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Firefighters Savage Official Report on SFRS Response to Covid-19

Published on: 26 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 26 Jan, 2021

The Fire Brigades Union has launched a stinging attack on an official report of the Covid-19 response by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

A Surrey FBU spokesperson said: “This report fails to recognise the severity of the impact cuts have had on Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

“There is little quantifiable detail about the decimation [sic] of appliance availability or the diversion of fire safety inspectors away from their crucial preventative work to plug gaps in the frontline.

“And it fails to mention that firefighters suspended industrial action so they could better help their community through the pandemic.

“The Surrey report utterly fails to hold senior management to account for cutting firefighters, attacking pay and conditions, intimidating staff, and making the public less safe.

“It’s full of inaccuracies and will be deeply disappointing for the firefighters who have lived through this nightmare, day in, day out.”

The findings by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, dated September 2020, were published yesterday (January 25). In summary, the SFRS listed them as the service:

  • Was able to make an effective initial response to the pandemic;
  • Had enough resources available to respond to the level of demand;
  • Had better availability of fire engines than in the similar period in 2019;
  • Carried out new activities to support the Local Resilience Forum, including mortuary and PPE management and delivery and help for the vulnerable;
  • Is seen as a reliable and willing partner of the Local Resilience Forum;
  • Continued to recruit to ensure vacancies were filled;
  • Continued to work with those responsible for fire safety in high-risk premises with cladding similar to that at Grenfell Tower;
  • Made sure staff had the skills and equipment needed, including timely PPE;
  • Provided regular and relevant communication to all staff;
  • Consulted with unions locally to implement the tripartite agreement;
  • Offered individual risk assessments to all staff;
  • Changed the way they train to ensure firefighters were skilled; and
  • Ensured its control room remained resilient.

The inspectors suggested improvements, saying the SFRS should maintain inspections of higher-risk premises, work on evaluation, adopt the new ways of innovative working for the long term, secure lasting improvements, continue to ensure value for money and continue to work with public health to ensure wellbeing of staff.

Chief Fire Officer Steve Owen-Hughes

Chief Fire Officer Steve Owen-Hughes said: We are really pleased with this report. It recognises all of the fantastic work we undertook during the first stages of the pandemic.

“The many positives are due to the great people we have in our service. This includes the staff and volunteers who had direct involvement in Covid-19 activities, as well as those who continued to work in their usual roles, ensuring we delivered our statutory responsibilities and worked on our improvement journey.”

Denise Turner Stewart, the county council cabinet member for communities, said: “We fully recognise and commend the extraordinary efforts and ‘above and beyond’ work ethic of our staff during the pandemic.

“I think the report shows exactly how much effort is going into the additional activities, alongside the positive change that is taking place within the service and the proactive way in which our staff have reacted.

“As the fire authority, we will now work with the service to take on board the recommendations and continue our improvement journey.”

All UK fire and rescue services were inspected last year in light of the pandemic, in addition to their usual inspections. You can read the full report on HMICFRS’s website here.

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Responses to Firefighters Savage Official Report on SFRS Response to Covid-19

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 26, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    That says it all really, “continue our improvement journey”. They haven’t even arrived after how many years of existence?

    Just when do they plan to “arrive” and what is their destination?

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