London Fire Brigade

Take extra care warning issuing as national fire brigades union strike looms

23 September 2013

Ahead of the national Fire Brigades Union (FBU) strike, London Fire Brigade is reassuring Londoners that it will be responding to 999 calls throughout the four hour walk-out on Wednesday, 25 September but says it wants people to take extra care to prevent fires happening in the first place.

The Brigade has plans in place to provide a contingency level of emergency cover across the capital during the strike, and a fire engine will be sent to emergencies including fires in people’s homes, vehicle fires, road accidents and collapsed buildings.

These plans were never intended to match the Brigade’s day-to-day cover so while strike action is taking place a fire engine may not be sent to less urgent and non-life-threatening incidents. These could include rubbish fires (including fires in bins and skips), fires on open ground, animal rescues, flooding, people stuck in lifts and gas leaks.

Take Extra Care

The Brigade has launched a ‘Take Extra Care’ campaign which aims to encourage people to take steps to prevent fires in the home during the strike. Leaflets containing fire safety information have been sent out to key stakeholders including hospitals, local authorities, transport operators and charity groups.

In the lead up to the strike action, London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, wants all Londoners to follow a five point strike fire safety plan:

1. Check your smoke alarm to make sure it works.
2. Plan your escape route.
3. Take extra care when you are cooking or smoking.
4. Share fire safety tips – talk to friends and family (visit www.london-fire.gov.uk for advice).
5. Only dial 999 in a genuine emergency, for example a fire not a pet rescue.

Since the FBU announced its intention to ballot for strike action on 16 July, the Brigade has been putting its contingency arrangements in place working with businesses, charities and local authorities to explain the plans and distribute thousands of ‘Take Extra Care’ leaflets explaining how Londoners can prevent fires.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said:

“As firefighters our job is to protect the public from fire day and night so it is a pity that strike action is being taken nationally. Our plans were tried and tested during the industrial action taken by the London FBU in October and November 2010 and they will mean that every area of London has fire cover.

“We will still attend emergencies but the contingency service is not intended to match the Brigade’s normal day to day cover so it is important that people take extra care, have working smoke alarms and take fire safety seriously.”

Notes to Editors

During the strike firefighters will attend:

  •  Serious fires –  like those in Londoners’ homes – confirmed by a 999 call
  • Fires that involve gas cylinders or hazardous substances.
  • Explosions
  • Vehicle fires or boat fires
  • Fires at railway stations and rail and road tunnels or fires involving people in underground tunnels.
  • Aircraft or train crashes
  •  Road traffic collisions
  • Collapsed structures

During the strike firefighters may not be able to attend:

  • Grass fires and other outdoor fires such as trees, hedges or undergrowth alight.
  • Rubbish fires (including fires in bins and skips) and fires on open ground.
  • Animal rescues (these will be referred to the RSPCA).
  • People shut in lifts (owners of buildings are responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place to release people from faulty lifts).
  • Flooding
  • Automatic fire alarms – a fire engine will only be sent when the fire has been confirmed by a 999 call.

More information about the Take Extra Care campaign can be found on the Brigade’s website and Facebook page.

The strike ballot

The FBU balloted its members to take national strike action over the government’s reforms to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme . The ballot opened on 18 July and closed on 29 August. 78 per cent of Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) members who took part in the ballot voted in favour of strike action.

27 fire engines

All of the 27 fire engines came from two appliance stations, meaning that in the lead up to the strike, all of London’s fire stations are available to provide a response to emergency incidents. Despite the temporary change to the number of fire engines in operation, the Brigade continues to seek to maintain its London-wide target attendance time of getting the first fire engine to the scene of an emergency within an average time of six minutes.
What service will be provided during strike action?

During the strike the 27 engines will be deployed at strategic locations across London and will be used to provide fire cover for the capital. The contingency fire service  is provided by a contractor and is not intended to replicate the Brigade’s normal operational cover arrangements. The contractor will provide basic firefighting and some rescue work. The normal initial attendance to incidents will be one fire engine.

The Brigade’s legal duty

In common with other UK fire and rescue services, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has a legal duty under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 to provide a fire and rescue service. The Fire Authority also has a duty under Section 2 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to plan for emergencies and that if an emergency occurs to take reasonable steps to make sure it is still able to continue to perform its functions.