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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.

The Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat, lasting from midnight on Thursday, 11 August until 11.59pm on Sunday, 14 August.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) would like to remind residents on warm weather safety advice and how to keep themselves and others safe during heatwaves.

We have already seen high volumes of demand this summer. We are asking our communities to help reduce the risk of fire during this prolonged period of high temperatures and dry weather by avoiding using naked flames in the open wherever possible.

Additional safety advice for hot weather is:

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!

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

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.