Effectiveness of response to tower block fires a ‘postcode lottery’, firefighters say

The different standards in how fire services can respond to life threatening tower block fires is a “postcode lottery“, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

There are 125 aerial ladder/platform vehicles, which have long ladders or platforms to reach fires in high buildings, in England – but only 33 of them are available round-the-clock because there is a lack of fire crews, new FBU research states.

Location and resources are key to how firefighters can respond to an emergency and the pre-determined attendance (PDA) plan which can be triggered. This relates to the numbers of fire engines that should automatically be sent.

Kent, Humberside and Nottinghamshire have just three fire engines and no aerial platforms – while Hampshire has a PDA of eight fire engines and an aerial vehicle.

The FBU also states that the size of a fire crew can also vary between four or five firefighters per fire engine.

FBU general secretary and former firefighter Matt Wrack described these findings as “extremely concerning” in the light of the Grenfell Tower fire, and branded this situation as “utterly unacceptable”.

He said: “We find it staggering that nothing has been done to address this grossly unjust postcode lottery of resources, and the fact that governments in all parts of the UK appear not to have even considered it is a disgrace.

“They now need to urgently instruct fire services to improve their fire and rescue planning to ensure a full and professional response to such incidents all over the UK.

“Citizens everywhere need to feel safe and confident that those in authority are taking their safety seriously. Anything less is, frankly, obscene.”

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the FBU had hoped that an urgent review of greatly differing standards and approaches adopted by various fire and rescue services across the country would have been set up.

Mr…

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