Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Large incidents and spate calls

Distinctly lacking in the case for the planned cuts is any consideration of the need for reinforcements and standby cover during large incidents, or of spate calls during severe weather.

As those who are, or were, in the service will know, each year sees dozens of calls where assistance is requested. The majority are for a total of 3 to 6 fire engines, but there are others that require 10, 15, 20 and even 30. These larger incidents also require many more fire engine movements for standby in areas devoid of cover, and to relieve tired and exhausted crews.

For example, one incident that required 11 fire engines plus special vehicles to bring the incident under control, required another 12 fire engines for standby cover and 55 for relief crews over 3 days.

We are told by the experts that severe weather will increase in frequency and severity in the UK. If we look at the June flooding of 2012, between Sunday (10th) evening and Tuesday (12th) morning WSFRS received over 2,000 calls for assistance.

Delays were inevitable, but with six fewer fire engines and crews, following the 2011 cuts, they were much longer than during previous flood incidents. In fact some were never attended as, by the time crews were available, it was too late to help.

Such weather events often affect neighbouring counties, so they are often unable to help. Next time there are floods, there will be five less fire engines and crews in West Sussex, and the delays and the number of calls not answered will increase. The risk of lives being lost will also increase.

The image below shows the location of calls received during the June 2012 floods. It clearly illustrates the scale of the event and how no areas of the county escaped.

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