Planning for a safer future at East Sussex Fire and Rescue

Uckfield Fire Service

East Sussex Fire Authority has set the future direction of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

Following an in-depth debate at today’s meeting (3 September 2020), the Authority voted on a number of proposals in its “Planning for a Safer Future – Integrated Risk Management Plan”.

The IRMP has a number of key aims including:

  • maintaining 24 fire stations
  • improving our risk cover and resilience by resourcing, as far as practicable, 24/7 availability of some fire engines that have historically had limited availability
  • balancing our resources across the Service to reinvest in expanding building safety and prevention work we do in communities as well as firefighter safety

Chairman Roy Galley said:

“It is the responsibility of the Fire Authority to provide a fire and rescue service and to ensure its efficiency. More than that, we want to ensure that the community we serve and those who work for the fire and rescue service have the opportunity to shape its future.

The proposals brought to the Fire Authority for debate followed a wide ranging consultation, involving an online survey, forums and other two-way communication. I am pleased that these decisions, which were based on evidence and engagement, were agreed and the Fire Authority is committed to ensuring this engagement continues.”

Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker said:

“It is vital that our available resources are used in the most effective way to mitigate the risks our communities face, whether they be response to emergencies, our educational work or improving building safety.

These decisions allow us to move forward with our original aims which will increase our resilience, and allow our resources to be deployed to where they are most needed such as building safety and community engagement.

There is now a great deal of work ahead and we will naturally take into account any new emerging information, data and evidence when implementing these decisions. Our focus will remain on those who live in and visit East Sussex and Brighton and Hove, and their safety.”

What was agreed?

The Fire Authority made the following decisions:

Agreed Proposal 1 – the Operational Resilience Plan (ORP)

The ORP will enhance our operational resilience by increasing our core number of fire appliances available at the start of the day from 15 to 18. The Fire Authority also agreed the associated staffing and contractual arrangements to facilitate the ORP including the introduction of a flexible crewing pool and enhancements to on-call contracts to improve appliance availability

Agreed modified Proposal 2 – changes to day crewed stations

It was agreed to introduce a one-watch duty system at Bexhill, Crowborough, Lewes, Newhaven and Uckfield to work over 7 days with an establishment of 9 and; introduce a one-watch duty system at Battle Fire Station to work over 5 days with an establishment of 7.

Agreed modified Proposal 3 removal of second fire appliances

The second appliances at Bexhill, Crowborough, Uckfield, Newhaven, Lewes, Battle and Rye will be removed and these stations will be formally designated as single appliance stations. In addition, Heathfield, Seaford and Wadhurst (former maxi-cab stations) will be designated as single appliance stations. However, through an overall redistribution of operational vehicles, Bexhill, Crowborough, Uckfield and Newhaven will be designated 1 pump resilience stations and will therefore have access to an additional fire appliance located at the stations. These will be utilised as flexible Service-wide assets providing part of the Service’s spare appliance fleet, as well as being operationally available at the stations for response to incidents, if required. Lewes, Battle, Rye, Heathfield, Seaford and Wadhurst will also have access to specialist operational vehicles to maintain at least two operational vehicles at the station, and these vehicles will also be operationally available at the stations for response to incidents, if required.

Agreed modified Proposal 4 changes to the appliance and staffing arrangements in Hastings

A second full-time fire appliance will be introduced at Bohemia Road Station, increasing the staffing levels at that station. The Ridge fire station will change to a 7 day a week “day crewed” system with a 1 watch staffing level of 9. The dedicated crewing for the Bohemia Road Aerial Ladder Platform will be maintained to provide immediate high-reach cover to the eastern part of our county area. To facilitate this the overall number of operational staff across both Hastings stations will be increased by 1.

Agreed modified proposal 5 – aerial appliances and other specialist vehicles

It was agreed that the Service would maintain three aerial ladder platforms (ALPs) two as primary crewed in Brighton and Hastings, and place a dedicated ALP at Eastbourne with a shared crewed and second fire appliance. The Fire Authority noted that further work on the provision and disposition of specialist capabilities is underway and will report to SLT in September.

Agreed to proposal 6 previous IRMP decisions

Smaller appliances will not be progressed. Also, in relation to the following demand management arrangements, the following was agreed:

1. The Service will no longer automatically attend fire alarms operating in low risk commercial premises. Plans will be developed to work with businesses in order to reduce the numbers of unwanted fire signals (AFAs) attended through a range of measures.

The following two amended proposals were agreed:

2. The Service will continue its attendance at lift releases. Confinement in a lift is traumatic for anyone, but even more so for those with a disability or a severe health condition, those who are elderly, or for those with young children.  A swift response by the ESFRS is the right one, given the training of the firefighters and the equipment that they have to hand.  This service should continue.

3. The Service will continue to attend calls to birds trapped in netting. If birds are not rescued by the ESFRS, then there is the potential for greater risk to members of the public in attempting to rescue trapped or dying birds themselves. It also places the burden back onto animal charities who are suffering huge financial consequences because of the pandemic.  It is also a humanitarian gesture, and this service should continue.

Agreed to modified proposal 7 – changes to wholetime duty systems

The CFA noted the proposal to introduce option B, group crewing in the City, only. However, we will reinvest 2 of these posts back into the City Business Safety hub, to enhance our overall business safety capacity in the City.

Review

The Fire Authority agreed an additional proposal stating:

In the event that there is an increase in government funding to Fire Service, the Authority agrees to review the IRMP to reflect the changed position.

Read the Fire Authority paper here:

https://esfrs.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=141&Ver=4

Reprinted for accuracy from East Sussex Fire and Rescue News pages