The MAKING SURREY SAFER Plan
Earlier this year Surrey County Council REMOVED financial saving targets from the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, and has provided an EXTRA £975,000 to pay for the recruitment of more fire-fighters, the purchase of new fire and rescue vehicles and reorganising the service to meet the challenges it faces. It follows the building and opening of three brand new 'state of the art" fire stations at Guildford and Woking and another at Fordbridge (Staines/Sunbury).
But the way that Surrey Fire and Rescue services are organised has not fundamentally changed for decades, hence the need for change. This summarises the new "Making Surrey Safer" Plan.
- More Fire Fighters being recruited and trained (82 so far this year)
- No redundancies
- No Fire Station closures
- A ten fold increase in prevention visits / community safety visits from 2,000 a year to
20,000 a year - to those most at risk from fire - theelderly, disabled and vulnerable
people, and to businesses and schools
The primary aim of the Surrey Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) is to prevent fires and save lives - whether caused by fire, in road traffic accidents, or by drowning in our rivers.
The "Making Surrey Safer" Plan is not about cuts or money saving - which is why SCC has put in nearly £1m of extra funding to the Fire and Rescue Service this year to facilitate its transformation.
Surrey County Council are actively recruiting firefighters. In the past year, 82 full-time firefighters have been recruited and trained, and 20 more on-call firefighters are being trained during the rest of this year.
If a fire does occur the main aim of the service is to save lives, firstly within the property affected and secondly within neighbouring premises. Putting out fires and making property safe is part of the process of saving lives but not the main aim - this will always be prevention.
The plans modernise SFRS, addressing issues raised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate Fire & Rescue Services as it is now widely accepted that fire prevention is a more effective way to keep people safe at home.
Last year - 2018 - for more than 12 months - there were NO deaths by fire anywhere in Surrey. That is not being complacent in any way, but it's a fact. Another fact is that of those people who have been victims of a fatal fire in Surrey the vast majority were older and vulnerable or disabled people. Which is why the Making Surrey Safer Plan will expand the number of annual prevention and community safety visits made by SFRS from currently just over 2,000 a year to 10,000 a year ASAP, and then within three years to 20,000 a year. This will help to see fewer emergencies occur in the first place and that vulnerable people - those most at risk of fire, have working smoke alarms and know what to do when a fire occurs.
The Making Surrey Safer Plan has been scrutinised externally and validated by the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner, and was developed with the help of the London Fire Brigade. The plan has been scrutinised by the County Council Cabinet and proposed for adoption.
By using the latest technology, Surrey Fire and Rescue are able to maintain their response to emergencies while diverting more resources to business and community safety activities. Journey times are reduced by up to 50% during the night.
A comprehensive prevention education programme will include targeted advice for vulnerable residents and greater awareness of safety from risks, not limited to fire, across the County - more people die from drowning in our rivers than by fire, and considerably more in Road Traffic Accidents. But even RTA deaths in Surrey reduced from 36 in 2017 to 27 in 2018. There is no room, ever, for any complacency, but this evidence is good news.
Response times to critical incidents will continue to be within the Response Standard, and the number of firefighters in the County is now increasing - there ARE NO REDUNDANCIES as part of the Making Surrey Safer plan and NO FIRE STATION CLOSURES.
If you have an emergency the Surrey crews will still respond 24/7, 365 days a year.
If you need help Surrey Fire and a Rescue will always send the most appropriate and quickest response to you, wherever you are in the county.
What the independent, external validation says is that to be safe, Surrey needs 20 fire engines during the day and 16 at night. The plan of the Chief Fire Officer will mean more fire engines than this - 25 during the day and 23 at night.
This has been the part of the Plan highlighted by opponents. But Surrey has "state of the art" technology which shows where all fire engines are at any time -24/7 - and where they need to be - all the time. The evidence shows that by putting money and effort into prevention, and using this tried and tested technology, there can SAFELY be less firefighters on duty at night time, but still keep the public safe. This means those firefighters will in future be on duty daytime and can be used for more prevention visits during the day (which can't be done at nighttime!) to increase the number of "Safe and Well" Visits and to deliver safety messages to schools across the county, when not out on call. But that is why there will be one less appliance crewed at night at seven fire stations.
In the areas where Surrey Fire and Rescue are reducing full-time night staff, the service will still be responding within 10 minutes, as they do now, by sending the NEAREST fire engine available, as journeys can be up to 50% quicker during the night.
Making Surrey Safer Plan - Surrey is being made safer.
The plan aims to transform Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to meet the needs of all our communities, and manage the risks that are faced throughout the county, now and in the future. It wants to make sure that SCC positions firefighters and resources where they can have the greatest impact in an emergency and use that expertise in prevention to stop fires starting in the first place.
Our firefighters are highly trained, competent individuals, and their safety is paramount. There will be no change whatsoever to the safety standards for our staff. It will be just as safe for firefighters after the changes are implemented as it is now.
These proposals are not about cuts in any way. The plan will make the most effective use of resources and make the service fit for the needs of Surrey in the future. The total budget for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service for 2019/2020 is £34.9m, and Surrey County Council has given the service an additional £975,000 to implement these plans.
This transformation programme is not about budget cuts, or redundancies. SCC has recruited 82 new firefighters so far this year and continues to recruit. The aim under the plan is that SF&R has a fully staffed frontline service and overtime is ONLY used to cover sickness and holidays - not routinely. The aim under the plan is to have a fully staffed response service.
Prevention is the main focus. And the transformation programme is also focussed on people and places, making sure that the elderly and the vulnerable are safe, and places where people live and work are made safe too.
All the evidence says that if we invest in prevention, the number of incidents will decrease.
That's why SCC is putting so much effort and resources into prevention in this transformation programme. And it's not just about protection from fires, it is all risks.
Under the Plan, Surrey will still have an Animal Rescue Unit and we will not let animals suffer. We will continue to train our firefighters to rescue animals safely and provide the equipment they need to do so. However, this is not a statutory /legal function of the Fire and Rescue Service and SCC does not receive any funding for this. The National Framework for Fire and Rescue in England makes it clear that additional services should not impact on the core service. We are therefore planning to introduce some charges to cover the cost of these types of calls. In future it is intended to work more closely with partners, farmers and animal owners to do our best to prevent incidents involving animals. We want to avoid the need for rescue.
Responding to emergencies.
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service responds to a vast range of emergencies, including road traffic collisions, water rescues and wildfires, as well as fires in homes and business premises. The services has a fleet of specialist vehicles, which carry the very latest equipment to respond to all these emergencies.
When a 999 call is received, the Control Centre operators use the latest technology to send the NEAREST firefighters and the right equipment to deal with the emergency. This is called a 'Dynamic Response' and is not necessarily from the local Fire Station.
The service operates from 25 fire stations across the county, and now locates response vehicles nearer to areas that the evidence shows are of greatest risk. The technology sees where all our response vehicles are every minute of the day, so that the closest and most appropriate resource is sent, regardless of where they are based. This gets firefighters and the right equipment, to where it is needed, in the shortest possible time.
We also have long standing arrangements in place with neighbouring Fire and Rescue Services, the police and ambulance service and voluntary groups, to manage major incidents across Surrey as part of a multi-agency response.
The Making Surrey Safer plan has been devised to reflect intelligence from the last 5 years and forecasted data, to ensure that the Service is transformed to meet the needs and manage the risks that are faced throughout the county, now and in the future. Surrey Fire and Rescue want to make sure that it positions firefighters and resources where they can have the greatest impact and use their expertise in prevention to stop emergencies starting in the first place.
We have fewer firefighters in Surrey now than in 2010 - a situation replicated across the country with other fire and rescue services. And, like most fire authorities outside of large metropolitan areas like London, Surrey switched from five to four firefighters per pump, however, unlike some, Surrey County Council are actively recruiting firefighters. In the past year, we have recruited 82 full-time firefighters and 20 more on-call firefighters are being trained over the next 4 months.
Over the past decade there has been a dramatic fall in the number of fires in Surrey, largely as a result of prevention and protection work. Our Making Surrey Safer plan aims to direct more of our resources into this type of work, so that the number of emergencies in Surrey can be reduced even further.