Government 'absurd' not to give firefighters formal responsibility for flooding response following Storm Desmond
Fire and rescue services need to be given greater resources to tackle flooding emergencies in the wake of Storm Desmond, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said today.
Firefighters have been leading the rescue efforts in northern parts of the UK, where the storm has overwhelmed flood defences, despite their being no formal requirement for them to do so.
The union says that the government should guarantee more flood related resources for fire and rescue services and should make flood rescue a statutory duty of the fire and rescue service.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Westminster government is not clear what it wants in relation to these major floods. Firefighters have been magnificent responding to this crisis, working all hours to make sure people are safe. They have worked above and beyond the call of duty. In addition to locally based firefighters, others have come from across the country to provide additional support and bring extra expertise and specialist equipment.
“However it is absurd that firefighters increasingly perform flood rescues with no formal arrangements in place. Ministers say that this is simply a matter for local determination. That is clearly an unsatisfactory answer when floods on this scale are clearly not a local issue.
“Without a statutory duty there are no guarantees that flood risks will be properly assessed and the necessary resources made available to firefighters to tackle the problem. A statutory duty on the fire and rescue service would play a part in ensuring greater preparation and co-operation between the emergency services and government.
“David Cameron promised there would be no limit to resources given to help battle floods. He should follow up his rhetoric with action and give the fire and rescue service this duty and then ensure fire and rescue services get the resources they need.”
Fire and rescue services from across the UK have sent resources and personnel to flood hit areas to cope with demand. In one 24 hour period over three thousand calls were taken by a 999 fire control room in the North West.
Firefighters are rescuing people from danger zones and bringing them to safe havens, pumping out water from flooded high streets and homes, advising people in distress from control centres and limiting damage to rural communities by rescuing livestock.