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This Business Safety Week we’re keen to introduce you to our Protection Team, which works to help Bucks and MK businesses reduce workplace fire risk and comply with fire safety law.

Fire Safety Law

Fire safety law is concerned with the compliance of most premises (excluding individual private flats and houses) to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the Order).

The aim of this piece of legislation is to ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken in the workplace to ensure that everyone can escape safely if there is a fire.

For those in blocks of flats and high-rise residential buildings the Order also applies to the common areas such as foyers and more recently, following on from the Grenfell Tower fire, to external wall coverings including balconies.

Fire Safety in BFRS

Within BFRS we refer to fire safety as protection.

Our Protection Team is made up of inspecting officers who work in three offices that deal with fire safety throughout Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

The aim of the Protection Team is to ensure that all everyone who works, lives or visits any premises included in the Order is able to safely escape in the rare and unfortunate circumstances of a fire occurring. The team manage this in several different ways.

BFRS Protection Team

Team members:

  • Provide feedback to consultations involving the development of buildings, whether initially being built or a change in use. An example would be the proposed building of a new high-rise residential building where the Protection Team would give its opinion on how the building could be built to ensure that everyone can escape safety or remain safe in their flats if a fire broke out.
  • Respond to fire safety complaints, either from our own staff on fire appliances who are made aware of areas of concern, or from members of the public with similar concerns. A recent example of this was a flat above a restaurant where there was no safe way for the person in the flat to escape without going past a fire that occurred in the restaurant. In this case the Protection Team prohibited the use of the flat, straight away, for the safety of the resident.
  • Undertake visits to premises that have recently had a fire to see whether there is advice which can be offered to reduce the impact or likelihood of a re-occurrence. In some cases fire development progressed because there was insufficient detection. This in turn might compromise the safety of those working in the building, so advice around fire detection and suppression systems and emergency escape routes will be offered.
  • Undertake their own pre-arranged audit visits that reflect BFRS understanding of the risk of a building and who occupies it. For example, if a building is occupied by older or less able people we would see this as a higher risk because those people would not be able to escape as quickly.
  • Work closely with their colleagues in Response and Prevention (Community Safety) to ensure that information on the safety of our communities is passed on to all relevant teams. This happens when Prevention staff spot fire safety issues in common areas, when giving safety advice to people in their own flats.

As the country enters into another period of extreme heat, the Met Office has issued a Level 5 Exceptional Fire Severity Warning for parts of Buckinghamshire this weekend (13/14 August 2022).

The Fire Severity Index (FSI) does not indicate the risk of a fire occurring, but the likely severity of any fire which does occur in an area at that time. It is based upon wind speed, temperature, time of year and rainfall. It has 5 levels:

  • FSI level 1 = low fire severity
  • FSI level 2 = moderate fire severity
  • FSI level 3 = high fire severity
  • FSI level 4 = very high fire severity
  • FSI level 5 = exceptional fire severity

Already this month, Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) has attended multiple field fires, including those at Foscott, Marlow Bottom (pictured), Mursley, Penn and Lane End.

Aylesbury Fire Station is looking to expand its firefighting team – and it’s keen to hear from you!

Did you know . . .

Aylesbury Fire Station is located in Stocklake. It is one of our shift crewed stations. This means it has four watches (Red, Green, White and Blue) whose members use the fire station as a base to provide full-time fire cover, 24/7 for Aylesbury and the surrounding villages.

Aylesbury also has an On-Call crew which can be called on to provide additional cover to Aylesbury, and its neighbouring areas, during incident response or when the day crew is busy.

What is an On-Call Firefighter?

On-Call Firefighters are professional firefighters and receive payment for the time they provide, responding to incidents, training and undertaking community safety activities, which include attending local events and helping people make their homes fire safe.

But unlike their shift colleagues, the Aylesbury On-Call crew usually respond from home or their primary employment on a call-by-call basis. They are local people who live, or work, in the Aylesbury area, and tend to have an enthusiasm for variety and action.

The On-Call crew are keen to help keep Aylesbury safe, either by using the skills and equipment they have been trained in to respond to emergency situations, by attending community events, or by sharing safety advice and tips with local groups.

If you’re interested, why not book onto our next On-Call Firefighter Awareness event. Taking place online on Wednesday 31 August 2022, you’ll be able to find out more about this firefighting role.

In the meantime . . .

Meet Gav:

Gav, 40, is one of your local Aylesbury On-Call Firefighters. He’s provided service to Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service for around 20 years and is someone you might have seen in the past delivering your mail. Up until 2019 he dual-rolled as an On-Call Firefighter and a local postal worker. His daily rural route saw him sorting and delivering letters on foot to the residents of Princes Risborough and the surrounding villages, Lacey Green, Speen and Saunderton.

The Met Office have today (Friday 15 July) issued a red extreme heat warning for Monday (18 July) and Tuesday (19 July) across the South East. In response, Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, and the fire and rescue services from Oxfordshire, Royal Berkshire and Buckinghamshire are collectively issuing advice to residents on steps they can take to reduce demand on their services. This includes:

  • Looking out for others, especially older people, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions.
  • Closing curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors.
  • Drink plenty of water, stay in shaded areas, dress appropriately for the weather and slow down when it is hot.

All services are expecting an increase in demand over the coming days. Communities are being encouraged to only dial 999 in emergency situations, which includes when a life is in danger or a crime is happening right now. There are mechanisms in place for those who need to contact the police and health services in non-emergencies, including online services.

Deputy Chief Constable Jason Hogg, Chair of the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum said:

“As temperatures increase across the Thames Valley, so will calls to 999. We are working closely with our fire, ambulance, health and local authority partners to prepare for the challenges that heat brings, and to keep our communities safe. Do take advice on water and fire safety and look after yourself and keep hydrated.

“With the expected heat warning over the coming days, we are expected to see an increase in individuals contacting the police, sometimes for matters we cannot help with. To speak to the police about anything that is not an emergency and where you do not need to speak to someone at that moment in time, please contact us online. This will help keep our 101 service for those who need to speak to someone and help preserve 999 as an emergency line if a crime is happening now or life or property is at immediate risk.”

The members of our specially trained water rescue crews are keen to share their water safety tips with you and will be taking the rescue boat on tour as they get out and about on the river this summer!

Jubilee River has already hosted two of our crews. Beaconsfield Blue Watch attended the Taplow stretch on Saturday 2 July, and Beaconsfield Green Watch joined colleagues from Slough Fire Station, on Sunday 3 July, at Chalvey Community Partnership’s canoeing and river safety event (pictured below).

Firefighters provided water safety advice to the public

Organised as part of its monthly Chalvey Activity Food and Fun (CAFF) club, the family fun day saw more than 70 people from the local community attend. Many stopped to say hello to our specially trained water rescue crew, view their rescue boat, and learnt how to stay safe in and around the water this summer.

Alex Mason, Beaconsfield Green Watch Commander, said: “All bodies of water like rivers, canals, and reservoirs have hidden risks, even to the most experienced swimmers. Younger people can often be tempted to take a dip in our rivers. However many are unaware of the potential dangers that the waters offer such as hidden currents or reeds beneath the surface which could pull you under.”

Safety first

Sharing safety messages with young people and their families before they get in the water is a key objective of the Beaconsfield crews.

Alex continued: “We were able to hand out plenty of age-appropriate information for the audience we were hoping to capture at this event and are looking to attend more, incident permitting, over the coming months.

“This event provided us with a great opportunity to work collaboratively across the fire service border. It’s kick-started what we hope will become more regular joint community safety work moving forward.”

Meet the team

The crews have further events planned on Jubilee River and the Thames throughout the summer.

Beaconsfield Station Commander, Stuart Grosse said: “Our aim this summer is to interact as much as possible with anyone who enjoys getting out and about on the rivers, or in open water, in our area.

“We are keen to help people see there are ways to enjoy our rivers, lakes, and canals safely and help them understand why it is so important to respect the water and be aware of the potential dangers it can hold.

“Sadly, there are occasions where people do get into water-related difficulties, so something else our specially trained water rescue crews are looking to share with local residents and businesses, as well as river visitors, is how best to deal with these situations if they do happen.”

The plan is for the Rescue Boat and its crews to attend riverside locations within our area over the coming weeks.

Please see dates and locations below.

More dates will be added over the Summer, so pop back from time to time to find out when they will be in your area – they’re keen to meet you!

What happens if someone gets taken ill when working at height? Well, it’s exactly the sort of unexpected situation our firefighters train for. If access is tricky, and special equipment is required, they are likely to be called out to assist our partner agencies and facilitate a safe rescue.

When it comes to precarious locations, the top of a crane is definitely up there – in this case 40 metres above ground! So when an offer is made for crews to practice their skills in a realistic environment, it’s an opportunity to good to be ignored!

Crew Commander Matt O’Sullivan from Beaconsfield White Watch shares his crew’s experience when they joined up with Amersham firefighters in Wooburn Green where construction company Stepnell have a tower crane in operation . . .

Training for the unexpected:

“It is always a treat for crews to get to train on structures in our local areas. Of course, most fire stations have drill towers on site which are designed and tested for this purpose, but from experience you just cannot beat getting out and practicing our skills on real-world structures every now and again.

It is all well and good training on a four-storey building with purpose-built anchor points, but what happens when you find yourself at the top of a 40-metre structure for the first time and must improvise a solid anchor point from what is available?

Of course, there is a lot of planning and paperwork to complete before such an event can take place, but it is well worth the effort to secure a good training session, and Stepnell’s crane operators were kind enough to work with us to allow this session to go ahead.

The aim of the day:

The purpose of the exercise was to familiarise two crews from Amersham and Beaconsfield with cranes, and for them to get to use the working at height equipment to perform a rescue from the top of the tower crane. Teamwork, a good plan, and excellent communication would be the keys to success.

Casualty lift:

The first crew used a 3:1 system to lift the casualty onto the jib.

The structure of the crane itself provided plenty of opportunities to create a good anchor point. The restricted room available made efficient use of the rescue hauler to get the job done more challenging than normal.

The rescue hauler must be pushed backwards and forwards to achieve the lift. If you can only push it half a metre along the line from your anchor, you are in for a long day! With a change of direction, using the length of the jib to their advantage, the crew set up a good system of work and were able to push the hauler at least three metres from their anchor point. This made the process of raising the casualty nice and efficient.

Once the first crew had raised the casualty safely onto the jib, they dismantled their working at height lifting system, re-stowed everything in the bag, and the two crews swapped over.

Casualty rescue:

The second crew now had a casualty on the jib ready for them to rescue. Once they had climbed up to the working area the crew went about setting up a safe lowering system using different anchor points from the first team. It was not long before our casualty, safely wrapped in a Chrysalis Stretcher, was being lowered back down to the ground.

Outcome:

The aims and objectives of this drill where both met.

The crews had a great familiarisation session on the crane and were able to successfully use our working at height equipment to raise and lower a casualty from the jib.

Thanks again to the Stepnell team for allowing us to have a good training session on their crane.”

At 9.45pm on Thursday (2 June 2022), over 1,500 beacons are expected to be lit throughout the United Kingdom to mark the first time that a sovereign has marked a Platinum Jubilee.

The beacons will enable individuals, communities and organisations to pay tribute as part of the official Platinum Jubilee Weekend celebrations, which run from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 June.

We’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes a Happy Platinum Jubilee, and also to encourage those organising or hosting beacons to follow some key safety advice to ensure everyone can celebrate safely.

https://bucksfire.gov.uk/safety-category/jubilee-safety/

“We hope people enjoy themselves as we unite to celebrate The Queens’ Platinum Jubilee, but we are also keen to ensure that everyone celebrates safely and minimises the risk of fire to property, businesses or local people whilst doing so.

“If you are responsible for hosting a beacon in your community, please follow the guidance set out, to ensure the event is remembered for the right reasons.”

Community Safety Manager, Joanne Cook – May 2022

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Beacons 2022 (queensjubileebeacons.com) outlines everything you may need to know regarding the celebrations, including information on the different types of beacons and how to stay safe from fire.

Our advice is:

  • If you are hosting your own private beacon, make sure the structure and base are stable and located away from fences, hedges or sheds.
  • Only suitable materials are burnt – do not use an accelerant on a fire already lit.
  • Do not light a beacon in very high winds.
  • Do not hang bunting or decorations in an area where they may fall onto or be affected by a beacon.
  • Keep children and pets away from the beacon.
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies.
  • Remember, embers will stay hot for a long time after the flames have been extinguished, ensure children and pets are kept away from them and that they are not placed in a bin or disposed of on a compost heap until they are completely cool.
  • If you think a beacon or fire is dangerously out of control, do not attempt to tackle it yourself, call 999.

Joanne added:

You may see firefighters attending local street events and celebrations throughout the area while on duty. We look forward to celebrating with you, and ultimately we want everyone to be able to celebrate safely”.

Some people may be considering using fireworks or bonfires as part of their celebration. If that’s you, please:

  • Ensure they are lit at arms length.
  • Never return to lit fireworks – even if a lit firework has not gone off, it has the potential to!
  • Ensure people stand well back.
  • Fabric, paper and plastic materials used for bunting, costumes and table decorations are likely to be flammable, so please keep them well away from anything that has been lit.
  • Keep pets safely indoors.

Due to the unpredictability of where sky lanterns will land, and the potential for them to start fires on other peoples’ property, we are keen to discourage people from lighting them.

We have provided links from this page to our safety tips for anyone who is considering using any of the following to help mark the Platinum Jubilee:

  • Beacons
  • Fireworks
  • Sky lanterns
  • Barbecues
  • Bonfires

An online toolkit is also available to help you plan and celebrate:  The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022

Westcott Venture Park is set to become home to a new disaster training facility for our Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team.

The USAR programme was established following the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001, to improve the country’s ability to respond to the increased risks posed by terrorism. USAR forms part of the Government’s New Dimension programme, which seeks to enhance the capability of the fire and rescue service to respond to a range of major emergencies. 

Kevin Mercer, Aylesbury and USAR Station Commander, said:

“We are really excited about our future at Westcott where we aim to develop one of the best USAR training facilities in the country.

“Our tenancy will help further showcase Westcott and its commitment to supporting this specific and essential national resilience capability.”

Exercises play a part in training:

In September 2020 Westcott hosted Exercise Phoenix for us (shown in images above), a major disaster training operation which involved a scenario with a small jet crashing into a rocket testing and fuel production facility following an unsuccessful emergency landing.

More than 100 personnel from five USAR units across Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Essex, and West Midlands attended, along with tactical advisors, and canine search teams trained to detect live human scent.

They were joined by ten Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) paramedics using a range of specialist lifesaving equipment and vehicles and Police Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams.

We are still in the very early stages of developing the site into a training venue and looking to source a range of materials from rubble to unwanted vehicles to help build the rescue scene.

Alan Still, Watch Commander USAR Support, added:

“Exercise Phoenix was extremely successful, and it opened people’s eyes to the potential it has for hosting such large-scale exercises. A significant part of the training facility is a blank piece of land, where we need the equivalent of 200 tonnes of rubble, and we need help to build it.”

Anyone who may have suitable materials to help build the rubble pile/disaster scenario should email Kevin Mercer or Alan Still: kmercer@bucksfire.gov.uk or alanstill@bucksfire.gov.uk.

The move will see pre-hospital critical care crews using the station as a standby location from which to reach people in need of urgent care. They will also have a dedicated space to hold debriefs and sensitive discussions after being called out to treat those who are seriously ill or injured.

In addition to its helicopter, TVAA has five critical care response cars which provide greater flexibility in areas difficult to access by aircraft. These cars frequently use ambulance standby locations, such as one in Slough, but securing access from Marlow Fire Station will provide the charity with further deployment options across a region covering over 2,000 square miles.

Having response cars at key places across the region means it can give people the best possible chance of survival and recovery, bringing the hospital to the patient, wherever they are.