Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Cross party opposition to loss of fire service cover

11 December, 2006


Sinn Féín North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has said welcomed cross party agreement on the need to protect fire service cover in the debate on a Sinn Fein motion on the Fire and Rescue Service Draft Integrated Risk Management Plan in the Assembly today.

Mr McGuigan said:

"I welcome the DUP amendment. The sentiments expressed are certainly implicit within my motion. This is an important debate and it is one which shouldn't be constrained by party lines. This is a social issue, and a safety issue.

"A fast response to incidents can make the difference between life and death. The process concentrates on the effect of attendance times as the primary driver for reducing risk to life by operational means.

"It is also important that the correct number of fire fighters attend each incident to enable fire-fighting operations to be conducted in a safe and effective manner. Collectively this response is known as the speed and weight of attack

"The difficulty we now face is that contained within the new IRMP we have proposals that undermine that. Even to the ordinary layman or woman it would be a straight forward assumption that response times for fire engines reaching the scene of a fire is crucial in saving lives.

"These attendance times are CORE to the argument that the F&RS is WRONG to even consider the removal of 12 engines from the 12 towns here in the North. The 3-minute time - lag is crucial. It is crucial to the safety of fire fighters and it is crucial to the safety of the public.

"Statistics show that that house fires are still were most people loose their lives or were most people are injured as a result of fire. If the 12 fire engines are removed, or indeed, if any of them are removed, then in those towns and their surroundings the F&RS simply cannot make its own response times, with the result that peoples lives will be put at risk." ENDS

Note to Editors

Motion - Fire and Rescue Service Draft Integrated Risk Management Plan

Proposed: That this Assembly notes the 'Draft Integrated Risk Management Plan consultation document 2007/08' prepared by the Fire and Rescue Service and calls for any conclusions and recommendations to ensure that present standards are maintained and that the safety of our citizens is paramount over any other consideration.

[Mr P McGuigan]

The following stations have been earmarked for a 50% reduction in fire cover (a reduction in one fire engine): Ballycastle, Ballyclare, Ballymoney, Castlederg, Clogher, Holywood, Kilkeel, Lisnaskea, Maghera, Newtownhamilton, Portstewart and Rathfriland.

For further information contact Philip McGuigan on 07876 395470

Full Text of Speech

I acknowledge and welcome the Amendment put forward by Mervyn Storey and Peter Weir of the DUP. The sentiments expressed are certainly implicit within my motion. This is an important debate and it is one which shouldn't be constrained by party lines. This is a social issue, and a safety issue.

In terms of providing background to this motion the F&RS published their Draft Integrated Risk management Plan for 2007/2008 on November 1st with the consultation period ending on 31st January 2007.

If I could start my contribution with a quote from the F&RS IRMP 2006/2007

"A fast response to incidents can make the difference between life and death. The FSEC process therefore concentrates on the effect of attendance times as the primary driver for reducing risk to life by operational means."

It is also important that the correct number of fire fighters attend each incident to enable fire-fighting operations to be conducted in a safe and effective manner. Collectively this response is known as the speed and weight of attack".

I don't think anyone in this chamber could find difficulty in supporting this assertion.

The difficulty we now face however is that contained within the new IRMP we have proposals that counter what I have just quoted. By that I mean the proposal to cut the number of fire engines by half, from 2 to 1, in 12 towns across the North including 2 towns (Ballymoney and Ballycastle) in my own constituency.

IIRMP is terminology used by the F&RS in the context of the strategic deployment of resources within a Brigade Area.

There have been 3 previous IRMP's in the North. The one we are debating today is the 4th.

Even to the ordinary layman or woman it would be a straight forward assumption that response times for fire engines reaching the scene of a fire is crucial in saving lives. The new figures for response times introduced by the F&RS to high, medium, and low risk call outs reflect this fact.

For example in a high-risk call out the 1st appliance should arrive within 6 minutes of the call being made. In all cases of call out the second appliance should arrive within 3 minutes of the 1st appliances arrival. And remember in many cases of house fires a second appliance is critical to ensure safety. Indeed in the case of a call out were a person is reported trapped within a house the F&RS currently send 3 fire engines.

These attendance times are CORE to the argument that the F&RS is WRONG to even consider the removal of 12 engines from the 12 towns here in the North.

As I have said the 3-minute time - lag is crucial. It is crucial to the safety of fire fighters and it is crucial to the safety of the public.

Statistics show that that house fires are still were most people loose their lives or were most people are injured as a result of fire.

Going back to the earlier quote from last years IRMP - "A fast response to incidents can make the difference between life and death."

Is this still not as true this year as it was last year?

Another part of the quote; "It is important that the correct number of Fire-fighters attend each incident to enable operations to be conducted in a safe and effective manner" AGAIN IS THIS POINT STILL NOT TRUE TODAY.

The reality is CC that these points were absolutely accurate on 1st April 2006 and they remain equally absolutely accurate now and they should remain absolutely accurate in the future.

If the 12 fire engines are removed, or indeed, if any of them are removed, then in those towns and their surroundings the F&RS simply cannot make its own response times, with the result that peoples lives will be put at risk.

If you take the example of Ballycastle in my own constituency. If the second engine is removed from this town then there certainly will be no attendance of a second fire engine within 15 minutes. And the 3 minute time-lag between 1st and 2nd engines arriving, so crucial in the circumstances of serious house fires- will be potentially exceeded.

Typical distance times will be anything between 20 -25 minutes.

The bottom line CC is that no matter where people live they have the right to equal access to essential services. This means that present standards must be maintained and that the safety of our citizens and of our fire fighters must be paramount over any other considerations.

The proposals contained within the IRMP for next year that jeopardise this fact must be removed from the document immediately.

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