'UK firefighters have never been at greater risk when fighting structure fires than they are today! ...Firefighter life losses in the UK are currently at their highest rate for over 30 years! Our firefighters have never been so at risk as they are now but the situation is going to get much worse, with massive depletion of resources being proposed.
Statistically, prior to 2004, the UK Fire Service incurred traumatic operational fatalities at a fairly consistent average of about one firefighter per year per 100,000 structure fires. However, during the period 2004-2007 the life losses have dramatically increased to 2.7 firefighters per 100,000 structure fires. That is one firefighter fatality for every 37,000-structure fires. The death rate has almost trebled.
Various tactical and command failings have directly evolved from a triangle of complacency that is rife amongst the British Fire Service.
1. Lack of firefighting experience
2. Inadequate firefighter and command training
3. Complacency (Lack of discipline)
There are also a dozen clear tactical failings that, as a result of inadequate training provision, can be seen over and again leading to problems on the fire-ground.
1. Failure to confine the fire until a charged hose-line is in place
2. Failure to deploy resources effectively
3. Failure to provide adequate flow-rate at the primary attack nozzle
4. Failure to effectively brief crews prior to deployment
5. Deviation from documented operating procedure without good reason
6. Failure to implement tactical venting actions in the right place at the right time
7. Failure to provide a back-up support hose-line
8. Failure to communicate effectively
9. Failure to apply safe BA working practices
10. Failure to undertake effective search patterns
11. Failure to establish a tactical mode (offensive/defensive) at the outset
12. Failure to establish effective command & control from the outset
We now see the national fire cover being assessed by experts using computer models based on life risk - wonderful! Only that is NOT firefighter life risk! We also see the first dramatic moves to reduce staffing complements on fire engines.
These 'experts' play with computer models, taking all the fire engines out of the equation, noting how civilian life losses increase only slightly in an area. Imagine ... an area without any fire cover whatsoever but the life losses through fire are not as dramatic as one would imagine! Then they put half the fire engines back into an area and note that civilian life losses return to 'normal' (almost the same as if we had the current complement of staffing and resources/engines). 'Why do we need so many fire engines'? These learned people ask! 'Why do we need so many fire stations'?! 'What about firefighters ... we can cut staffing by thousands and still maintain civilian life losses around the rate that would normally be expected!!
However, nobody has considered the effect this will have on those firefighters who remain!
Halve the resources and firefighters are placed under great stress. Their job is dangerous enough now. Firefighters are already attending fires in tall buildings and other situations understaffed and this planned depletion in resources will drain any ability to work within safe systems of work. Whilst most countries are attempting to drive staffing up to four firefighters minimum per engine, the UK is driving staffing down, in some cases to three!
The UK firefighter life losses will continue to increase over the next decade.
Unless .... we stand outside .... and go defensive from the outset .... and 'squirt' water through windows. Well the civilian life loss statistics might go up slightly but look how much money we have saved!
Whatever happened to the co-responder programs where other civilian life losses will be reduced by getting fire engines out to heart attack victims within that critical five minute period! Why haven't they built that into their 'models'! Then what about the thousands of non-fire related incidents? Road crashes, explosions, accidents and building collapses etc.
Then there is the deceit being used to produce national life loss statistics in the first place! Are we seeing the REAL situation? There are clear concerns being raised as to how the government are producing 'new' life loss statistics, making the situation appear better than it actually is.
The British Fire Service, along with the society it protects, is facing a worrying future.