The steps you can take to reduce the burden on UK firefighters
There are 11,500 fewer UK firefighters in 2019 than 2010, this year’s numbers increasing by just 1%. Government funding for English fire and rescue services has been cut by 30% between 2013 and 2020. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is calling for more funding to recruit firefighters and reverse a decade of severe cuts.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, said:
“Fire and rescue services are in crisis after years of brutal cuts – and this year’s measly increase in posts is wholly insufficient to plug the gaps. We cannot allow firefighters’ life-saving work to go unrecognised…Our communities need more firefighters – and the government needs to reflect the work they do in their paycheques.”
As the number of firefighters stay low, fires are increasing. A 10% hike in England, 8% in Northern Ireland and 3% in Wales saw wildfires tear through the country in the last 12 months.
41,771 of the 45,653 people rescued by UK firefighters last year were from non-fire incidents. This includes flooding, road traffic collisions, height rescues and hazardous chemical spillages. We’re going to look at these factors, including fire safety, and where precautions can be taken to reduce risk and minimise the burden on firefighters.
The UK must improve flood warning systems to give people more time to take action, which can significantly reduce the impact of flooding and potentially save lives.
Modifying homes and businesses by concreting floors, replacing materials like MDF with stronger alternatives and moving electric sockets higher up the walls with increase their resilience in the event of a flood.
Introducing water storage areas to hold black flood water further upstream and prevent it getting closer to houses and businesses can reduce flood risk. In Thacka Beck, Cumbria their flood storage reservoir reduced a 20% flood risk to 1%.
The Environment Agency uses a range of temporary barriers in areas at risk of flooding. These would be useful in combination to permanent flood defences, like raised embankments to further increase levels of protection.
ARK manned guarding and vacant property inspections are beneficial for both residential and commercial properties at risk of flooding. All response officers are trained to efficiently respond to emergency incidents, check for water leaks and damage, fire and electrical hazards as well as, make the necessary people aware and protect your people and assets.
Road Traffic Collisions
There are several precautions that people can take to decrease the chances of being involved in a road traffic collision.
Between 1979 and 2014, an average of 666 people was killed in drink driving-related accidents. With approximately 85,000 people being convicted of drink driving offences every year. If you’re planning on going out and there’s the possibility of drinking alcohol, never be tempted to take the car. Use public transport, a taxi service or a designated driver.
Always be focused on what you’re doing when driving, don’t get distracted by loud music, changing the radio or other passengers to name a few. As obvious as it sounds always keep your eyes on the road, this is particularly true of country roads.
Not paying attention to the speed limit can significantly increase the risk of an accident, even if you’re late for work don’t put your foot down. It’s better to get there late than never.
BGB’s road blockers and bollards are a good option to protect vulnerable properties, close to a lot of traffic and can help neutralise the threat of vehicle collisions as well as limit the damage to the property and injury to the driver.
Working at height remains one of the major causes of injuries and fatalities, including falls from ladders and through surfaces.
Before doing anything, you should avoid working at height where it is reasonable to do so, when it can’t be avoided, prevent falls by following necessary safety precautions if you’re at work and use the right equipment.
If you’re working from height at home, you should review the risks like weather conditions, lighting, set up a soft landing and wear PPE where required. You should always aim to minimise the distance and consequences of falling where possible.
HSE has full guidelines on working at height.
Hazardous Chemical Spillages
Many businesses deal with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. Spillages can harm the environment, damage equipment, and cause financial losses. The size of the spill is not the main indicator for whether it is dangerous, it is more what is in the chemical itself as to how much damage it can cause.
Chemicals should always be stored in covered areas, to prevent exposure to rain, increase of liquid volume and make a spillage more likely.
Keep spill kits near the location of hazardous chemicals. They can help to quickly absorb leaked chemicals and minimise the impact. In addition, keep chemicals below eye level, don’t store too many containers in the same place or on the same shelf, it can make it difficult to identify the chemical spill and will increase the risk of cross-contamination.
Chemical containers should be regularly inspected for any signs of leaks or deterioration, including deformities on the closures, rust or bulges in the container. Strict guidelines for decanting and transport chemicals should be in place.
To read more on chemical guidelines visit the HSE website.
Fire Safety in Homes
By following these safety steps, it can help prevent a fire in your home:
- Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. The batteries should be tested every week and change them every year -never remove them apart from when replacing them.
- Plan an escape route if there is a fire and make sure everyone in the house knows the plan. Always check for fire hazards before you go to bed.
- Try to keep to one plug per socket – too many electrical appliances plugged into one socket can cause overheating.
- Tobacco is manufactured to stay alight, if you smoke always make sure to stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them properly.
- Take extra care when cooking, don’t get distracted, always make sure appliances are turned off.
If there’s a fire, get out, stay out and call 999.
Fire Safety in Businesses
Commercial businesses must follow the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. They require an up to date fire risk assessment, to be reviewed every 12 months. Actions should be taken to reduce risk where it is deemed necessary. Fire safety measures in businesses may include:
Two Class A fire extinguishers to every floor, wet chemical extinguishers for any kitchens, a CO2 extinguisher in case of electrical fires and dry powder extinguisher for gas fires. A person should never be more than 30 metres from the correct type of extinguisher (British Standards (BS 5306).
Sprinklers give people in the building more time to evacuate by reducing the spread of fire and the amount of damage to the property. This means there is less repair costs and less work for the fire and rescue service to deal with.
Businesses should have a L1 fire alarm system to maintain compliance with regulations. This is the highest level of coverage fire alarm systems can provide and will increase building evacuation time.
All fire safety systems should be maintained and serviced regularly to ensure they are functioning as required. Implementing fire safety training for all staff is also effective to understand evacuation procedures and reduce risk of loss of life.
Cannon are industry-recommended in supplying fire extinguishers and sprinklers for every business need, with the added addition of design, installation, maintenance, room integrity testing and refilling.
The Asset Protection Group comprises a group of Fire & Security companies with shared ownership and one common goal, protecting your most important assets. As a collective group, we look to offer protection to your assets to assist you with your ongoing success within your own business.