Fire service proposes digital efficiencies to free up time for firefighters

Paper-based processes will be ditched and technology used more widely in a bid to free up time for firefighters and fire safety officers, a report will recommend.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue will ask its governing Fire Authority to approve recommendations to modernise many of its systems and processes, including the use of one-off reserve funding to fast-track some of the key changes.

The report proposes committing around £680,000 in reserve funding, which has already been committed to support investments which will save the service time and money in the future.

More than half of the money will be used to create more robust back up arrangements for its systems- better safeguarding against cyber attacks which remain one of the biggest national security threats.

Other improvements include digitising the way water hydrants used by firefighters to tackle fires are checked and monitored, an electronic system for recording and maintaining equipment on fire engines and using new data sharing tools to better prioritise safe and well checks for the vulnerable.

Work has already taken place to update the recording of staff sickness, stopping firefighters from having to complete multiple paper forms.

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “Our firefighters and fire safety officers deliver some brilliant work, but often they are working with old fashioned, paper based systems. We desperately want to modernize and make greater use of technology, to make their lives easier and create more time for them to do what they do best- making local people safer.

“Whilst we can feel safe in the knowledge that our systems and equipment are as safe as they can be, the nature of cyber threats mean that they are constantly changing and evolving, which is why we’re also proposing to boost our back up arrangements so we can seamlessly recover in the event of an attack of this nature.”

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) criticised some fire and rescue services for being slow to modernise their systems and processes, in a report released last year.

South Yorkshire became one of the first fire services in the country to achieve Cyber Essential Plus accreditation last year, further illustrating the measures it has taken to keep its systems and information secure.

The ‘Digital Transformation Roadmap’ will be debated at the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority meeting on Monday 11 February.

Fire Authority to consider Council Tax precept rise

The fire service’s governing Fire Authority will decide whether to increase its portion of Council Tax by 2.99% next year, at its budget setting meeting later this month.

Current indications are that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue will lose around £800,000 in its Government grant funding in 2019/20, when compared with 2018/19.

Householders in Band D currently pay £71.01 per year for their Fire and Rescue Service, around £1.37 per week. The decision to increase council tax would raise around £750,000 in annual funding for the fire service- the equivalent of around 20 firefighters.

The service has previously outlined the financial risks it faces in its medium term financial plan, which it will need to find further savings to address. These include:

  • The requirement to save £1.4 million from the service’s annual budget, following the outcome of a Judicial Review relating to the Close Proximity Crewing duty system
  • The outcome of a Government pensions revaluation, which will almost certainly mean a sharp rise in employer pension contributions
  • An uncertain financial future for all public services, with further cuts likely beyond 2020/21

Plans to be developed later this year will consider how these cost pressures affect the way in which South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue delivers its service to the public in the future.

Fire Authority Members will make their decision on Council Tax at the fire and rescue authority meeting on Monday 11 February.

South Yorkshire joins national on-call firefighter recruitment drive

South Yorkshire has joined a major national firefighter recruitment drive, which launches today.

On-Call Firefighter Awareness Week (7-13 January) is a UK-wide initiative to get more people to protect their communities by signing up to become on-call firefighters.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue currently employs on-call firefighters at seven fire stations- Askern, Birley Moor, Cudworth, Dearne, Rossington, Stocksbridge and Penistone.

On-call firefighters are local people who live within five minutes of those fire stations and are paid to respond to emergencies. They do not staff the fire station 24 hours a day like full-time firefighters. They are notified of a 999 call via a personal pager which they carry with them when they are on duty. They are also paid to train and, when needed, carry out safety work in the community.

Head of Emergency Response Tony Carlin, said: “We’ve employed on-call firefighters for decades and they play a vital role in keeping local people safe. But we need more people who are passionate about the places they live to become on call firefighters.

“If being a firefighter is something that appeals to you, but you already have a career or other commitments, now is the chance for you to find out if you can still make it happen.  There’ s lots of flexibility to work around other commitments such as family, studying or work, so we really want people to get in touch to find out if it could be a career for them.”

The National Fire Chief’s Council and Home Office are behind the national campaign, using materials designed to appeal to a wide range of potential applicants.

To find out more about the role of an on-call firefighters visit or to register your interest with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue here

Who has helped you?

Has someone gone the extra mile for you? Say thank you to someone who has made a difference to you or someone you know.

We want to give a public voice to our staff recognition so that some of our hidden heroes across our fire stations and support teams can get the thank you they deserve.

We know our staff can often make a massive difference to people’s lives through their work to make local people safer- whether it’s attending emergencies, fitting smoke alarms, visiting schools or helping out in their communities.

From firefighters and community safety teams, to volunteers and reception staff, anyone who works for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue can be nominated.

To nominate someone, simply head over to our Facebook page (click here) let us know the name of the person and explain in your own words why they should be recognised. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the exact names of the people who helped, just let us know the area and date that you received a good service from us and we should be able to track them down.

If you don’t use Facebook you can also email us at: with the details of who you’d like to nominate.

We’ll share some of our favourite stories on social media and the overall winners will be presented awards at our Long Service Good Conduct staff awards ceremony next year.

Video shines a light on pride of fire service staff

We’ve created a poem and a video to remind the 1.3 million people we serve of everything we do and how proud we are to do it- from a firefighter on a fire station, to a receptionist at our headquarters, to a mechanic in our workshops.

It’s also an attempt to explain that we don’t just put out fires and our staff aren’t just firefighters play a vital role in lots of other ways, from enforcing building safety laws, giving your kids safety advice at school or visiting an older relative’s home to fit smoke alarms.

We’re really, really proud of all our staff and of the work they do for people in South Yorkshire.

Fire service scoops major national cyber threats certification

A major national cyber security award has been granted to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue- one of the only fire and rescue services in the country to have achieved the mark.

The award of the Cyber Essentials Plus certification, verified independently by an approved accreditation body, recognises the steps the service’s ICT team has taken to protect the organisation against cyber threats.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue was already Cyber Essentials accredited, but achieved the Plus rating following a random sample of devices and systems.

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “Cyber threats are a real issue for national and local government institutions, which is why our ICT team have been working so hard behind the scenes to safeguard our systems and data. Achieving the Cyber Essentials Plus certification provides important reassurance to our partners and the public.

“Whilst we can feel safe in the knowledge that our systems and equipment are as safe as they can be, the nature of cyber threats mean that they are constantly changing and evolving, so all staff should remain vigilant when using IT systems, email and the internet.”

Cyber Essentials is a Government-backed, industry-supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common online threats. It’s run in conjunction with the National Cyber Security Centre.

Common steps organisations take to protect themselves from threats include making sure our devices and software are up to date, using an internet firewall and implementing measures to stop viruses and malware. It’s also important to control who has access to data and services and to choose the most secure settings for the devices and software our staff use.


Cyber Security was identified as a Tier 1 threat by the Government in the 2010 National Security Strategy, alongside terrorism, war and natural disasters.


Police and fire community safety teams join forces in major collaboration milestone

South Yorkshire safety teams have joined forces, in an ambitious fire and police collaboration project.

The joint community safety department brings together staff from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police to work together with the shared aim of keeping people safe.

The leadership within each service believe the joint department will make both organisations’ work to prevent emergencies and reduce demand more efficient and effective.

High profile activities the teams currently undertake 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.

Area Manager Steve Helps, who was jointly appointed by both organisations to lead the team, said: “Police and fire have worked closely to make people safer for many years. But we truly believe that by bringing together the skills, experience and specialisms of both teams, we can do even more to reduce demand and better protect the communities we serve. Vulnerability in our communities is going up at a time when our resources are not, so we need to become even more targeted in what we do and the people we engage with. This project is about meeting that aspiration and providing early intervention to better meet our future demands.”

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: “I’m pleased that South Yorkshire’s police and fire and rescue service are collaborating to form a joint community safety department and look forward to hearing more about the benefits this brings to local communities. The Government introduced a number of measures to facilitate greater collaboration between our emergency services, which presents a real opportunity to provide a more efficient and effective service to the public.”

The Policing & Crime Act 2017 placed a new statutory duty on all three emergency services to look at opportunities to work with one another better to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Stephen Watson, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Jamie Courtney, Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and Chair of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Chris Lamb signed a collaboration agreement earlier this year to outline the terms and vision of the work between the organisations.

Other big collaboration developments have included the development of a joint police and fire station in Maltby and the appointment of a Head of Joint Vehicle Fleet Management and Head of Joint Estates and Facilities Management.

Sheffield volunteer teaching sign language to firefighters

A much-loved Sheffield volunteer is helping the fire service to give safety advice to deaf and hard of hearing people, by sharing his sign language skills with crews.

Phil Bowers, aged 49, has volunteered for two days a week as a South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue fire support volunteer for more than five years, helping to carry out home safety visits and fitting smoke alarms.

But he is also a trained British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, meaning he has been able to share basic signing skills with community safety staff and firefighters, including a watch at Parkway fire station and managers across the service.

Phil said; “Apart from teaching the crews at Parkway fire station I have also been teaching group managers and had invitations to teach at different fire stations in South Yorkshire. Having sign language skills feels like a great blessing to myself and I feel really lucky that it is not just in my head, but it is locked into my heart. I feel so blessed that I can share it with my fire service family.

“It is so nice that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue want to learn about the deaf and hard of hearing community, which I have always felt sometimes doesn’t get noticed.

“It has been a pleasure for the last five years to be welcomed to the fire service family, to learn so many different skills and how to be professional in many different situations. It’s just been unbelievable and it has been the loveliest roller coaster of my life.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “Our brilliant volunteers contribute so much to the work we are doing to make people safer. We have dozens of volunteers, bringing a huge range of different and diverse qualities, skills and experiences. It can sometimes be harder for firefighters and other staff members to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, so Phil sharing some basic sign-language skills in this way will be of huge benefit.”

To find out more about volunteering with the fire service, visit

Pitsmoor playground workers hail impact of fire funding

Play workers behind a much-loved community playground in Sheffield have hailed the impact fire service backing has had on their facility.

Pitsmoor Adventure Playground was built in the 1970s, but funding problems earlier this decade meant the site was open for just nine hours per week.

Now thanks to help from a range of partners, including cash from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve fund, the playground is helping to transform the lives of children in the area- with fire officers hoping it will help to reduce fires in the process.

The playground is accessed by children and young people from across Pitsmoor, Burngreave and the surrounding areas, including harder to reach children from Roma Slovak, Yemeni and Somali communities.

Evidence suggests it is making a big impact on young people’s life skills, behaviour and personal self-care, including dental hygiene.

Children visiting the playground are also encouraged by play team workers and volunteers to become active citizens, taking care of the playground and the surrounding communities. The fire funding, which had been set aside from the Authority’s reserves, helped to pay for fire safety through play sessions and additional learning sessions have been delivered on keeping safe on roads and around water.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “We know that we can’t hope to reach every member of our community on our own, which is why we need the help of charities and community organisations like this one. Our goal as a fire service is to make our communities safer and stronger and we believe our contribution towards this important and much-loved facility in the heart of one of Sheffield’s more deprived neighbourhoods is a good example of how we are working towards that mission.”

Fire Authority member Cllr Jackie Satur, said: “This is exactly the sort of project the Fire Authority has been proud to support- making a measurable difference to the lives of young people in a particularly deprived area, whilst at the same time helping to reduce fires through targeted education and advice.”         

Charity Manager Patrick Meleady, said, “We are delighted to have secured the support of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and through our partnership arrangements have engaged with 100s of people, this project is making a considerable difference within our community having a direct impact on educating the children on the importance of keeping safe.”

For more information visit