Fire risks increased by crew shortages
CREW shortages are potentially putting lives at risk, Fife Fire and Rescue Service has admitted.
High sickness levels and staffing shortages are blamed for the difficulties in meeting targets for operational ridership levels.
The guidance, dating from 1958 and endorsed in 1985, required crews of five on first appliances supported by crews of four on a second appliance in 75 per cent of cases.
The Integrated Risk Management Planning in 2004 superceded the guidance and introduced the concept that resource deployment should be determined by risk.
However, the community safety committee accepted then that the previous target of 75 per cent should stay in place in Fife.
A report to the fire and rescue transition committee on 12th June outlined the operational ridership levels for the period October 2011 to March 2012. For the reporting period, the service operated at a 4+4 ridership level on 9.01 per cent of occasions.
The service invested an additional £119,000 to the overtime budget for this period, which was said to be "clearly unsustainable" in the longer term.
In June there was a 4+4 ridership for 63.07 per cent of the time as opposed to just 8.26 per cent in April.
David Somerville, the fire service's area manager operations, reported to the committee last Tuesday.
"For the month of April, the service continued the application of an overtime budget to address unplanned shortfalls in operational staffing, however, budget predictions suggested this was an unsustainable cost, therefore, this practice was suspended.
"In June, the service received confirmation from Fife Council that the new administration had approved the £253k underspend from 2011/12 and this could be carried forward into the revenue budget for 2012/13."
The service has recruited seven firefighters who will be available for operations in mid-September after training.
The report added, "The main issue for the service and the communities of Fife, in relation to ridership levels, continues to be that there remains the potential for a number of occasions where the initial response to an incident may have fewer firefighters than the recognised standard.
"In these instances additional fire appliances are mobilised to ensure the requisite resources are available for the maintenance of safe systems of work.
"Also, it is accepted that on these occasions due to the delay in the full weight of operational response, the potential exists that societal risk could increase slightly from the effects and impact of fire."
The report concluded, "As a result of unplanned absences, predominantly due to higher than normal sickness levels and reduced workforce numbers, the service is experiencing short-term staffing deficiencies that are impacting on our ability to operate a 5+4 ridership level on at least 75 per cent of occasions."