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Firefighters warn of no-deal Brexit 21/01/2019

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has today condemned the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit for firefighters, other workers, and the UK economy, and called for a general election to resolve the deadlock.

The union is concerned that in a ‘no-deal Brexit’, the UK may instead be subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. This could mean the immediate introduction of new tariffs and other trade barriers, having a catastrophic effect on the UK economy, including the risk of job losses in manufacturing.

The FBU warns of the long term risk to workers’ rights in a Brexit with right wing Tories in the driving seat. Furthermore, the threat of ‘no-deal’ is creating uncertainty among workers – including firefighters - and their families over their immigration status, access to healthcare, travel plans, and living standards.

The FBU states that cross-European co-operation is essential to large scale disaster planning, joint rescue work, research, intelligence sharing and training exercises, issues which have not been addressed at all so far in Brexit preparations.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said, “The Westminster government has made a complete mess of Brexit. The Prime Minister must recognise that the only way to resolve this deadlock is to call a general election now.

“Leaving the European Union with ‘no deal’ is a catastrophic scenario for the UK economy, firefighters, and all workers. A no-deal Brexit will undermine worker’s rights, and could have a calamitous effect on our health services, car manufacturing and  transport infrastructure. Not only this, but It is wrong to isolate workers who have lived in our communities for years – simply because they were born somewhere else. The uncertainty they face over immigration status must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. 

In the event of a no-deal, we have grave concerns of the possibility of a WTO agreement. We simply do not accept that the UK can seamlessly switch to WTO rules without severe consequences. The WTO is no friend of workers or trade unions and UK voters have no control over its rules or institutions. We do not have confidence in this body to oversee our trade internationally.” 

The FBU calls on the UK government to: 

  1. Prevent a ‘no deal Brexit’ because of the impact on workers’ living standards in Britain and internationally.
  2. Immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens who have chosen to make their lives in EU countries.
  3. Find an urgent solution to the Brexit deadlock.

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New report reveals Grenfell complacency 21/01/2019

NO FIRE safety report was commissioned for the final Grenfell cladding refurbishment plans, an earlier report published by Inside Housing has revealed.

The news "sheds further light on the complacent attitude towards resident safety shown by the council, the Westminster government, and the businesses involved in Grenfell", said Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary.

A fire safety report into earlier refurbishment plans for Grenfell Tower determined that the refurbishment would have "no adverse effect on the building in relation to external fire spread". 

The plans were for a simple conversion of the lower floors to residential use and did not include the addition of external combustible cladding, or other major changes such as new windows.

Fire safety firm Exova, the authors of the report, recommended a follow-up analysis of final plans, which was never commissioned.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary said, “This concerning development sheds further light on the complacent attitude towards resident safety shown by the council, the Westminster government, and the businesses involved in Grenfell. The FBU has repeatedly highlighted the dangers of the cosy relationship between councils, the construction industry, and fire safety regulators. This new evidence provides further proof that corners were cut, exposing the endemic cost-cutting mentality surrounding social housing, and which placed profit before the lives of residents.

"This is rightly a matter for the inquiry and potentially for police investigation. We need to know why Rydon (the construction company that refurbished Grenfell Tower), failed to commission a fire safety report into the final plans; whether the council overlooked its responsibilities; whether cost-cutting measures drove this decision; and why the requests of residents for fire retardant cladding were ignored. We are disappointed that, due to the delay to the next phase of the inquiry, the corporate and government interests complicit in the fire safety regime at Grenfell will continue to evade justice for another year."


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Cheshire Fire climbs employer list 21/01/2019

CHESHIRE FIRE and Rescue Service (CFRS) is moving closer to the top of LGBT charity Stonewall's prestigious Top 100 Employers list for 2019.

The service has jumped another place from their 2018 fourth place to number three on the list and is the highest performing public sector organisation in the UK. Cheshire Fire is also the best performing emergency service in the UK due to its efforts to engage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff, volunteers and communities. 

This is the seventh consecutive year the service has featured in the Top 100, which assesses organisations ranging from local authorities to international investment banks against criteria including engagement with staff and communities, training and leadership. CFRS entered the Top 100 in 2014 at number 25 and has increased its ranking year on year. It has also been the highest performing UK emergency service in 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019. 

Following the service's appearance in the Top 20 Employers for the past four years Stonewall has also recognised CFRS as a Star Performer, a new commendation which recognises consistent high performance. In addition, the LGBT Employee Network Group, FirePride, has been rewarded with a Highly Commended Network Group 2019.

Cllr Bob Rudd, the chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, the body which oversees the Service, said the achievement was testament to the organisation’s consistent and continued work around equality. He said, ”Residents can be assured that the services we provide, be it emergency response, safe and well visits or youth work, are delivered in a way that’s inclusive of the wonderfully diverse communities we serve. No one from the LGBT community should hesitate to engage with our staff or volunteers and the Service’s third position on the Stonewall Top 100 list provides that reassurance.”

445 employers across the public, private and third sectors entered the 2019 index. This year Stonewall received over 92,000 responses to the staff survey, making it one of the largest national employment surveys in Britain, with 17,300 LGBT respondents.

The service was recognised in particular for its focus on the organisation’s LGBT network, Firepride, conference held in partnership with Cheshire Constabulary and Cheshire West and Chester Council. A role models booklet was launched, showcasing LGBT models from the workforce. A Q&A discussion, in which role models shared their experiences at work, was part of the event.

Community engagement and youth work was also highlighted. The CFRS interactive safety and lifeskills education centre, Safety Central, offers schools and youth groups a choice of modules to explore during visits. One core module on offer is 'Gender and Identity'. It covers language and terminology, LGBT role models, and the spectrum of identities. It is made clear throughout that the learning environment is a safe, non-judgmental space.
The commitment of senior members of staff actively engaging with Trans inclusion, such as trans awareness sessions and the launch of the Trans allies empowerment programme was also a positive factor in the success of the Service in Stonewall’s Top 100.

Chief fire officer, Mark Cashin, who is also the senior sponsor of the Service’s LGBT staff Network Firepride, said, “Last year, Stonewall released research that revealed more than a third of LGBT staff, wherever they work, have hidden they are LGBT and almost one in five LGBT employees in workplaces across the country have been the target of negative comments from colleagues because of their identity.

“It is important that anyone joining our workforce knows that they can be themselves at work so they can fully commit to the important work they do for our communities. We want the best people to work for us, regardless of background, so I would urge anyone who would like to join us to keep an eye on our website for opportunities such as on-call firefighter recruitment at a number of our fire stations, wholetime firefighter recruitment and support staff vacancies. It is testament to the ongoing engagement of all our staff that once again we have been recognised as the top emergency service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Stonewall Top 100 list, endorsing our commitment to LGBT inclusivity.”

Darren Towers, Stonewall’s executive director, said: “Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and all those who have made this year’s Top 100 Employers list are making a huge difference to workplaces, services and communities across the UK. LGBT-inclusive employers play a crucial role in changing society by using their power and influence to protect and support LGBT people. More than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) still hide their identity at work for fear of discrimination; that has an impact on productivity, wellbeing and more and shows we still have lots to do.

"However, with organisations like Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service displaying such a strong commitment to LGBT equality, we are one step closer to creating a world where all lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees are welcomed and accepted without exception."

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Heat Pad sets duvet on fire in family home 21/01/2019

DEVON & SOMERSET Fire & Rescue Service has issued a plea for residents to install smoke alarms in rooms where people sleep, including rooms converted for that use.

The appeal follows a fire that took place last November within a house at a remote location near Taunton. The fire started in a downstairs room where a woman slept due to her deteriorating mobility.

The fire started in a heat pad in the bed and the family were lucky to escape as there were no smoke alarms in that room.

The woman's daughter, who also lives in the house with her family, told Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, "The fire started in a heat pad that we'd put under the bed clothes to keep mum's feet warm at night.

"The first thing we heard was mum calling for help. Luckily she had been already awake when the duvet started to smoke and she'd got to the bedroom door and called for help.

"By the time I reached her, I could see the flames from the duvet were half way up the wall. It was terrifying. We closed the bedroom door, got out of the house and called 999 for the fire service.

"We were so lucky that mum noticed it smoking because there was not a smoke alarm in the bedroom and I dread to think what would have happened if she'd been asleep."

Taunton station manager, Jo Webber, of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service said, "This lucky escape shows us how important it is to have a smoke alarm in your bedroom, particularly for children, people with disabilities and the elderly. There are so many items of electrical equipment used in people's bedrooms these days that we have had to update our advice. Please put a smoke alarm in any bedroom, even if it's a room that used to be used for another purpose, but is now used for sleeping, like this family's bedroom for their mum.

"This is particularly important if there are electrical heaters or chargers left switched on overnight, but of course we would really recommend leaving as many things as you can switched off while you're sleeping.  You should check your smoke alarms at least every month. This includes the ones in the bedrooms as well as the smoke alarms you should have in your hallway and landing."

Always check your electric blankets, heat pads and any other electrical devices for signs of scorching or burning smells. If you're worried stop using them and get them checked by an electrician or replace them.

Jo concluded, "Please practice your escape plan, then if the worst does happen, you will know what to do like this family did; closing the door stopped the fire spreading and everyone was ok."

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Fire services join forces for firefighter course 17/01/2019

THREE FIRE services are joining forces for the first time to run a joint training course for full-time firefighters.

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service are running the course which started on Monday 14 January.

Twenty-four recruits are taking part in a 13 week course to become wholetime community firefighters.

Of the 24 recruits, 12 are from Surrey, eight are from West Sussex, and four are from East Sussex.

The new recruits are being put through their paces at Surrey’s training centre Wray Park, with instructors from all three services as tutors.

Course commander and training delivery manager for West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service Marvin Smith said, “This is an exciting opportunity to work with our neighbouring services in Surrey and East Sussex, and I am very pleased that this programme will pool our skills and experience to help our new staff be the best they can be.

“Being a firefighter is not an easy role, but I am sure our recruits will rise to the challenge as we teach them a range of new skills. I can’t wait for them to get started.”

Hannah Scott Youldon, Assistant Director of Training and Assurance for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are really pleased to be welcoming new recruits and it’s great that they will be training alongside colleagues in our neighbouring fire and rescue services.

“Becoming a firefighter is an exciting opportunity which we hope our recruits will enjoy.

“It’s not just about learning the practical skills around how to deal with emergencies, but also having resilience, good communication skills and committing to doing your best for the community you serve.”

Assistant chief fire officer for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service Mark Arkwell said, “We’re pleased to be joining forces with our partners in East and West Sussex to equip our latest recruits with the skills they need to be 21st century firefighters – how to keep themselves, their team-mates and Surrey residents safe, through protecting communities from incidents happening in the first place as well as responding if they do.

“It’s just one part of the ongoing work we’re doing to recruit the firefighters we need and this collaborative approach helps us do that in an efficient and effective way.”

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NCA appoints director general of NECC 17/01/2019

THE NATIONAL Crime Agency has announced the appointment of Graeme Biggar as the first permanent director general of the National Economic Crime Centre.

Graeme joins the agency from the home office where he has been director national security since 2016, providing leadership on the pursue element of the counter terrorism strategy and hostile state activity. His experience includes helping shape the response to the 2017 terrorist attacks, and the Salisbury attack; and overseeing the Investigatory Powers Act implementation programme across government.

Before joining the home office, Graeme worked for the MoD, in a series of policy and change management positions. He was chief of staff to the defence secretary from 2013 until 2016.

Commenting on his appointment, Graeme said, “I am very excited about joining the NCA, and to be leading the National Economic Crime Centre’s work to improve and develop the way we tackle economic crime.

“This is a great opportunity to bring together the knowledge and skills of law enforcement, the private sector and Whitehall on tackling one of the biggest challenges facing law enforcement at this time.”

Director general Lynne Owens said, “I am delighted to welcome Graeme to the agency and this exciting new role leading the UK’s response to economic crime.

“His breadth of knowledge and experience in Whitehall will be of great value in shaping the direction of the recently launched NECC.”

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Firefighters charity campaign begins 17/01/2019

THE FIREFIGHTERS Charity’s January Bag it and Bank It campaign is now underway, encouraging fire stations to collect as many shoes and as much clothing as they can to raise much-needed funds to help firefighters in need.

Last January, 755 fire stations across the UK took part in the event. They raised a whopping £52,507 and kept a staggering 230 tonnes of clothing from going into landfill. That’s the equivalent weight of around 19 fire engines. But they want to do even better this year, targeting £60,000 this month.

The team from Bingham Fire Station (pictured) collected more than any other fire station within Nottinghamshire last year and were also fourth nationally in terms of the weight of the clothes received and the money raised (£369.60). 

To mark their efforts, the team at Bingham were presented with a special "Outstanding Effort" award at the station on 8 March - a particularly impressive achievement considering they didn't have a textile bank at the station.

Egremont Fire Station in Cumbria was crowned the winner, with more than 11,000kg collected.

Kevin Biles, Sales and Recycling Manager at the charity, said: “The support of our fire and rescue services have demonstrated for textiles recycling has been superb since day one. If it wasn’t for their help and enthusiasm, we simply wouldn’t be where we are today. 

"Textiles recycling has generated over £3 million worth of income which has gone towards supporting our fire and rescue beneficiaries."

The donated clothing, shoes, handbags and textiles are collected are recycled in a number of ways.

Wearable clothing is re-used and usually sold in under-developed countries. Any textiles that are un-wearable are recycled into such items as industrial wipers and car upholstery and also re-used in the production of many other items. 

The income generated for The Fire Fighters Charity from textile recycling helps fund the physical, psychological and community support for those in the firefighting community who are in need.

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SIA launches qualification consultation 16/01/2019

SIA HAVE launched a new consultation to help determine the content of the next generation of compulsory qualifications for licensed operatives in the private security industry.

This new consultation will run until 11 February 2019 and you can have your say on the draft specifications for the licence-linked qualifications by visiting the consultation website.  

Following an initial consultation last year the organisation has been working closely with expert working groups to inform the content of these draft specifications. These panels were made up of private security industry representatives and subject matter experts. The new draft specifications include their suggestions, as well as findings from extensive research that we conducted in October 2018 in order to understand the current and future skills needs of the private security industry in the UK. 

The development of these specifications is a key milestone in our Private Security Skills & Qualifications Review. This new consultation is an essential element. In addition to requests for comment on the specifications we are also seeking views on the following important areas:

  • Is the proposed content fit-for-purpose?
  • Does the new content represent an unreasonable burden on individuals and businesses seeking to enter the industry?
  • Should the additional content relating to the door supervisor role be included in the close protection specification to facilitate the current licence integration arrangement? Or should licence integration end, so that close protection licence holders can only work in close protection roles?
  • Should there be compulsory physical intervention training for the security guard and close protection roles? 

Head of quality and standards at SIA says, "We have gone to great lengths to ensure that the next generation of qualifications are fit-for-purpose. This is the latest stage in a robust development and consultation process. The initial consultation attracted more than 840 responses, and this brand new consultation will be equally meaningful. This is the last chance for the public to have its say and help us to get the specifications right. We all now have an opportunity to shape the future of the licence-linked qualifications and ensure they are relevant for the security industry in the years ahead.”

He added, “As always it is essential that as many people as possible give their views on this new consultation. Employers and prospective operatives spend a considerable sum of money each year on these qualifications, and they need to be fit for purpose. The SIA can only achieve this with the help of the private security industry.”  

Once the consultation closes then the feedback will be reviewed to develop the final versions of the specifications. These final versions will appear on our website by the early autumn. The specifications will then be used by the awarding organisations to develop the licence-linked qualifications.      

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Confidence in policing increases 16/01/2019

HMICFRS HAVE published the findings from their fourth survey on public views of policing across England and Wales. The study consisted of 17,043 surveys with members of the public, and the majority were conducted via online panels, with a small number conducted-face-to-face.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on Local Policing, chief constable Simon Cole said, “Yesterday’s public perceptions of policing statistics for 2018 reflect the hard work of many police officers, staff, special constables and volunteers. Satisfaction for local police services remains consistently high and the proportion of respondents who are satisfied has increased from 2017.

“Confidence in policing has increased, with more people speaking highly of their service than are critical of it. Although respondents acknowledge that crime and anti-social behaviour are increasing, they do feel that their local police are taking appropriate action to combat them.

“It is clear from the survey that police visibility remains very important to the public.  All chief constables are working to ensure the service is as visible and approachable as possible despite reduced funding, and Police and Crime Commissioners are currently consulting on their budget proposals for next year. Community engagement and trust in the police are central to the British policing model.”

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Award for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service 15/01/2019

CHESHIRE FIRE and Rescue Service has been accredited with White Ribbon Status as part of its pledge to protect vulnerable people in Cheshire.

White Ribbon Status is an official White Ribbon accreditation that will provide the service with specialist training and guidance to use to help bring about genuine change.

This accreditation scheme recognises that public sector organisations, large and small, can achieve so much more than individuals can alone when it comes to tackling domestic violence.

The service works with partners to identify risks and offer safety measures to victims of domestic violence, but becoming accredited means it can effectively marshal resources to challenge domestic abuse and make a real difference. The service will use this accreditation to tackle domestic abuse in all its forms, not just against women.

Four senior ambassadors have also been nominated to drive forward the campaign; chief fire officer Mark Cashin, assistant chief fire officers Alex Waller and Gus O’Rourke and head of prevention Nick Evans, have all been appointed - with Gus O’Rourke being the lead as part of his work as a member of Cheshire Constabulary’s Strategic Domestic Abuse Board.

To commemorate White Ribbon Day in November, the service constructed a giant white ribbon as a highly visible symbol of support. The ribbon was flown from a hydraulic platform in Chester city centre in support of an event hosted by Chester Women’s Aid.

Assistant chief fire officer Gus O’Rourke said, “White Ribbon is a fantastic national campaign which addresses the real issue of domestic violence. I am absolutely thrilled that the service has been accredited White Ribbon Status as this will enables us to bring greater awareness of this issue to the public and encourage victims of domestic violence to not suffer in silence and come forward.

“A big part of our work includes offering fire safety advice to vulnerable adults and young people, which can include fitting fire-proof letter box covers, smoke alarms, and wheelie bin locks. Domestic arson is often linked to a domestic violence and can be a common problem - it is often a hidden crime, and it can happen and affect anyone.

“The service recognises that it is not only women who are victims of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is also perpetrated both by women against men and in same sex relationships. We are also committed to supporting ‘Open the Door’, a county-wide campaign which aims to bring domestic abuse out from behind closed doors by encouraging people to start a conversation and seek advice and support.

“As a service it is fundamentally important to protect the public of Cheshire, which is why standing up in support of these campaigns to tackle domestic violence is absolutely the right thing to do. Being White Ribbon with accredited and supporting ‘Open the Door', gives us the best possible chance to help those victims who suffer domestic abuse.”

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