Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is currently reviewing the future of its front line emergency services. The review was announced last year following the publication of the Kerslake Report and also in response to concerns raised by firefighters themselves with the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham. The proposals are challenging, outlining a major transformation that attempts to make sure the fire service has all the resources it needs in the right places while taking into account the financial constraints it faces. It’s a balancing act aiming to deliver improved working conditions, more modern facilities and better training and equipment while acknowledging it will inevitably mean some difficult decisions and changes to deliver it.

What are some of the proposals contained in the consultation?

Amongst the proposals is the possibility of consolidating six fire stations into three brand new, state-of-the-art community fire stations to be located in Bolton, Manchester and Stockport. The fleet of fire engines is potentially under consideration too; the proposals will guarantee 47 fire engines day and night across Greater Manchester compared to the 50 currently available on average. Crewing levels will be 4 firefighters on all engines, reflecting current practice in both Greater Manchester and across the country. There’ll be no redundancies of firefighters. The proposals do include some reductions in support roles but the intention is that there will be no compulsory redundancies. The ambition is to remain one of the fastest-responding fire services in the country. The current average response time in Greater Manchester is 7 minutes 14 seconds (Home Office measurement) which is considerably better than the national average of 8 minutes 45 seconds. It’s calculated that the proposals will have an impact of around 10 seconds on average response times.

Facing up to the financial pressures

The proposals have been shaped significantly by input from the firefighters. They also aim to address points and concerns raised through reviews such as the Kerslake report. But there’s no avoiding the reality that a significant factor is budget- related. Like every other fire service, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has to make savings. Since 2010, its funding has been cut by around £20million, 17.5% of its total budget. By 2022 it needs to make efficiency savings of £12.8 million. While the proposals are focused on improved frontline services and on ensuring fire cover is maximised, they have also had to build in steps to ensure they achieve their financial targets.

How does this affect you?

If you’re a business in the Greater Manchester area then this will all be of particular interest to you. No matter where you’re based however, it does reinforce just how important it is for every business to play its part in fire risk reduction. Every fire service is stretched and has to face financial constraints. It’s incumbent on every company and organisation to be responsible about its own fire safety and to make sure it’s doing all it sensibly can to minimise fire risks.

Reducing false alarms

One area where businesses must turn their attention to is reducing false alarms in their workplace. It’s a big problem with the cost of false alarms in the UK estimated to be around £1 billion a year. Some of this cost is down to lost production and interruptions to business which affects effectiveness, efficiency, profitability and services. But it also has a major impact on fire and rescue services. Dealing with false alarms can be incredibly expensive and frustrating for them. By responding to a false alarm, essential services are being diverted from genuine emergencies, potentially putting life and property at risk. There’s disruption to arson reduction, community safety and fire safety activities as well as to training of operational personnel. Responding quickly to false alarms creates unnecessary risk to the crew and public and increases risk to other road users. Drivers are of course trained to the highest standards but inevitably a fire engine rushing towards what at the time the crew believes could be an emergency does create an additional hazard on the road. It’s important to factor in the impact on climate too – false alarms mean unnecessary appliance movements and that means more CO2 emissions. If you would like advice on the effective management of fire safety at your business or organisation, including reducing the risk of false alarms, please do get in touch with us.