Fire union launches ‘Safer Hertfordshire' campaign

Hertfordshire fire crews are pleading with politicians to increase the number of emergency response and support staff in the county in a major campaign launched today.

Since the closure of two stations and the loss of 40 firefighters in 2005, the County’s fire and rescue resources have been stretched to breaking point and in a letter to the Chair of Hertfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Keith Emsall, the Fire Brigades Union have expressed their concerns for the levels of public and firefighter safety. The FBU makes a serious request in the letter for more firefighters for the county in order to cope with the
increasing workload expected of front line staff.

Herts FBU Chair Steve Duncan said “We just can’t keep up with all the training, fire safety activity and incidents we are being asked to deal with. Since 2005 we have been asked to train for water rescues, rescues from height and to increase our abilities to deal with a major terrorist incident. At the same time we have lost 40 firefighters – 40 people who were working hard to keep their communities safe. That’s what this campaign is all about”.

Plans to regionalise fire control rooms will mean the loss of a further 28 front line fire and rescue staff. Local fire crews are in disbelief that the Fire Authority is willing to make redundant a group of people that have worked tirelessly answering 999 calls and mobilising fire engines.

“I just can’t believe what is happening – I have seen how difficult the job is in our control room with staff dealing with calls from people in distress and I have been amazed at how calmly and professionally that job is being done” said Mr Duncan,. “We are stretched beyond safe limits and about to lose our entire control room staff. Firefighters are becoming increasingly concerned that the continued cuts to the fire service are having a serious affect on our
capabilities. Fire engines are being sent out to serious incidents with only three people on them – this puts those firefighters and the community at greater risk than is acceptable”.

Fire engines in Hertfordshire routinely mobilise to incidents with just three firefighters on board when the widely accepted safe minimum is five. Fire safety staff have been unable to keep up with the demand for inspections and the training required to carry out their important role.

Training staff who were employed to delivery vital instruction to firefighters on station have seen their time diverted for central training courses due to a lack of staff at the county’s training centre in Stevenage. All suggesting that the cuts to staffing levels in 2005 went too far.

Hertfordshire Branch of the Fire Brigades Union.

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