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James Round

Your chance to help shape our services!

Take part in our public consultation

People across the West Midlands conurbation are being urged to take part in a ten-week public consultation exercise launched today (7 Oct 2020) by West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) 
 
WMFS is urging communities, businesses and other partners to answer five questions about its work. Their responses will help shape plans for making the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier. 

The questions cover how WMFS organises itself to reduce the risk of you being harmed and how technology could be used to keep its communities safe.  

A further question asks whether WMFS should focus on tackling the underlying reasons for someone being at greater risk of having a fire. 

Two other questions cover how WMFS should deal with false alarms from automatic fire systems, and its financial planning.   

Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach said: “It is very important to us that as many people and organisations as possible share their views during our consultation. Their valuable input will help to shape how we plan for the future and deliver our services, which will be outlined in Our Plan 2021-24.

It’s our job as a fire and rescue service to understand and manage the things that are likely to cause harm, now and in the future, and to focus on what will have significant consequence for those most at risk. 

We continually assess those risks to work out where we need our staff and resources, like fire stations and fire engines, so we can respond to high-risk emergency incidents in just five minutes. The same information enables us to plan how to deliver our vital prevention and protection work.

“West Midlands Fire Service is rated as ‘outstanding’ for our emergency response work by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. We are, however, facing an uncertain financial outlook which could impact on our future plans.” 

The ongoing pandemic means that WMFS is this year adopting a mainly digital approach to its consultation, to ensure that its staff can stay healthy and continue to deliver critical services.

CFO Loach added: I couldn’t be more proud or inspired by how our staff have responded to the pandemic. They have ensured that delivery of our critical services has continued, and have been ready, willing and able to volunteer to deliver thousands of vital food and medical supplies across the West Midlands.

Under the National Fire and Rescue Framework, WMFS has committed to consult on its Integrated Risk Management Plan every three years, or when there is a significant change to its assessment of risk in the West Midlands. 

A link to WMFS’s public consultation survey can be found on the homepage of the service’s website – www.wmfs.net– until 16 December 2020. 

The survey will be hosted on the popular WMNow platform, to which thousands of people across the West Midlands have already signed up to receive regular community updates and alerts. West Midlands Fire Serice will now also be issuing updates via the platform.

The survey will be complemented by a WMFS social media campaign, whilst fire stations and other WMFS teams and departments will be encouraging their local communities and contacts to share their feedback.

Responding to emergencies and COVID-19

Dudley Fire Station

Measures introduced by West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) in response to COVID-19 have ensured that the availability of firefighters, fire engines and other emergency teams has been maintained at near-normal levels during the crisis. 

A report by Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, to West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority details how the availability of frontline WMFS resources has stayed on a par with 2019 – in spite of the potential for unprecedented staff illness. 

Fire control staff and firefighters have stayed available 24/7 since Marchwith crews responding to emergencies in high-risk areas in an average of 4mins 30secs.

The report explains how WMFS’s detailed business continuity plans, complemented by the setting up of an expert medical and scientific team, helped to protect emergency response resources

The arrangements also allowed the service to continue providing essential fire prevention and protection services to the most vulnerable people and businesses.

And they made it possible for volunteers drawn from the WMFS workforce to undertake extra activities in support of residents most at risk from coronavirus, delivering thousands of vital food and medical parcels. 

The extra activities also included the sensitive and challenging task of moving virus victims’ bodies, often from their homes. WMFS also played a key role in ensuring the fire safety of the new NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham. 

Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach portrait photo

CFO Loach said: “I could not be prouder or more inspired by how our staff have risen to the challenges of the pandemic. By focusing all of our efforts on their safety and wellbeing, we have been able to protect delivery of our core, frontline services and deliver more besides.

“The entire service quickly had to innovate and adapt to new ways of working, with a digital approach wherever appropriate and practical. Time and again our staff proved they were ready, willing and able to do what was needed. I am confident that the lessons we have learned will serve us well while the pandemic continues.

“I am also sure that our many new ways of working will transform and shape our work across the West Midlands for years to comeincluding those activities we undertake alongside our partner organisations such as local councils and the health sector.

“We will soon launch a public consultation on how we propose to deliver many of our services for the next three years. I hope that as many people as possible will share their views on how we make the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier.”

Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA), added: “Members of WMFRA have been kept updated throughout the pandemic on the impressive efforts of WMFS staff. Their resilience and resourcefulness has been second to none, and I thank them on behalf of their very grateful communities.”

To read the full report to the fire authority, please click here 

‘Be alarmed!’ call from West Midlands Fire Service

Smoke alarm with hearing impaired pillow vibrator

With people again being urged to work from home because of COVID-19, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is urging members of the public to ensure they and their loved ones have working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, to keep them safe. 
 
The call comes at the start of Home Safety Week (28 Sept – 4 Oct), as figures reveal that only 15 per cent of UK households have CO alarms.

Outline of a home witha representation of a smoke alarm in it. #SafeHome20 is written on the left hand side.

Carbon monoxide is a highly-poisonous gas that people cannot see, taste or smell, so any room with a fuel-burning appliance such as an open fire, wood-burning stove, or a gas boiler or cooker should have a working CO alarm fitted.

Over the last three years, smoke alarms failed to go off in 45 per cent of 5,000 fires in West Midlands homes – in many cases because the fire was beyond the range of the alarm, highlighting the importance of fitting them on all levels of your home and in the areas and rooms you use most. 

WMFS advises that at least one smoke alarm should be fitted on each level of a property, especially in rooms used the most. A CO alarm must also be positioned next to any fuel-burning appliance and if someone is fitting them, the advice from WMFS is that they should be registered and suitably qualified tradespeople.

Pete Wilson, WMFS’s Group Manager for Prevention, said: “Home safety is important year-round, but now even more so with so many people working from home because of the pandemic.

“As we approach winter and use of open fires, central heating and cooking increases, now is the time to make sure you’ve got the right alarms in the right places.

“In the event of a fire or carbon monoxide incident, alarms provide precious time to escape. We want every household across the West Midlands to ensure the right alarms are fitted, checked regularly and replaced at least every 10 years.

“Because of lockdown restrictions, we recognise that checking on vulnerable family, friends and neighbours can be difficult. If someone you know is vulnerable and you think they haven’t got working smoke alarms please refer them for a Safe and Well visit, by visiting the WMFS website.” 

For the latest up to date advice and information about keeping your home safe please see our home safety page.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Think ‘Gas Safety’

Gas flame on a gas cooker showing a single ring lit.

As winter approaches, and with many people continuing to work and spend more time at home because of COVID-19, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is joining calls in Gas Safety Week 2020 to ‘think gas safety’.

The initiative, now in its tenth year, aims to raise awareness of the importance of gas safety – as well as of the dangers of poorly-maintained gas appliances.

Gas hob with two rings lit

In the three years to March 2020, WMFS firefighters attended 15 fires where gas was the main source of ignition (domestic and non-domestic settings). They also responded to 615 gas leak incidents – with just over 80 per cent of these being at people’s homes.

Pete Wilson, WMFS’s Group Manager for Prevention, said: “Many of us rely on, and perhaps even take for granted, our gas appliances. However, if you don’t keep boilers, heaters and cookers in good working order you risk gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It’s important that you only use a registered and qualified Gas Safe engineer to carry out servicing and repairs. Never attempt to work on a gas appliance yourself.

“We’re also urging people to have carbon monoxide detectors and alarms in their homes. It’s a highly-poisonous gas which can kill quickly, with no warning, but an alarm will alert you if there are dangerous levels in your home.”

It is a legal requirement for anyone carrying out domestic and commercial gas work to be registered, and comply with the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998.

Gas Safe Register is the official register for legally-qualified engineers and can help you find an engineer in your area: GasSafeRegister.co.uk.

More top tips to help you stay ‘gas safe’:

  • if you smell gas or think there might be a gas leak, call the free 24-hour national gas emergency number immediately on 0800 111 999
  • know the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning: headaches, nausea, breathlessness, collapse, dizziness and loss of consciousness
  • keep up-to-date with Gas Safety Week updates on social media by following @GasSafeRegister and the hashtags #GSW20 and #GasSafetyWeek.

Gas Safety Week 2020 starts Monday 14 September.

Gas safety register logo and telephone number

Business Safety Week 2020

A fire safety officer doing an inspection in a business premises

Don’t let your COVID-19 precautions increase your risk of fire.

The stark warning to businesses and organisations comes from West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) at the start of Business Safety Week 2020.

An image showing graphics

WMFS is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) call to ensure fire safety stays a top priority.

It’s feared that organisations’ legitimate focus on being ‘COVID secure’ could compromise fire safety arrangements – putting staff, visitors and premises at risk.

WMFS is encouraging business owners and ‘Responsible Persons’ (RPs) to review their Fire Risk Assessments, taking account of any new measures they’ve introduced to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Group Commander Steve Ball, of WMFS’s fire safety team, said: “While all of our efforts are rightly focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19, we also need to do all we can to stop the spread of fire and, should one break out, that people are safe and can escape.

“The pandemic has presented many new challenges to businesses. However, in Business Safety Week, we’re reminding them that fire safety is as crucial as ever.

“Having an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment is the first step towards protecting your business from fire. And, for those who need extra support, we’re here to advise on how to keep your business in business – including how not to fall victim to arsonists.”

Businesses are being urged to ensure that:

  • COVID-19 protective screens don’t obstruct smoke detection
  • fire doors are kept shut to stop fire spread (not propped open to minimise contact or improve airflow) and not blocked with furniture or stock
  • they have enough trained staff to support evacuation procedures
  • social distancing arrangements don’t impede evacuation procedures or the ability of emergency services to respond
  • escape routes are maintained, paying extra attention to any one-way systems that have been introduced to counter COVID-19.

For more fire safety advice, including how to review your Fire Risk Assessment, please see this page on our website and visit www.gov.uk

You can also email our fire safety team: firesafety.admin@wmfs.net or give them a call on 0121 380 7500.

Fire and rescue services nationwide will be supporting this week’s NFCC campaign – search for the social media hashtag #BusinessSafety2020 to find out more.

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