The service is well-sighted on the new high-rise buildings in Woking, having been involved in the consultation process for building regulations. These will be new buildings which will have very different features to the Grenfell Tower including modern day firefighting lifts giving firefighters easy access to higher levels, and compartmentation which significantly reduces the spread of fire. We are also fortunate in Surrey to have the tallest Aerial Ladder Platform in the UK to deal with high-rise incidents.
Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, two major changes in legislation have occurred – Government consultation resulted in cladding being banned on all buildings over 80 metres. Secondly, new residential buildings over 30 metres now have sprinklers automatically fitted which suppress and significantly reduce the impact of the fire growth. Both of these factors significantly reduce the risk to both the public and our firefighters attending high-rise incidents. In addition, the immediate outcomes of the fire at Grenfell Tower, have arguably resulted in high-rise buildings receiving an extra level of scrutiny, and are therefore potentially safer than they were prior to this tragic incident.
With regards to training, breathing apparatus training in 2018-19 included input on high-rise incidents. The Service Leadership team and Learning and Development continue to review training needs based upon current and foreseen incident and premises risks.
The service has successfully bid for Community Infrastructure Levy funding in the past and will continue to consider this as an option. However, the Making Surrey Safer plan has not been developed with savings targets in mind. It has been developed in response to the findings of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspection in July 2018 which found “serious concerns” with SFRS. The inspectors found some areas of good practice but said its response to incidents is inefficient and it does not undertake enough activity to save lives by preventing emergencies happening in the first place. Overall SFRS was rated as inadequate in terms of efficiency and required improvement in the effectiveness of the services delivered, and the way that it looks after its people. Given the scale of these concerns, we do not believe that continuing with the status quo is an option.
The proposals in the Making Surrey Safer plan are based on the service’s Community Risk Profile which helps us understand where the risks associated with places in the county are, where the most vulnerable people are and when and where the risks are greater. The proposals also take account of five years of evidence about incidents in Surrey, and a comprehensive review of all nationally and locally available historical and predictive data, including all high-rise incidents experienced in the last five years.
The forward looking data considers the predicted population of the groups of people who are the most at risk from fires or other emergencies up to 2030. This data was independently verified prior to forming the consultation proposals.
The service also undertook modelling work which showed that we need 20 fire engines during the day and 16 at night to keep Surrey safe. The proposal would mean we have more than we need – five more during the day, more on a weekend day, and seven more at night. One of the reasons for providing this additional capacity is to account for larger and longer emergencies such as a significant high-rise incident.
The service continues to involve all staff in shaping the future. The Service Leadership Team is engaging with fire fighters of all levels to feedback and work with them to have the most impact in shaping the service’s thinking.
I am also assured that the service will continue to regularly review its distribution of resources as population numbers and distribution changes over time, to ensure it provides adequate resources that continue to meet the risk and changing needs of communities.
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There has been some concern in Woking with regard to the Surrey Fire Service transformation and in particular the high rise building. I have put these points to the senior fire officers and their response is below.