21/09/2018

Call for an end to routine movement of fire service resources

The Chief Fire Officer, the Chair of SFRS and
the Minister for Community safety at the meeting in Dundee
Last week I attended the Scottish Fire and
 Rescue Annual Review meeting with the Minister for Community Safety held in Dundee. I took the opportunity to ask two questions one about the routine movement of resources from Dundee to Aberdeen and the second one about the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service's response to the problem of Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals.

In the council chamber recently I was happy to second Councillor Michael Marra in our attempt to make representations the Scottish Government about the ongoing problem of fire resources being routinely moved from Dundee to Aberdeen.

At the recent meeting at West Park I took the opportunity to ask about this at the meeting of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Board with the Minister for Community Safety, as did the Fire Brigades Union. I was glad to hear the response that was received, when the Chief Fire Officer apologised and said that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service had got work force planning wrong in Aberdeen. I was also pleased to hear the Chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Board, Dr Kirsty Derwent, say that such redeployment will not become ‘routine’. These reassurances are good and I was pleased that the Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham heard the questions and the answers. I will be looking for the Scottish Government to provide the resources which allow the Chief Officer and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Board to deliver on these promises.

Nobody is saying that there should not be a pooling of resources in emergencies, indeed I believe that there were resources from outside of Dundee at the recent major fires in Dundee, but it cannot become routine. The correct level of cover should be maintained in Dundee, and indeed in Aberdeen, at all times.

I also took the opportunity to ask about what more could be done to prevent Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals. Many of these come from institutions like student residences and hospitals. In Dundee many of these institutions are found in the West End ward. I want to reduce the number of Unwanted Fire Alarms because fire appliances responding to these calls under blue-light conditions put firefighters and the public at risk, it also costs money that could be better used. I know that there is a lot of work going on to reduce the number of Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals but I am concerned that we do not go down the road of cutting back in the response. We need to be sure that the response is always appropriate to the level of risk which hospitals and student residences create. There are many measures that could be taken to prevent many of these calls but reducing the response and putting people's safety at risk to save money is not acceptable.

I asked if more could be done in terms of building regulations and the regulations around renting property to make sure that the latest technology was being used to detect fire and allow firefighters to be more certain that they are responding to a real fire. There is more that can be done and hope that the minister will reflect on this and act accordingly.