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.

Residents feel safer in their homes following fire service checks

Analysis of the home safety checks carried out by fire service staff has revealed overwhelming resident satisfaction levels, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue can reveal.

According to the service, which has completed 15,000 such checks so far this year, 96 percent of people are left satisfied following one of the visits.

The research has also shown that, whilst 55 percent of people rated their home safe before a home safety check, 97 percent rated it safe after the check – a 42 percent increase.

A third of people then said that they would take action, following the visit, to make their home safer – should any issues have been identified.

“We’re really pleased with the results of this research as it reaffirms what we already suspected – that our staff are delivering an outstanding service,” said Area Manager Simon Dunker, head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“Beyond the satisfaction scores, though, the pleasing thing is that people are feeling safer in their homes after we’ve visited, and are taking action to reduce their risks.

“Reviewing our work, and making sure we’re doing a good job, is really important to us. It is part of striving to be the best we can be and is something we will continue to do.

“I’d encourage anyone who feels they are at particular risk of fire to get in touch with us and arrange a visit as soon as possible. The same goes for family members who you think would benefit.”

Researchers also identified that householders don’t just keep the knowledge to themselves, but share it between friends and family too, with 50 percent of people saying they had passed on some of the advice following their visit.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Sheffield in conjunction with the fire and rescue service, involved telephone interviews with 234 people being asked questions about their own home safety check experience.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue offers home safety checks free for people who meet its set criteria – this can include living alone, being over a certain age or having a hearing impairment.

They involve firefighters or community safety staff giving advice on how to make a home safer and what to do in the event of a fire. They may also involve smoke alarms being fitted, if needed.

Visits can be booked at www.syfire.gov.uk or by calling 0114 253 2314.

Business Fire Safety – quiz for owners and responsible persons

Do you run or manage a business?

Are you aware of your fire safety responsibilities?

Take our fire safety quiz below to test your knowledge.

Business Fire Safety Quiz

Stand By Your Pan – cooking fire safety quiz

We’ve just launched a brand new cooking fire safety campaign. Why? Because we’ve had 4,000 cooking related incidents over the last four years, and we want to reduce that.

We’re asking people to #StandByTheirPan as, according to our research, most of the cooking fires we attend involve some sort of distraction or carelessness.

As part of the campaign we’ve created the below safety quiz. We’ve got £100 worth of Amazon vouchers up for grabs. We estimate it will take two minutes to complete – what are you waiting for?

This isn’t the only way you can get involved in our campaign, neither. We’re inviting children to design us a cooking fire safety poster. The winners stand to win a LEGO fire station set. You can download the entry form here. 

#StandByYourPan - Cooking Fire Safety Quiz

  • This form collects some personal information - which will be used to contact the randomly selected quiz winner and subsequently be destroyed. By submitting the form you are agreeing for your data to be used in this way.

Firefighters make ‘Stand By Your Pan’ plea in latest safety push

People across South Yorkshire are being urged to stand by their pans as part of a new safety campaign that aims to drive down cooking fires.

This comes as South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue reveals it has attended over 1,000 cooking related incidents in the last four years – with cooking being a leading cause of accidental house fire.

The latest campaign, which will be running across Christmas and into the New Year, urges people to resist the temptation to leave the room and get distracted whilst cooking.

It is being launched today, Friday 22 November, with the help of pupils at Mosborough Primary School in Sheffield – who have starred in a brand new flagship campaign video.

“We know that cooking is the leading cause of house fire in South Yorkshire. That is a fact and is something we want to change,” said Area Manager Simon Dunker, head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“It was responsible for half of all accidental house fires last year. Many of these incidents could have been prevented by taking some really simple steps.

“We’re not asking a lot, as we know people lead busy lives, but literally standing by your pan can reduce the chance you’re going to have a kitchen fire.

“In turn, that reduces the chances that you, or the kids, are going to get hurt. Or, as a more common outcome, that you are going to have to fork out thousands of pounds for a new kitchen.”

Firefighters are offering three key bits of advice as part of the campaign:

  • Never leave the room whilst you are cooking food
  • Keep your oven clean and don’t leave stuff on top, or inside
  • Test your smoke alarms!

As part of the planning process, the service analysed a random selection of cooking fires from across South Yorkshire.

Out of those looked at, over half involved food being left on too long and forgotten about. A smoke logged kitchen, and damaged equipment, was the most common outcome.

Other causes involved stuff being left on top of the hob, dirty ovens or chip pans.

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.”