Here’s how frontline firefighter cover in West Sussex could be improved

Improving frontline firefighter cover across West Sussex is one of the major priorities set out in a new strategy.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 9:28 am
West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service staff highlighting the consultation

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is proposing to increase firefighter availability at some stations allowing it to enhance its emergency response as well as its prevention and protection activity within the community.

This is set out in the service’s draft Community Risk Management Plan CRMP), which outlines its key priorities over the next four years. A public consultation on the document runs until January 21.

The aim of the plan is to identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue related risks. The service then looks at the resources in place and activity needed to mitigate these risk and develops plans to improve safety.

The first proposal in the plan is to enhance the service’s retained operating model.

A retained firefighter is a paid person employed by the service who is ‘on call’ to respond to a range of emergencies.

The plan describes how the service needs to increase the availability of its retained firefighters across West Sussex as over the past five years there has been a steady decline in the availability of retained and day-crew fire engines.

An operational response model would be developed to maximise retained availability in strategic geographical areas aligned to community risk.

The next proposal would see changes at the four day crewing stations at Burgess Hill, East Grinstead, Haywards Heath and Shoreham, which all currently maintain an immediate response capability from 7am-7pm Monday to Friday.

As there is no significant change to daytime risk or demand during both weekday and weekend periods, the current model at these stations would be extended to provide immediate response cover as well as protection and prevention activities seven days a week with a new flexible crewing model.

The service also wants to maximise fire engine availability and optimise prevention and protection activity in rural areas primarily covered by retained firefighters.

The crewing optimisation group is a team of wholetime firefighters who operate from varying rural locations, 7am- 7pm, Monday to Friday.

The proposal is to enhance and modernise the existing COG provision to include seven days per week cover and provide an increased focus on rural prevention and protection and response activity.

The fourth major proposal seeks to reduce the amount of time lost to responding to false alarms from automatic systems at non-domestic properties.

The CRMP also outlines the service’s ambition to review both its emergency response standards, which have been in effect since 2009, and its specialist capability and asset requirements.

The plan also highlights the need to ensure the organisation remains a ‘great place for staff to work, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and are able to work in an empowered, collaborative and innovative way’.

Duncan Crow, cabinet member for community support, fire and rescue, said: “The CRMP is a document that identifies all foreseeable risk that could affect our communities. It helps us to work out where we need our staff and resources, so that we can respond to high-risk incidents and plan how to deliver our vital prevention and protection work.

“It’s our job as a fire and rescue service to understand and manage risk, and we would like you to answer six questions as part of our public consultation to help shape the direction of our service. You’ll be helping to influence our four-year plan for making West Sussex safer. You can visit our consultation website in order to take part and give us your views, or we can send you out a paper copy of our proposals and the survey to complete if you don’t have access to the internet.”

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, chief fire officer, said: “This is a key opportunity for residents, our emergency service partners, and other key partners we work with to have their say on our proposals. We want to hear what people from all walks of life have to say about our planned proposals. We will assess all of the responses we receive and use this to inform our final CRMP which we intend to publish in spring 2022.”

To take part in the consultation visit https://yourvoice.westsussex.gov.uk/crmp

If you need this information in an alternative format you can call 01243 786211 or email [email protected]

If you are deaf or hard of hearing and have an NG texting app installed on your computer, laptop or smartphone, you can contact the service on 18001 01243 786211.