Inspection rates service ‘good’ across all three areas

An inspection report which rated South Yorkshire’s fire and rescue service as ‘good’ across all three judgement criteria has been welcomed by fire chiefs.

Inspectors found that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue:

  • is ‘good’ in effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks
  • is ‘good’ in operating efficiently
  • is ‘good’ at looking after its people

The service was also rated as good in ten out of eleven sub categories in everything from how it responds to and prevents fires and other emergencies, to how well trained its staff are and how well it promotes fairness and diversity amongst its workforce.

This places South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue amongst the top rated services in the country.

Inspectors have also identified some areas for improvement, including how well it secures an affordable way of managing risk.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, said: “The report is an excellent indication of the quality of service we deliver to our communities and the hard work and dedication of our staff. We’re particularly pleased that our work to improve the culture of the organisation for the people who work here has been recognised.

“Of course there will be areas for improvement and under the leadership of our incoming Chief Fire Officer, I know that the service will properly consider and put in place measures to address all of these, as we seek to continually improve our service to the people of South Yorkshire.”

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “The inspection report makes very encouraging reading and duly recognises South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue as a strongly performing service. This is very reassuring to the Fire and Rescue Authority and more importantly should further demonstrate to our communities the drive to keep them safe from harm.

“It is important to stress this result has only been achieved through strong leadership, management and the dedicated effort of the whole service. As positive as this result is, I know there will be no complacency and the ambition to consistently improve will continue.”

The report follows an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) earlier this year.

It is the first time South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has been inspected since HMICS extended its remit to include inspections of fire and rescue services in 2017.

The inspectorates assesses and reports on the efficiency, effectiveness and people management qualities of the 45 fire and rescue services in England. Services are rated either ‘inadequate’, ‘requires improvement’, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ under each of these.

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.

Fire officer thanked for life saving off duty CPR

Station Manager Nick Abbott has been recognised for life saving cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) he delivered to a heart attack victim in Sheffield.

Nick was off-duty and training at a gym in the city before Christmas last year when a man in his 40s went into cardiac arrest.

He delivered CPR until paramedics from Yorkshire Ambulance Service arrived on the scene.

Paramedics said Nick’s quick thinking contributed to the man going on to make a full recovery.

Nick was presented with a letter from the Chief Fire Officer thanking him for his efforts.

Student safety plea after Bolton accommodation blaze

Fire officers are calling on Sheffield students to familiarise themselves with evacuation procedures, after a blaze involving student accommodation in Bolton.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has already written to universities asking them to consider any implications from the fire, which saw around 200 residents evacuated from The Cube.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Steve Helps, said: “It’s too early to tell what caused the fire in Bolton to spread in the way that it did or what materials were involved in the construction of the building.

“Even so, it’s a timely reminder for students and accommodation providers to understand the evacuation strategies for their buildings and make sure they follow them, every time an alarm goes off.”

The fire service is reminding students to:

  • Ensure you understand the fire procedures and evacuation strategy for your building
  • Always follow the fire evacuation plan in the event that the alarm is raised
  • Minimise ‘false alarms’, which can undermine other residents confidence in the alarm system

“False alarms- both accidental and malicious- are a fact of life for many students. But a large number of false alarms can lead to residents ignoring fire alarms when they do go off, which clearly puts them at greater risk in the event that the alarm is genuine,” said Steve.

Alex Johnson appointed South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer

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

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

Alex joined South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue as Assistant Chief Fire Officer in 2017, before being promoted to Deputy Chief Fire Officer. She’d previously served with Derbyshire Fire & Rescue for more than 25 years, having joined as a firefighter in 1992.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “Alex is an outstanding candidate who has demonstrated to Fire Authority members her commitment to building a successful, inclusive and positive culture at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

“In addition to her obvious talent in managing and developing people, she also has a firm operational background – which has been admirably demonstrated recently through her command of the fire service’s response to the widespread flooding which has hit our region.”

Alex will take over the role in January, when the current Chief Fire Officer James Courtney QFSM retires. James joined South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in 2006 and has been Chief Fire Officer since 2011.

“Fire Authority members would like to thank James for the experience and leadership he has demonstrated in the role of Chief Fire Officer over the last eight years and wish him all the best for a long and happy retirement,” said Robert.

Alex said: “I inherit a successful organisation full of brilliant, talented people who are proud of the part they play in making South Yorkshire safer and stronger. Leading this organisation is the honour of a lifetime and I will do all I can to make the service a brilliant place to work, which delivers outstanding results for the communities we serve.”

Automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings- what businesses need to know

The fire service is changing the way it responds to automatic fire alarms in some types of commercial premises.

What do I need to know?

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue will no longer automatically mobilise fire engines to automatic fire alarms in some types of commercial premises from 6 January 2020.

Currently we automatically send fire engines to premises the moment a fire alarm goes off and the signal is passed, by a receiving centre, onto 999 control operators.

Instead, we will only mobilise fire engines if we receive a call to confirm there is definitely a fire.

Why is this change being implemented?

About 97% of the automatic fire 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 also brings South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in line with the position of many other fire and rescue services nationally and that of the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Which premises will this apply to?

The change will affect:

  • Offices
  • Shops
  • Industrial buildings
  • Public buildings like libraries or museums
  • Places of worship

Which premises does this not apply to?

Premises unaffected by the change are:

  • Domestic properties with fire / smoke alarms
  • Other sleeping risk premises – including hospitals, sheltered housing, care or homes, houses of multiple occupation, flats, high-rise tower blocks, hotels, bedsits, boarding schools, colleges, universities or halls of residence
  • Schools
  • Heritage sites
  • Large industrial sites, covered by COMAH legislation
  • National critical infrastructure.
  • Shops with homes or sleeping accommodation above/below

As a business owner, what do I need to do?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it’s the responsibility of businesses to ensure their alarm systems are checked regularly and maintained properly, to eliminate false alarms and make sure the alarm operates as it should do in the event of a genuine emergency. You will find more information here about automatic fire alarm systems and reducing unwanted fire signals.

In particular, business owners are advised to review their Emergency Plan to ensure that in the event of an alarm activation the following areas are considered:

  • During the normal working day a procedure should be in place for staff in the building to liaise with the Alarm Receiving Centre and confirm whether the Fire and Rescue Service need to be called in the event of a fire alarm activation
  • Outside of normal working hours contact details for nominated persons should be available to the Alarm Receiving Centre so that a responsible person can be called to attend the premises and determined the nature of the incident prior to the Fire and Rescue Service being called

The responsible person should contact their Alarm Receiving Centre as soon as possible to ensure they are aware of these new arrangements.

After the flood- safety advice for residents

  • Make sure the property is safe before you enter and start to clear up.
  • Arrange for services, such as gas and electricity, to be turned off. The electricity and gas supplies should remain off until you are sure it is safe to turn them back on.
  • Remember, items that have been in contact with floodwater may be contaminated and contain sewage, therefore make sure that anything that has been in contact with the water is safely cleaned.
  • Open your doors and windows to ventilate your home.
  • Be prepared, have a torch at hand when entering the property and do not use candles.
  • Do not go near any exposed wiring, as it may still be live. Do not attempt any electrical repairs or connection of temporary supplies yourself – always use a registered electrician.
  • Do not use any mains powered electrical appliances in the areas affected by the flood until advised that it is safe to do so.
  • If safe to use them, make sure heaters are kept well away from soft furnishings to prevent fires
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if diesel or petrol generators are used indoors

For advice on electrical safety

South Yorkshire flooding- key facts

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue declared a major incident at around 10.30pm on Thursday 7 November as a result of widespread flooding across the county.

Our one, key safety message is do not enter flood water– either in your car or on foot.

Key facts:

  • Our 999 control operators have taken more than 2500 emergency calls, not just relating to flooding, since then
  • We’ve carried out around 290 rescues
  • We’re being supported by neighbouring fire and rescue services and national assets- including extra heavy pumping equipment  and extra boats
  • We’ve pumped more than 75 million litres away from flood hit areas

Attack on Sheffield fire engine condemned

Fire chiefs have condemned an attack on firefighters in Sheffield.

Firefighters from Central fire station were responding to reports of a fire on Wensley Street in Sheffield when their fire engine came under attack.

Objects including eggs and fireworks were thrown at the fire engine and crew. No firefighters were injured in the incident, which happened at around 8.30pm on 5 November.

Firefighters withdrew until police arrived, before proceeding to tackle the blaze- which turned out to be a wheelie bin fire in some woods, which had been started deliberately.

Area Manager Andy Strelczenie at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue said: “We are absolutely appalled that our firefighters appear to have been targeted in this way.

“Attacks like this place the safety of our firefighters, and the people they are trying to protect, at risk. Thankfully, this type of incident is extremely rare in South Yorkshire and it is only a tiny minority of people who would ever consider acting in such an irresponsible and dangerous way.

“However, even one attack on a firefighter is completely unacceptable – and we will work alongside the police to fully investigate any attacks and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

If you have any information about this attack please call 101, quoting police incident number 961 (5 November).

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act has made it an aggravating factor to attack police officers, paramedics, prison officers and firefighters, punishable by up to 12 months in prison.