From today, firefighters across Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service will begin wearing new breathing apparatus (BA) sets, the vital life-preserving equipment which is almost as iconic and recognisable as the fire engines themselves!
The roll out of the Interspiro sets form part of our ongoing commitment to ensure our crews have the best equipment, to enable them to provide the best response to our communities.
BA was worn by BFRS firefighters at more than 450 incidents in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes (1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023) and is one of the key pieces of equipment used by firefighters when responding to emergency incidents.
The 156 new sets, made up of body-shaped shoulder straps, hip belt, backplate and oxygen cylinders are used alongside supporting equipment to ensure firefighters can breathe when tackling fires or entering hazardous environments.
The supporting equipment also rolled out today includes:
- 400 personal issue facemasks made from the latest, technologically advanced chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear certified material.
- 394 nine litre, 300 bar working pressure (WP), air cylinders of composite construction with a non-metallic liner, quick connect adapters and covers.
- 37 telemetry enabled entry control boards (ECBs), with new covers and tripods which enable crews to monitor progress and welfare of those wearing BA.
- 170 bluetooth communication system which enables those wearing BA to communicate clearly with each other, with a casualty at a scene, and with officers outside the incident wirelessly.
The contract with Interspiro is part of a wider Thames Valley Collaboration which aims to deliver full interoperability at incident grounds across Thames Valley.
The Aylesbury-based team were joined by Zone 2 USAR counterparts to provide the scenario and setting for an assurance assessment of Zone 1 crews.
Code named Exercise Banjo the 30-hour event was rolled out over two days. It involved a mid-air collision between two aircraft with the wreckage landing on a school.
Operational staff were supported by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service colleagues, and emergency service partners, as the scenario built from initial incident response into a protracted multi-agency rescue and recovery scenario.
Planning and preparation:
However the planning and preparation for this complex exercise started well in advance. Realistic props such as burning cars, a plane fuselage, school equipment and more than 600 tonnes of rubble needed to be strategically placed, to facilitate the most realistic and challenging scenario for the teams being assessed.
USAR Watch Commander and Canine Handler, Alan Still, planned and led the scenario build at the Aylesbury Team’s training site at Westcott Venture Park (WVP). Alan said:
“It takes a fair bit of work behind the scenes to ensure we can deliver a scenario that maximises the realism and complexity for the crews who will be attending.
“Planning and preparation started in October 2022 and involved close collaboration between all of the Zone 2 USAR teams, the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), Thames Valley Police, Disaster Victim Identification (DVI), Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Council Emergency Planning Officers, Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and WVP, with Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service taking the lead role throughout.”
Alan was keen to thank those who supported the Exercise: “We wouldn’t be able to put on these sorts of events without the support and assistance of fire service colleagues, and the fabulous team at WVP which provides us with a base for disaster training. We also have to thank the local community who have responded to our social posts and requests for help with props such as desks and school-related paraphernalia, as well as rubble supplied by Bucks Recycling and smoke from Concept Engineering.”
Aylesbury and USAR Station Commander, Kevin Mercer, said:
“This was an exercise to be proud of. Those involved in the planning and preparation deserve recognition for delivering such a testing and realistic scenario, enabling those being assessed to operate in an environment as close to reality as is possible in an exercise situation.
“We are really fortunate to have such an experienced, creative and knowledgeable USAR crew here at Aylesbury, alongside a great facility in which we are able to host this sort of exercise.
“The success of Exercise Banjo is a testament to the experience that those planning the event have been able to draw upon, as well as the great relationship that have built between the crew and WVP since we ran our first exercise there in 2020.”
“We look forward to continuing the delivery of quality training and exercising scenarios, both for our own staff and those from other services, as we prepare to be able to deliver the best emergency response to the community whenever they need us.”
The national USAR teams are trained to be ready to respond in the event of a serious incident which require an enhanced capability outside the normal remit of the fire and rescue services.
Assurance and Assessment:
USAR forms part of the Government’s New Dimension programme, introduced following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. It seeks to enhance the capability of the fire and rescue service to respond to a range of major emergencies.
These cross-service training exercises are usually held every three years and offer a key opportunity for the specially trained technicians to practice a coordinated, efficient response.
The assessors from the National Resilience Assurance Team monitored how the Zone 1 teams interacted and worked together during the exercise, which ran from Wednesday 8 March to Thursday 9 March 2023.
USAR Zone 1 fire and rescue services:
- Tyne and Wear
- West Yorkshire
They also assessed how the Zone 2 Teams came together to plan, host and run the exercise.
USAR Zone 2 fire and rescue services:
- West Midlands
Their findings will be reported back to the National Fire Chiefs’ Council, who will issue their reports later this year.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, require responsible persons (RPs) to take specific actions, depending on the height of the building.
In preparation for the new regulations, our Protection Officers have been writing to the known RP’s of relevant buildings in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, to raise awareness of the additional requirements they are now legally required to deliver.
Steve Hawkins, Group Commander for Protection said:
“These regulations impose significant new legal requirements for RPs of all multi-occupied residential buildings. We are keen to ensure that they are aware of what this means, both for them and for their building.
“Some of the provisions apply regardless of building height – this includes ensuring that residents are provided with fire safety instructions and information on fire doors. However, additional actions are needed once a building reaches 11 metres, and further requirements are introduced when a building reaches 18 metres (or 7 storeys) or more.”
For those responsible for high-rise blocks of flats, the regulations make it a requirement in law for them to provide their local fire and rescue service with certain information. This includes up to date plans of the building and information on the design and materials of their external walls.
They must also:
- Undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts of the building.
- Undertake monthly checks of firefighting lifts, evacuation lifts and other key pieces of firefighting equipment.
- Install a secure information box and wayfinding signage.
“We welcome these new regulations which have been brought about through the Fire Safety Order and will contribute to improving fire safety in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
“The information we receive from the RPs will help us with our operational planning, and the opportunity to provide advice on additional safety measures that could be implemented.
“We have received a good response to our initial letters to the 47 RPs in our area, but we know there are some who have yet to respond.
“If you are an RP and have not already done so, we would urge you to familiarise yourself with our guidance Fire Safety Regulations 2022 – Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (bucksfire.gov.uk). It provides you with all the information, and links to an online form which will help you to ensure you comply with this important new legislation which ultimately aims to keep our Bucks and MK residents safer.”
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).
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.”
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!