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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.

With low seasonal temperatures, many people are tempted to make use of their log burner, woodburning stove, open fire, or kitchen range to help generate a cosy atmosphere.

Following three recent incidents, firefighters are keen to remind those with working chimneys or stoves of some simple safety tips which could help avoid the flames spreading further than the fireplace.

Firefighters were called out on Sunday (23 January 2022) to tackle a fire in the roof of a home in Weedon, which had started from embers left in a wood burning stove. The day before (Saturday 22 January 2022) crews had responded to chimney fires in South Heath and in Downley.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Community Safety Team, said:

“Open fires can generate a warm cosy glow in the home, so it is understandable that those with working chimneys and stoves would choose to make use of them at this time of year. However, this weekend’s incidents highlight the risks that they can bring.

“We are keen to raise awareness of safety advice which relates specifically to woodburning stoves, as well as reminding people of the basic safety tips we offer to anyone considering lighting up a fire, stove or range.

Firefighters are encouraging people who have fitted their own smoke alarms to think about whether they have put them in the right places – and whether they need more of them.

Government figures show that although 90 per cent of homes in England have at least one smoke alarm, they don’t always alert occupants to a fire. 

The most common reasons a smoke alarm fails to activate are because of a missing or flat battery, or because the fire is outside its range.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “Early detection and warning are a vital part of keeping people safe from fire.

“We’re asking people to take a few seconds to think about where their smoke alarms are placed, and whether they need at least one more in their home to ensure they have the time to get out, stay out and call 999.

“You should make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, preferably in hallways and landings.  

“Placing smoke alarms near sleeping areas and in rooms where there are electrical appliances could give you the extra warning you need.

“It’s also important to remember that smoke alarms don’t last forever. The power might work, but the detection mechanism deteriorates with time, so whether they are battery operated or wired to the mains, to work at their best they should be replaced every 10 years.”

On average there are 11 electrical fires in the home every day in England – Electrical Fire Safety Week 2021 runs between 22 and 28 November.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has attended two incidents involving electrical household items catching fire during Electrical Fire Safety Week 2021. This has prompted a safety message to help others reduce the risk of undetected electrical fires breaking out in their homes.

Firefighters from High Wycombe and Beaconsfield were called to Crown Lane Marlow, at 5.11pm on Monday (22 November), after a smell of burning was detected coming from a washing machine.

Just eight minutes later, crews responded to a call to a fridge on fire, this time located in a garage which was attached to a house in Wyndham Avenue, High Wycombe.

Joanne Cook, Community Safety and Safeguarding Manager, said: “These incidents were unrelated, however both occurred during the daytime where they could be quickly detected and the fire and rescue service called.

“Although fires originating from electrical appliances in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes are in line with the national average, the number of daytime incidents peak between 4pm and 5pm when a greater number of household appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers, are in use.

“However we are also aware that sometimes people set these sort of electrical appliances to operate overnight, or leave them on while they are out. If an incident occurs in these situations, it can take longer to be noticed, and in the worst cases the effects can be devastating for residents and homeowners.

“When we looked at our incident data for fires involving electrical items where the fire has spread beyond the appliance, the most common time period was between 10pm and midnight, possibly where people have set their household appliances to operate and then gone to bed.”

Please ensure your chimney is in good condition and is regularly swept.

A blocked or defective chimney can cause carbon monoxide poisoning as well as a fire. So regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues can help to identify and eliminate issues before they become a problem.

Make sure your chimney is swept regularly by a certified chimney sweep. The recommended frequencies depend upon the fuel you burn.

As a quick guide, recommended frequencies are:

  • Smokeless coal – at least once a year
  • Wood – up to four times a year
  • Bituminous coal – twice a year
  • Oil or gas – once a year (refer to the Gas Safe Register for gas)

It is also important to have working smoke alarms in your home and that you test them once a month.

If you are using an open fire or stove it is also advisable to invest in a carbon monoxide detector, as early warning can make the difference.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) has received an award from the Ministry of Defence for the work it is doing to support the Armed Forces community.

Last year BFRS signed the Armed Forces Covenant, which is its pledge to recognise the value serving personnel, reservists, veterans and military families can bring to the organisation.

It does this in a variety of ways, including supporting the employment of veterans of any age, and working with the Career Transition Pathway to advertise job opportunities.

Today (2 August) it was named as one of the 48 organisations in the South East to receive a silver award in the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.

Chief Fire Officer Jason Thelwell said: “Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has always endeavoured to support those who have served, those who are currently serving, and all those connected with the Armed Forces. We strongly believe the experience they have gained provides key transferable knowledge, skills and disciplines that can be of huge value to us.”

As it now begins to work towards achieving gold status, BFRS will continue to:

  • Promote the fact that it is an Armed Forces friendly organisation.
  • Recognise relevant military qualifications in our recruitment/application processes.
  • Offering a degree of flexibility in granting leave for Armed Forces spouses and partners.
  • Support employees who choose to be members of the Reserve forces, by accommodating their training and deployment where possible.
  • Offer support where possible to local cadet units, and encourage our staff to be cadet helpers or instructors.

Once again, many businesses will have closed their doors to the public, either by choice or necessity, in the continued fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).

With premises closed, or unable to operate in the usual way, ensuring their safety is really important to us. A fire in an unattended commercial property could have devastating repercussions for the business, the local community and any residents in the same building or nearby.

Group Commander Phill Mould, who leads our business safety teams, said:

 “At the moment many businesses are not operating in their usual way. It is possible that their premises aren’t being attended by staff as regularly as they would normally.

“In the most extreme cases some commercial or business premises could have been unattended since March when the first national restrictions were implemented.”

It is important to ensure safety and maintain preventative measures for these premises while the country responds to COVID-19. It could be as simple as a quick visit to check that commercial smoke detection and alarm systems are still working.

Group Commmander Mould added:

“We are asking all business owners and the public to join forces, and help keep the commercial premises in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes safe, so these important elements of our community are in a good position to open once restrictions allow.”