There’s much more to being a firefighter than fighting fires...

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The public are being asked to help decide what Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s priorities should be in future, reporter Claire French finds out what the job is at the moment and how it could change.

(Main picture by Steve Day)

Fire image MUST CREDIT''Horndean Camera Club images''Fighting the Wall of Fire by Steve Day PPP-140429-155244001

Fire image MUST CREDIT''Horndean Camera Club images''Fighting the Wall of Fire by Steve Day PPP-140429-155244001

Firefighters save lives on a daily basis and sometimes there is not even the risk of fire involved.

Fro example, working with South Central Ambulance Service, they are sometimes just a few minutes away from a medical emergency.

Using their training, they can make the difference between life and death.

This ‘co-responding’ is just one area being looked at in a risk review put together by Hampshire Fire and Rescue as it starts to look at the future of its work.

agenda fire pic 5''An RTC from Portchester in July last year

agenda fire pic 5''An RTC from Portchester in July last year

The authority is asking members of the public to come forward and help it decide on what the future of the service should look like.

That includes the potential to increase the number of medical incidents firefighters are called out to.

Jim Tallack, who lives in Horndean, has been working with the fire service for the last 13 years.

The 32-year-old says: ‘I joined to try and help the community where I live. I wanted to try and do something to help out.

agenda fire pic 1''A community resilience day at Southsea from April this year ' gave 92 pupils, aged 14-15, from the area the chance to experience emergency situations

agenda fire pic 1''A community resilience day at Southsea from April this year ' gave 92 pupils, aged 14-15, from the area the chance to experience emergency situations

‘I have been a co-responder since 2006.

‘The calls to our station at Horndean come through every day.

‘It can be one or two a day up to about 10 a day.

‘We go out and we try and get to the scene first, and get back up from an ambulance as soon as possible.

agenda hambledon flooding SLIGHTLY LARGER FILE''The flooding in Hambledon from earlier this year ' the village was much better prepared for the flooding this time around after we had worked closely with them on setting up a Flood Action Group

agenda hambledon flooding SLIGHTLY LARGER FILE''The flooding in Hambledon from earlier this year ' the village was much better prepared for the flooding this time around after we had worked closely with them on setting up a Flood Action Group

‘It is all category A calls we get – anything to do with cardiac, any breathing problems and difficulties, trauma, major blood loss, those kind of things.

‘People are generally just happy to see somebody as quickly as we can get there.

‘We try to get there within eight minutes, but generally it’s a lot quicker as we are dealing with local calls.

‘One occasion that really sticks out for me was when I went to an elderly gentleman at a bowling alley who went into cardiac arrest.

‘When I got there, staff were already doing CPR, we got the defibrillator on him and by the time we got him into the ambulance, we got a rhythm back.

‘Unfortunately we don’t really hear much back, but I did get an update that he was in hospital and he was sitting up in bed and was doing well. That was only about an hour after.

‘It’s a good idea that we do this. It’s about getting somebody there who has the right skills as soon as possible.

‘If the ambulance can’t get somewhere for 10 minutes, if they can send someone there with the right skills, even if it’s for reassurance, it helps.’

Last year, the authority had 9,500 co-responder calls across the county.

The number of fires nationally has reduced by more than 40 per cent in the last 10 years.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s review of its work is being carried out to address the changes in its budget, as well as to review the service it provides to the public.

Area manager Steve Foye is heading the risk review on behalf of the service.

He says: ‘It’s important for people to understand we are not consulting on any proposals at this point. That will not be happening until next year.

‘The purpose of this questionnaire with the public is to be about to understand how both our staff and the public feel about their fire services and what they think it should be like.

‘We are posing these questions to them about things like the vehicles we use.

‘We have advances in technology and there are different types of vehicles available.

‘The type of calls we receive has changed and continues to change.

‘There has been a 50 per cent reduction in calls in the last 10 years for fires and other incidents.

‘At the same time, some of the co-responder work 
we have done with South Central Ambulance has actually increased the number of incidents we are attending.

‘We have been changing things and being responsive to the needs of the community.

‘We pride ourselves on the fact that we are a very progressive fire service and we work on prevention.

‘The aim of this review will be to focus our resources in the area of greatest risk and deliver the best value services to the public.

‘One of the things we looked at in the early stages have been about attendance.

‘We have a view that we need to maintain the eight-minute target we have to arrive at a fire within.

‘But we would be interested to find out what the public thinks about that.’

Broad role

WHEN we think of the job firefighters do, the reality may be somewhat different.

Aside from the work of entering burning buildings and rescuing cats from trees, firefighters are out there in the community helping to prevent fires from starting in the first place.

Between 2010 and 2013, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service carried out more than 27,000 home safety visits across the county and completed 2,000 school safety visits.

One of the reasons for the number of fires falling - by more than 40 per cent nationally in the past 10 years - has been the education and preventative work done by firefighters to make sure people know the risks and that their homes are safe.

In the same period, 60,000 fire alarms have been fitted and 2,000 businesses audited to protect them from fire risks.

But as the number of vehicles on the roads rises, the role of the service continues to evolve.

Road accidents are one of the major causes of call-outs in Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire.

Groups like the Blue Lamp Trust work with the service to try and cut the number of accidents on our roads in Hampshire.

Charging on the agenda

FIRE services all over the country, along with other emergency services, face tough decisions when it comes to their funding.

The amount of money spent per head of the population in Hampshire is already below the national average.

Despite part of council taxpayers’ money gong to fire services, the bulk of their income comes from the government.

In 2011, the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review reduced Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s grant by £6m over the four years to 2015.

As part of a second review, Hampshire’s grant reductions are expected to total £12m over the next four years.

The service believes after 2018, up to another £4m could be cut during the years 2019 and 2020.

For this reason, the service launched its risk review earlier this year.

Not only is it looking at ways of saving money, the service also wants to make sure it is responding to the needs of the communities it serves in Hampshire.

In the future, that may mean charging for certain services, such as responding to lift call-outs in offices, when a person is not in danger, or charging for rescuing small animals.

Get involved

THERE are a number of ways to get involved in Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s public engagement.

Questions in the survey focus on a number of different areas where changes could be proposed in the future.

These include the types of vehicles used by firefighters, the hours fire stations are open and whether the public would support some stations not being crewed around the clock.

Other areas the public is being consulted on include extending its co-responder medical service, the delivery of education to individuals, schools, businesses and organisations, and limiting attendance to automatic fire alarm calls except in buildings such as hospitals and care homes.

The survey will be open until December 7. The fire service is asking for members of the public to take part to help shape its future.

A full public consultation will take place next year, informed by the results from the risk review including this survey..- Visit hantsfirepublicsurvey.com

- Email risk.review@hantsfire.gov.uk

- Call the service on (023) 8064 4000 extension 4052

- Write to Risk Review Team, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Leigh Road, Eastleigh, SO50 9SJ