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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.

‘Escape hoods’ safety boost for West Mids fire victims

Two firefighters in full personal protective equipment holding a fire escape hood

New ‘fire escape hoods’, designed to protect fire victims from smoke and fumes, are set to be carried on all West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) emergency response vehicles.

The service’s 41 fire engines, 19 Brigade Response Vehicles and a specialist breathing apparatus support unit will be equipped with the hoods from Monday 7 September 2020.

Station Commander Richard Moore, of WMFS’s Response Team, said: “We aim to get to serious incidents in five minutes, because we know this increases your chances of survival.  
 
Our new fire escape hoods will provide vital extra protection to people who are unlucky enough to be caught in a fire and who need rescuing or leading to safety by our crews.” 
 
Over the last five yearsapproaching 700 people were rescued or led to safety by West Midlands firefighters. Many subsequently needed treating with oxygen or taking to hospital after breathing in smoke. It is hoped that the hoods will mean far fewer people need treating for the effects of smoke.  
 
Station Commander Moore added: “The smoke produced by fires contains a lot of harmful toxins. The hoods are designed to filter them out and stop you from breathing them in. 
   
“Now, depending on the particular circumstances and conditions at fire, our firefighters might ask you to wear one of the hoods so you can pass more safely through a smoke-filled environment. 

A man wearing a fire escape hood to demonstrate how it looks
A photograph of Watch Commander Jim White holding a fire escape hood while stood in front of a fire engine.

“They’ll only ever ask you to wear one for your own safety. They’ll need you to take off a head covering if you wear one, so the hood can fit and work as effectively as possible.

“With your agreement, they’ll help you to put it over your head, check it’s properly fitted and sealed and that you can see, breathe and talk as usual, before getting you to safety.”

The self-contained fire escape hoods, which are fitted with air filters, allow the wearer to breathe safely in a smoke-filled atmosphere for up to 15 minutes.

A recommendation from Phase I of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire required all fire and rescue services to have fire escape hoods for evacuating people through smoke-filled routes.

After conducting a number of trials, West Midlands Fire Service has chosen to carry Dräger PARAT 5550 Fire Escape Hoods on its fire engines, 4×4 Brigade Response Vehicles and its specialist Breathing Apparatus Incident Support Unit (BAISU).

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