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IRMP - Frequently Asked Questions


General


Will you be closing fire stations?  

No. All our 24 community fire stations remain open and operational under our plans.  

Is it true that some areas will get a worse response?    

We want to invest more in preventing emergencies and into building fire safety in areas which will reduce the need to call 999 in the first place, making our communities safer. 

Our analysis shows these proposals will deliver a more efficient and effective service overall, across 999 emergency response and proactive community safety and business safety work. For example, the proposals will allow us to increase our minimum number of fire engines available from 15 to 18. 

Our proposals are based on a comprehensive analysis of risk which means we have been able to identify areas where there is a degree of over-provision of resources which could be better used elsewhere. 

Some of the proposals will result in a change to response times to certain areas under certain conditions. For example, the proposals to introduce changes in staffing arrangements on 6 of our “day crewed” stations, would mean we take potentially longer to attend during the daytime at the weekend in these station areas. However, our analysis shows this represents a very small number of incidents and that this proposal will therefore have a limited impact on community risk.  

Where there is a change in response times, we have assessed these areas as low risk and low demand. These areas will be a focus for our community fire safety and education work, preventing fires occurring in the first place.  

How many jobs/posts may be impacted? And what type of jobs?  

It is important to remember these proposals are not focused on making cuts. They are focused on making sure we have a better balance of resources in our prevention, building fire safety and emergency response teams. The proposals allow us to move resources to other areas where they can do more good. For example, in increasing the availability of a number of fire engines and / or into increasing our capacity to undertake more community safety fire prevention and building fire safety activity. 

The number of posts affected depends on what options are selected by the Fire Authority at its meeting in September, and on other decisions about where and how we could reinvest released posts and associated funding. 

The types of posts which are impacted are all based on fire stations, from Firefighters to Watch Managers and will range between 35 and 42 posts in total over a five-year period. This is principally linked to the proposals around the “day crewed” system (proposal 2). This does not mean we will make compulsory redundancies. 

We will look to use between eight and twelve of these posts to form a dedicated “flexible crewing pool”, which will increase our ability to improve fire cover and fire engine availability at key strategic locations around the Service area. If possible, we will look to use other posts released to improve our capacity to do more community safety fire prevention and building fire safety activity. 

The changes can be made over the next five years without the need for compulsory redundancies, because of natural turnover and retirements.  

Why go out for consultation now during Covid 19?  

We absolutely recognise that starting a consultation at this time may feel very challenging for some, particularly as individuals are worried about health of their families, however the Fire Authority did consider this exact point when reaching a decision to start the consultation now.  

The Fire Authority has a legal requirement to produce an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) and our current plan covers 2017 until 2020, so we need a new plan.  

Our Planning for the Future proposals, if agreed by the Fire Authority in September, will form our new Integrated Risk Management Plan 2020 – 2025.  

Additionally, the Fire Authority has been made aware that postponing the consultation would mean significant delay to the Service’s ability to meet the potential financial challenges that lay ahead.  There is significant uncertainty about our funding beyond 2020/21. The Government is planning to review how much it spends on public services, how much of this goes to the fire service, how this is divided between each fire authority and how much of this funding comes from business rates.    

A recent external inspection report highlighted the importance of the need for this Service to balance risk and resources, and to better demonstrate how the IRMP influences our prevention, protection and response activity.   

The full inspection report can be found here.  

We know that there are challenges due to Covid 19 which is why we are investing additional funding into ensuring the public consultation process is robust, comprehensive and meaningful.  


Is there any way that additional funds can be raised so these proposals aren’t needed?  

As previously mentioned, it is important to remember these proposals are not focused on making cuts. They are focused on making sure we have a better balance in our prevention, protection and response teams; and on allowing us to move resources to areas where they can do more good. For example, into increasing the availability of a number of fire engines  and / or into increasing our capacity to undertake more community safety fire prevention and building fire safety activity. 

The Fire Authority recently approved a rise in Council Tax this year which is a major part of our funding.  Whilst we do need to keep within our budget, we have based our proposals on nine years of evidence about incidents and risks in our communities.  We have then looked at whether we should move any of our resources to where they provide more benefit.  For example, we have one fire engine which only attended an incident 13 times in 2017/18. This is one of the fire engines we are proposing we no longer need in that particular location (Battle fire stations’ second fire engine) as it will provide more benefit if we effectively relocate the associated capital funding into Hastings Bohemia Road, where a new additional second appliance can provide an improved response to over 250 incidents a year. 


How much do you need to save in the next 5 years and how much will this programme of change save?  

These proposals will allow us to make the most of our funding and invest in the areas where it’s needed most. 

We have a Medium-Term Financial Plan which predicts that we may need to make new savings of between £0.7m and £3.6m by 2024/25. This reflects the uncertainty about funding in the future.  We won’t know the actual level of savings required to balance the Authority’s budget until the Government confirms funding for the fire service for the remainder of this parliament. 

Our proposals taken together could release revenue savings of between £1.0m and £1.6m by 2024/25, which is the end of our current Medium Term Financial Plan.  Further savings are possible beyond that timescale depending on the options that the Authority agrees in September. 

The proposals could also reduce the cost of our capital (investment) programme over the next five years by £0.6m, reducing our need for additional borrowing.  

In the aftermath of Grenfell why are you reducing your Aerial Rescue capacity and not improving it? 

The lessons from the tragedy at Grenfell encompass much more than how fire services respond to fires but also how they work to prevent them in the first place. Our proposals will help us reinvest in building fire safety work. 

We are proposing to replace the combined Aerial Rescue Platform (ARP) at Eastbourne fire station, with a standard frontline fire engine and a new separate Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) (i.e. replacing one vehicle with two). We are improving our overall aerial rescue capability by increasing our specialist Aerial Ladder Platforms from two to three, in the areas where the highest high-rise risks dictate. 

How long is “slightly longer”? (Ref Proposal 2 in the daytime at weekends only) 

We will always mobilise the nearest, quickest available crew, fire engines and other resources to an incident.

The answer to this question will be different depending on a whole range of factors, however, our modelling suggests that there will be no material impact on our current attendance standards with these proposals. You can read about our attendance standards here.

Our proposals will provide an opportunity to improve our capacity to do more prevention and protection activity in order to stop incidents happening in the first place.

 

We will continue to proactively target areas where community risk is high specifically considering any areas affected by these proposals.

Will you still be able to cope with incidents such as the recent Ashdown Forest fires – or multiple incidents? 

The whole purpose of our proposed Operational Resilience Plan (proposal 1) is to ensure we have the right number of resources (for example fire engines and firefighters) to manage multiple incidents, protracted incidents and spate conditions. The proposals allow us to increase the minimum number of fire engines available from 15 to 18. 

In addition, the minimum of 6 resilience fire engines will also give us an additional ability to further support protracted incidents, support standby moves and to provide regular relief crews to on-going incidents. 

Have you taken Covid 19 into account when considering the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP)?

The impacts from a national event such as a pandemic were considered in the risk planning process for the IRMP. The Operational Resilience Plan (proposal 1) is targeted at ensuring the optimum level of cover is known and then maintained by targeting our resources. 

You can read more about our work during Covid19 on our website here – this includes links with the IRMP

Our IRMP is due to be delivered over five years as a long term, flexible programme supported by phased and measured implementation, giving us the flexibility to respond and adapt to any fundamental changes in our communities or Fire Service’s responsibilities.

Why do you propose to not attend Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs)?

We average around 9,200 operational responses to incidents each year. Automatic Fire Alarm systems account for 34% of all these calls. 96% of the calls initially categorised as AFAs turn out to be false alarms – these are often described as “unwanted fire signals”. 

We are proposing that the Service no longer automatically attend calls to fire alarms operating in low risk commercial premises. This decision will reduce the overall level of our attendances at unwanted fire signals, so that our crews are more available to complete valuable prevention and protection work and to be available to respond to emergencies if required.

How many fire engines and aerial appliances will you have? 

We currently have 32 fire engines which include 3 “maxi cabs” (which have a different cab design), 1 combined “aerial rescue pump” in Eastbourne, and 2 “aerial ladder platforms” in Hastings and Brighton. 

This is a total of 35 vehicles. 

If all the proposals are accepted, by 2025 we will have 27 fire engines with a standardise design, and 3 aerial ladder platforms in Eastbourne, Hastings and Eastbourne. 

This is a total of 30 vehicles. 

Under these proposals there will be some changes in where the fire engines will be based because we want to move resources to areas of high risk. 

It is important to remember that currently not all fire engines are “available” to respond 24/7 due to staff availability and this is a key factor we are seeking to improve.


Removal of additional appliances


How many fire engines are being taken away? 

In total, and by the end of the 2025 financial year, we are proposing to have withdrawn seven low activity fire engines covering low risk areas. All our fire stations are remaining open and will each maintain at least one fire engine.

Seven fire engines are affected in total, however, we want to reposition two of them into higher risk and higher activity areas (Eastbourne and Bohemia Road, Hastings).

These changes would be carried out over the full IRMP period (5 years) in a planned manner as other interdependent proposals take place and bed-in first, such as the improvements to the “On-Call” (part-time) duty system.

These low activity fire engines are the second fire engines at our Stations at Rye, Battle, Bexhill, Crowborough, Uckfield, Newhaven and Lewes.

These changes present a limited impact on life safety and no impact to our emergency response standards. This is because of the low number of emergency calls that we have attended in the past, the low number we are currently attending and those that we may attend in the foreseeable future – including as a result of the impact of housing developments, transport infrastructure and climate change. 

Despite our long-standing efforts to recruit and retain staff in these areas, the collective availability of the second fire engines remains consistently low.

This shows we have always been able to meet our emergency response times with very few exceptions and we will continue to be able to do so under these proposals. We very much value our On-Call Firefighters and we will continue to need them to crew the frontline fire engine at these Stations during the evenings and weekends, as well as the potential for them to be trained as specialist appliance operators.

In addition, we are proposing that three other Stations at Wadhurst, Heathfield and Seaford that currently have one fire engine of a slightly unique design (which can carry a crew of six) will be replaced when they come to the end of their operational life with one fire engine of a standard design (which can also carry a crew of six). 

This proposal will require us to maintain, and potentially increase, the current staffing levels at these 3 Stations. They may also receive additional specialist appliances depending on further reviews being undertaken.

This helps us to have a consistent fleet supporting our proposed Operational Resilience Plan that improves our daily cover from a minimum of 15 fire engines to 18 fire engines.

 

Won’t the removal of the second appliances from some stations mean reduced cover for those areas? 

The comprehensive review conducted by the operational response review included the analysis of nine years incident data. The proposal is the result of modelling 100% availability of the seven fire engines which are being considered for removal, the outcome of which stated that even with this level of availability they would provide little to no impact on overall public safety based on risk and demand.  

The main data report which accompanies this consultation provides significant detail to support this proposal.

The reasoning and benefits of this are covered in Proposal 3 of our IRMP consultation document which can be found here.


With predicted increases in forest fires and floods over the next few years, can you please explain why Wadhurst no longer needs an off-road vehicle and why the overall 4 x 4 capacity of the service can be reduced? 

It should be stressed that no final decisions in relation to some of our specialist capabilities have yet been made. These are operational decisions and reviews are on-going. 

Our in-depth assessment has considered the risks of forest fires and floods now and in the future. Our proposals are aimed at helping increase operational cover and fire engine availability in rural areas by enhancing contracts for our On-Call crews and by ensuring that we are able to increase our core / minimum fire engine availability from 15 (under our current arrangements) to 18.

Wadhurst will have a fire engine available and crewed by On-Call Firefighters to respond to reports of fires and other emergencies and will have support from specialist appliances as necessary. 

We are proposing to deliver our off-road firefighting capability in a different way across the Service.  Our off-road firefighting strategy includes four new 4 x 4 vehicles with greater firefighting capability, which is considered an overall improvement to the current land rover capability.

What about the removal of additional engines at other stations?  For example, if a fire broke out in Lewes, you would need to bring other resources from other stations.  Wouldn’t this dramatically reduce cover across East Sussex? 

We regularly move our fire engines and crews around the County and the City of Brighton and Hove to ensure there is cover during a significant incident. The proposal to introduce the Operational Resilience Plan (ORP) will improve the overall number of immediately available appliances from a minimum of 15 to 18 fire engines. The additional resilience the ORP introduces will ensure a greater ability to respond to large scale incidents and still maintain the operational cover to areas such as Lewes.


What about the removal of additional engines at other stations?  For example, if a fire broke out in Lewes, you would need to bring other resources from other stations.  Wouldn’t this dramatically reduce cover across East Sussex? 

We regularly move our fire engines and crews around the County and the City of Brighton and Hove to ensure there is cover during a significant incident. The proposal to introduce the Operational Resilience Plan (ORP) will improve the overall number of immediately available appliances from a minimum of 15 to 18 fire engines.  The additional resilience the ORP introduces will ensure a greater ability to respond to large scale incidents and still maintain the operational cover to areas such as Lewes.


Aerial Ladder Platforms


Will all fire appliances (including Aerial Ladder Platforms) be available 24/7 if you apply the shared crewing proposals?

The concept of “shared crewing” for Aerial Ladder Platforms (ALPs) is a common crewing system across the UK Fire and Rescue Service. Indeed, it is the most common approach and currently ESFRS are one of only a small number of services (six) who “primary crew” aerial appliances.

Shared crewing is considered a risk proportionate approach which allows the Officer-in-Charge to share the crew on station across all appliances based on the incident type and information received with the call. Shared crewing allows us to maintain the immediate availability of all fire appliances, including the ALP, with the on-duty staff. On receipt of a call, the crew splits up to take both the available fire engines and the specialist vehicle to the incident – the ALP in this case.


Hastings & The Ridge


Will there be a reduction in cover for the town of Hastings as The Ridge is being changed to immediate response during the day only?

We will be adding a third appliance into the town which improves cover in Hastings in the area it is most needed.

The Ridge’s crewing model is being changed to reflect its risk profile.  The number of calls The Ridge attends in its own area is similar to our other day-crewed stations.  51% of incidents that The Ridge attends are in the Bohemia Road station area. Therefore, The Ridge fire engine will be more available in its own station ground, due to the new additional second fire engine at Bohemia Road absorbing this predicted demand.

This proposal would effectively halve the number of The Ridge’s calls per year (to around 350 calls per year). Therefore, the numbers of calls in The Ridge area will be similar to a typical day-crewed area (e.g. Newhaven or Lewes) and comparable to other fire services average day crewed areas.

The proposed changes to The Ridge would mean there would be an increase in the response time of the first arriving appliance in The Ridge area at ‘night time’. However, the arrival times of the second appliance in The Ridge area at ‘night time’ would remain unaffected. 

This is clearly a small number of incidents affected but this should be considered against the significant response improvements to other areas of the town. Any perceived increase in risk will be further mitigated through targeted community safety prevention, and building fire safety protection, activity.

Isn’t the additional engine at Hastings, one that you previously took away in 2015?

No, the previous appliance removed, which may be referred to by some, was an “on call” appliance (crews went to the fire station on pagers if they were needed) and it was based at The Ridge fire station. In the previous Hastings review, it was proposed that there was a need to invest additional resources into Bohemia Road, and the data analysis for this IRMP consultation further supports this original proposal. 

In summary, the proposal for Hastings is about better matching resource to risk; moving the resources (staff and fire engine) to where they can be more beneficial. 

The overall changes mean that:

  • By introducing a second fire engine into Bohemia Road, hundreds (263) of incidents in Hastings Bohemia Road area that require a 2-fire engine response, as well as some areas of Bexhill and Battle, will now have a significantly improved response time for the second arriving appliance (up to 4 minutes quicker).
  • By introducing a second fire engine into Bohemia Road, this would halve the number of calls to which The Ridge currently mobilise to, bringing The Ridge in line with a typical day-crewed station.

 


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We’d like your views!

We want to make our consultation robust and would like to hear your views on the Integrated Risk Management Plans and the proposals within it.  

Click here to read the full IRMP document and take part in our survey.



Latest Update :
04 June 2020
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