devastating floods last winter across northern parts of the UK, firefighters worked around the clock saving lives, helping communities and providing humanitarian support. At the same time, the service faces huge cuts to budgets, jobs, stations and fire appliances.
As a result of government cuts, 11,000 firefighter posts have been lost in the UK since 2010, seriously undermining the fire and rescue service’s ability to deal with floods, fires and other incidents.
Firefighters have always rescued people during floods and will continue to do so but the service needs to be properly resourced, with sufficient staff to deal with more frequent flooding and the best equipment to deal with the hazards.
An increasing amount of time is spent by fire crews dealing with flooding - 70% of boat rescue teams mobilised in the December 2015 floods were fire and rescue service boat teams. During those floods firefighters in the UK attended over 3,000 incidents.
The FBU now want Westminster to follow suit and grant firefighters in England a statutory duty for flooding, like their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have.