Monday, January 20, 2014

Diary Date - Partnership, Contract Performance and Third Sector O&S Committee

Partnership, Contract Performance and Third Sector Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Monday 20 January 2014 - 9:30am
Committee Rooms 2, Council House
And you can now watch online here.

This is an evidence-gathering session on working with housing associations in the city. We should be hearing from a wide range of stakeholders, including housing associations, city council and tenants.

No sign of Fireman Sam...

Hay Mills BRV
This week, I finally met up with Station Commander Rob Davis, the officer in charge of our local fire station in Hay Mills. Trying to tie up timetables has proven rather difficult and our previous appointment was rudely blocked by him being sent away to Suffolk with the West Midlands Fire Service water rescue team to help with the flooding over there.

He showed me round the station and we had a long chat with him and the Green Watch commander, Mark Price about how the service is adapting to meet the changing demands and risks. House fires have - fortunately - become much less common, thanks to changes in how we live, regulation of flammable materials in furniture, a reduction in smoking and also a sustained effort by the fire service to fit smoke alarms and help us stay safe at home.

BRV vehicle rescue kit
Currently, the station houses two traditional five-crew fire engines, with one available around the clock and one only crewed during daytime hours. From March 2, a new, three-crew Brigade Response Vehicle will replace that second truck, but will also be available twenty-fours hours a day. The BRV is built on the chassis of a four-wheel drive pickup and is capable of responding faster to incidents - as well as being cheaper to operate, given that the bigger trucks burn about one gallon of diesel for every mile travelled. It carries a wide range of key kit, including water, first aid kit, two sets of breathing apparatus and some battery-powered 'jaws of life.'

BRV kit lockers - ladders and hose equipment
The introduction is a direct result of changing demands on the service, as many calls in our area relate to minor road accidents, small fires in rubbish or burnt out mopeds and motorbikes - just the kind of call that the BRV is best placed to handle. That is perhaps the key - using the right vehicle for the right job. It reduces costs, matches demand and has helped to prevent closures of fire stations, despite the fire service facing the same cuts as the rest of the public services.

Hay Mills and Billesley pumps attending call
If you dial 999 for a house fire, you can expect the reassurance of the big red truck appearing round the corner. Minor incidents will see just the BRV attending, but with the reassurance that the additional kit and people of the bigger truck can be there if required - the service can respond in serious numbers when needed, as last year's Oldbury fire showed, with every available appliance in the service, bar one, attending the incident and being backed up by mutual aid from neighbouring services. Indeed, virtually every weekend, the service will carry out a couple of major exercises to test their capacity.

Aside from the blue light work, the station will also start cycle patrols in targetted areas - this helps to build connections with the local community and to help spot risks like dumped rubbish before they become serious issues. They will also continue to carry out prevention work - directly with vulnerable residents and also working with our local schools. The fire service is changing how it responds and how it meets our needs. They'll be there when you need them.