National collaboration award for fire and police safety team

A joint fire and police safety team has won a major national award.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police’s joint community safety department won the award for Best Emergency Services Collaboration at the Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards in London.

The accolade comes little more than a year after fire and police community safety staff were brought together to form a fresh team with the shared aim of keeping people safe.

High profile activities the team undertakes include home safety checks, crime prevention visits and youth engagement activities such as the award-winning Princes Trust Team Programme, which has helped to transform the lives of more than 200 young people in two years.

The teams also operate the Lifewise Centre which is an interactive safety centre in Hellaby, Rotherham. It opened in 2011 to deliver education packages to more than 20,000 local people every year, including nearly every Year 6 pupil in South Yorkshire.

Head of the joint community safety department Simon Dunker, said: “South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s community safety teams came together last year as part of a flagship collaboration project, which brilliantly illustrates the benefits of working together for a shared purpose.

“The joint department has evolved each organisation’s thinking when it comes to their community safety work, guided by shared strategic objectives of preventing emergencies, reducing demand and releasing capacity to do more for our communities.

“This award is timely recognition for the work staff at both organisations have put in to make the department happen.”

Fire service to change attendance at business false alarms

The fire service will free up time for firefighters by no longer attending automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings like offices and warehouses unless it’s a confirmed blaze.

Currently South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue automatically sends fire engines to premises the moment a fire alarm goes off and the signal is passed, by a receiving centre, onto 999 control operators.

But 97% of the 3,457 automatic alarms the service attended in business premises in the last three years turned out to be false alarms. Fire crews wasted more than 1,000 hours investigating the cause of those false alarms- time which could have been better spent training, working in the community or being available to attend other, genuine incidents.

The change brings South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in line with other services around the country, plus the position of the National Fire Chiefs Council on automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings. It will not apply to sleeping risk premises like universities, hotels, hospitals, heritage sites or high rise flats though- with fire engines still being automatically turned out to automatic alarms at those premises.

Area Manager Andy Strelczenie, said: “False alarms make up a massive proportion of the incidents firefighters are mobilised too. Whilst we will always attend incidents when our services are definitely required, our frequent attendance at false alarms disrupts training and increases road risk to firefighters rushing on blue lights to incidents which later turn out to be false alarms.

“It’s long been the responsibility of businesses to ensure their alarm systems are regularly checked and maintained properly and it’s important they do this before the change we’ve outlined comes into force.”

As well as responding to 999 calls, the fire service is responsible for enforcing fire safety laws.

Top safety tips for businesses include:

Keep fire escapes clear– make sure extra stock is stored away from fire escapes, ensuring staff and customers can get out safely in the event of a fire
Check alarm systems– regular checks and maintenance help to eliminate automatic false alarms and ensure the alarm is working if required
Complete a fire risk assessment– not only will it help to reduce the risk of suffering a fire in the first place, it will help make sure you comply with fire safety laws
Sprinklers– consider installing sprinklers, but make sure you leave a good distance between your stock and sprinkler heads

The change was approved by the service’s governing Fire Authority in June. It will come into force from 6 January 2020.