Fire service could curb attendance at business false alarms to free up time for firefighters

The fire service could stop attending automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings like shops and office blocks unless it’s a confirmed blaze, in a bid to free up time for firefighters.

Currently South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue automatically sends fire engines to premises like shops and office blocks 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 would bring 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 would not apply to sleeping risk premises like hotels, hospitals 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.”

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

For more information visit www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice

A paper outlining options for changing the service’s attendance at commercial automatic fire alarms will be discussed at the service’s governing Fire Authority on Monday (22 July).

Fire crews put 22mm hose to the test

What difference does 3mm make? Quite a bit when it comes to fire hose it seems.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is testing out a new type of hose reel, which could make it easier for firefighters to tackle blazes quickly.

The 22mm hose has been fitted as standard on a new, smaller fire engine which entered into service this month.

At 3mm wider than a standard 19mm hose, the new reel can double the amount of water that’s put onto a fire- delivering about 100 litres per minute more than the standard equipment.

The extra capacity makes the larger hose heavier, but a special coating on the outside makes it easier to carry- particularly around narrow corners.

The next step is for firefighters to test the hose for themselves, which will involve putting it through its paces at the service’s training and development centre.

The feedback from firefighters will then help the service to decide whether to adopt the new kit across the county.

Fire research says targeted safety visits better than scatter gun approach

Fire services should carry out repeat safety visits in a smaller number of high risk homes to reduce fires, researchers say.

Sheffield academics argue this targeted approach will be more effective than one off visits to a larger number of properties– and are now testing out their findings for real.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue worked with the University of Sheffield on the research which matched incident statistics with historic information about home safety visits and safety campaigns. They then put the data they’d gathered into sophisticated computer software which simulated how the fire service’s education work spreads amongst close-knit groups of connected households.

The five year ‘Premonition’ project, which was kick started with funding from the Fire Authority’s Safer Stronger Communities Reserve, is now in the process of testing the approach in the real world. The fire service is delivering repeat visits in parts of the county, with researchers then following up the visits a few months letter to find out how much of the advice which has been given has been remembered and shared with neighbours.

The fire service has already responded to the research though. It recently changed its home safety checks service- which includes the fitting smoke alarms for free where needed– so that it is only offered to those most at risk of fire, based on factors like age and disability.

Dr Dermot Breslin, University of Sheffield, said: “The Premonition project demonstrates the power of using big data to better understand changing household risk behaviour. These tools enable services to predict future patterns of change, and optimise fire prevention strategies with a view to protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “This research forms part of a longer term ambition to become even more targeted in the way we deliver fire safety education in people’s homes. We’ve made huge strides over the last decade and more in preventing house fires, but we know that to reduce those numbers even more we’re going to have to be even more sophisticated in our approach.”

The findings, led by Dr Dermot Breslin, have been published in the International Journal of Emergency Services. The paper in full is available here.

New Assistant Fire Chief for South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority (SYFRA) has appointed a new Assistant Chief Fire Officer.

Tony Carlin was appointed following a selection process which included a written application, operational assessment and panel interview with members of the Fire Authority.

Tony had been fulfilling the role on a temporary basis, having first joined South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in 2000. He began his career as a firefighter in North Yorkshire in 1992.

He’s built up a broad range of experience within the fire and rescue service- overseeing areas including community and business fire safety, workforce development, training and data and performance. He’s also acted as a workplace mentor to other leaders within the fire and rescue service.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: ”The selection process was rigorous and keenly contested. The final shortlist contained officers of exceptional ability, so for Tony to be the pick of those officers is an outstanding achievement. The qualities he demonstrated in selection will be positive assets in developing the strategies to drive the service forward in what is an extremely challenging period for the fire and rescue service ”

 Tony said: “It’s a very busy time for the service- with our first formal inspection in many years underway and proposals now published for how we intend to deal with annual cost pressures of up to £4 million. But despite the undoubted challenges we face, I know that the fire service is home to some of the best and most dedicated members of staff in any of the UK public services, and I am very proud of the role they play in making South Yorkshire safer and stronger.”

Month left for people to have say on fire service plans

There’s less than a month to go for people to have their say on fire service plans to meet a financial shortfall of up to £4 million.

Draft plans considered by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s governing Fire Authority in April propose reducing the number of firefighters on a fire engine from five to four.

No firefighters would be made redundant under the proposals, with the reductions being achieved gradually as and when firefighters retire.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says the only realistic alternative to making the change- which has already been adopted by many other services nationwide- is to reduce the speed of its 999 response during the night time period from up to half of its fire stations.

The organisation faces cost pressures of up to £4 million, due to no longer being able to use a way of staffing fire stations called Close Proximity Crewing and because it may have to meet a significant, national shortfall in pension contributions.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said: “There has been some misinformation out there about what we’re proposing- to be clear, we’re not making firefighters redundant and fire engines already ride with four people on them about a third of the time.

“We’d rather not make any changes at all, but doing nothing is not an option. We think it’s better to reduce the number of firefighters on a fire engine, than it is to slow down response times to some of our communities by reducing the number of fire engines which are immediately available.

“We’ve published our draft plans and invite the public to share their views on them before the consultation closes in a few weeks time.”

All fire and rescue authorities must provide a plan which sets out the steps they will take and resources they need to deliver public safety, reduce fires and save lives. This is known as an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). It must be publicly available, reflect consultation with stakeholders and demonstrate the most up-to-date analysis of local risk.

People can share their views via an online survey, at www.syfire.gov.uk/haveyoursay, or in writing to IRMP Consultation, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, 197 Eyre Street, Sheffield S1 3FG.

Once the consultation period has ended on Friday 2 August and feedback has been considered, Fire Authority members will make the final decision on the proposals.

Humanitarian award for South Yorkshire firefighter

A firefighter from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has received a top award in recognition of her humanitarian contribution.

Clare Holmes, a watch manager on Rotherham blue watch, received the Women in the Fire Service (WFS) Bronze Award for the work she carried out improving fire safety in migrant camps in South Sudan. The focus of the trip was to develop and deliver training to prevent fire spread throughout the camps.

It was announced that Clare had won the award at the annual Women in the Fire Service weekend held in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire (21-23 June).

WM Holmes spent two weeks at the camps and was part of a team of six volunteers who were approached by the ‘Women in the Fire Service’ network to visit the camp, after a request they’d received from an aid charity.

During the two week trip, the team provided ‘train the trainer’ courses for United Nations (UN) camp staff which included community fire safety advice and burn and scald prevention information. Clare and the team also carried out a fire safety assessment of the camp, which is occupied by roughly 120,000 people.

Many camps in South Sudan can hold thousands of people living in makeshift accommodation in close proximity to one another, with schools, hospitals and markets all adding to the risk of fire.  As well as this, all cooking takes place on open fires and fire service response is limited.

Clare said: “The community were very receptive to our visit and found the training and advice very beneficial. The site staff that we trained will now be able to pass on fire safety guidance to thousands of people living in the camps and hopefully reduce the risk of a fire starting.”

The trip to South Sudan was supported by Fire Aid, a charity which provides donations of fire and rescue equipment and training to those in need of such assistance.

The charity also visited South Sudan in March 2018 and identified a number of substantial fire risks including a lack of awareness of fire safety. It was from this that Women in the Fire Service were asked to request if any of their members could volunteer for a second visit to the country.

Off duty firefighter given top bravery honour

Off duty firefighter receives top bravery honour A South Yorkshire firefighter has been honoured with the service’s highest bravery award.

Crew Manager Paul Holbrook was off duty when there there was a road traffic collision on the M18 North motorway involving three vehicles.

The collision in September last year saw a driver thrown from one of the cars and left his passenger trapped in the vehicle – which was overturned. Paul was travelling with his family that day on the same stretch of motorway, and was caught in the traffic jam caused by the collision.

Upon seeing the incident ahead Paul left his vehicle, with traffic stood still, and ran to the scene. Once there, he identified a substantial petrol leak and immediately took charge of the incident.

He assessed the casualty and removed her from a difficult position in the overturned car before moving her to a place of safety. He then stayed with her on the hard shoulder and continued to provide casualty care. When crews arrived he was able to provide a full handover and continued to help all three blue light services until the casualties were taken by the ambulance service.

Presenting Paul with a Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation, CFO James Courtney said: “It is quite clear that in doing what he did Crew Manager Holbrook displayed bravery and complete selflessness. He went forward to help when he had the option not to – displaying the true values of the fire and rescue service.

“The on-duty Watch Manager, who took over the scene from Paul, has since praised his quick thinking and his actions – which stopped the incident from escalating and, most importantly, potentially saved this lady’s life.”

Paul was presented with a certificate in front of family, friends, colleagues and Fire Authority members at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Central fire station in Sheffield.

Sheffield hoarding support cutting fire risk thanks to service funding

People who hoard are being helped to change their habits, thanks to the fire service funded work of a Sheffield mental health charity.

Sheffield Mind’s ‘Magpies’ project is part way through a two year mission to support people who hoard under a scheme paid for under money set aside from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s reserves.

Specially trained support workers meet with people for weekly one-to-one sessions where they discuss their lifestyles, the possible reasons behind their hoarding histories and ways they could change their behaviour.

A training exchange sees the charity offer mental health awareness training to fire service staff how to spot the signs of hoarding, whilst the fire service have trained Sheffield mind staff in basic fire prevention advice. A self-help support group is also attended by more than a dozen people with hoarding issues each month.

The project only has capacity to work with up to 10 people one-to-one at any given time, but is starting to have a big impact on those it is designed to help.

Its clients include ‘Mandy’ who has limited mobility and has hoarded items for several years after leaving an abusive relationship. Mandy’s home was severely cluttered, with whole rooms inaccessible and escape routes and corridors blocked- putting her at greater risk in the event that a fire did start in her home. But by working with Mandy over a period of several months, support workers have helped her to sort through her belongings and to make decisions to let them go, significantly reducing the fire risk hazard and making more space in her home.

Sheffield Mind Head of Operations, Rob Horsley, said: “Hoarding behaviours are a very complex issue which are about far more than someone simply collecting large quantities of things over a long period of time- often it is linked to other, significant life events or mental health difficulties and requires a considered, thoughtful approach to address. We’re pleased that the work we are doing is starting to have a tangible impact on people’s safety from fire.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps said: “We know there are some common factors involved in nearly all of our most serious fires, which is why our focus in recent years has been on targeting our prevention work at those who are at greatest risk. Our work with Sheffield Mind is a really good example of this as, although the number of people the project supports is quite small, the impact on their safety is huge.”

The project was awarded £88,000 under the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve. The fund is a Fire Authority scheme which reinvests money into local communities to support our work to prevent emergencies. The money has been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

Have your say on our equality and inclusion work

We’ve drafted a strategy to help guide our equality, diversity and inclusion work over the next four years.

We know that the strongest and most effective teams are built in a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected. This helps us to deliver inclusive services, ultimately keeping our communities safer.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is also at the heart of our service and how we engage our communities. They drive our purpose of providing effective services that meet local needs and help make our workforce truly representative of the communities we serve.

We really want members of the public to share their views on our Equality Diversity & Inclusion Strategy including our five priorities for this work which are:

  1. Improving diversity
  2. Inclusive culture
  3. Fair treatment
  4. Inclusive services
  5. Engaging communities

You can have your say on our draft strategy here

New Deputy Fire Chief for South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority (SYFRA) has appointed a new Deputy Chief Fire Officer.

Alex Johnson was appointed following a selection process which included a written application, operational assessment and panel interview with members of the Fire Authority.

Alex had been fulfilling the role on a temporary basis since January, having joined South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue as Assistant Chief Fire Officer in 2017. She’d previously served with Derbyshire Fire & Rescue for more than 25 years, having joined as a firefighter in 1992.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Chris Lamb, said: “Alex was an incredibly impressive candidate whose passion for the job and hunger to continually improve the service and its culture really shone through. We really look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Alex said: “I’m really excited to be in a position to continue leading the development of the service, backed by a brilliant team of exceptionally talented firefighters and support staff who are proud of the part they play in making South Yorkshire a safer and stronger place to live and work.”