Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/303/13767
Government buries fire safety report
BY THE end of 2003, fire authorities across the country will have complied with one of the government's most contentious new directives, Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP). This has great implications for the future of the fire service.
Dave Simpson, branch secretary, FBU Gainsborough
At the moment the fire service works to the National Standards of Fire Cover. These have graded risk categories: A, B, C, D and rural. This means a fire in an 'A' risk area attracts two pumping appliances within five minutes and a third in eight minutes, whereas a fire in a rural risk category attracts one pump in twenty minutes (or more).
These standards and other fire safety acts pay greater heed to the protection of property than the protection of life.
The government commissioned the Fire Cover Review, also known as the Pathfinder Report, which issued an interim report in Spring 2002. This was tested live for three years in eleven metropolitan, urban, rural and semi-rural brigades.
They found that significant changes were needed to tip the scales towards the protection of life. The review recommended massive investment in the fire service to provide more stations, appliances and personnel.
But the government has buried the review. They've used our strike to hide away a report which exposed their policies of decades of under-investment.
The government and fire service employers recognise the need for change but refuse to accept the need for increased investment. Their version, Predictive Mobilising, means they will trawl up the 'facts' that suit their argument and use them to shift personnel and appliances to respond to incidents that have yet to happen.
So rather than ensuring a greater level of protection for all, the area that personnel had just left would be left depleted of its fire cover.
Another idea of 'modernisation' is to vary the response to buildings with automatic fire alarm and suppression systems. An office block with an activated fire alarm might in future receive a response of two personnel in a car rather than a pumping appliance.
Only last week fire crews in West Sussex attended an automatic fire alarm call and rescued 37 people from a smoke-filled building. This would not have been possible with just two personnel and the subsequent delayed response of the required appliances.
The employers say their plans will provide safer communities and a more flexible (cheaper) response and point to 'exhaustive' consultation with public and other bodies. But the government gives public opinion only the most cursory of nods before being completely ignored. Consultation means they have to consult, not negotiate.
We fight for the real aims of the IRMP - increased and improved public safety. Without that, the public will all be at an increased risk of death and loss from the government's push towards swingeing cuts, under the false guise of modernisation.
In The Socialist 7 June 2003: