Shropshire’s expertise for having one of the best run “on call” firefighter operations in the UK has been highlighted at a national conference.
Fire Officer, Group Manager Jon Temple and Watch Manager Tony Talbot showcased how Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service manages the Retained Duty System which employs 343 on-call firefighters who operate out of 22 of the county’s fire stations, most of them rural.
They add to Shropshire’s firefighting force of more than 500, including wholetime firefighters employed full time at fire stations in Telford, Wellington and Shrewsbury where populations are higher.
They were speaking to over 200 delegates from 44 fire and rescue services from across the country at the National Fire Chiefs Council conference in Hinckley Leicestershire this week.
“It was a very successful conference with a huge amount of passion, hard work and best practice sharing. I have also been asked by a few neighbouring brigades to deliver our presentation to the Strategic Management teams as they like the way we manage and have invested in our on-call firefighters,” said Group Manager Jon Temple, based at Shrewsbury Fire HQ.
“We are one of the forerunners in the UK for having an on-call firefighter system which gives Shropshire a phenomenal 98 percent fire cover compared to much lower figures in other brigades,” As the UK’s largest “landlocked” fire and rescue service covering a large rural area, Shropshire has approximately 80 percent of its firefighters “on call” meaning they leave work and home to answer 999 calls.
They train and have the same skills as wholetime firefighters.
“We know the communities are changing and we must ensure we change with them, regularly reviewing how we recruit and how we can support our on-call firefighters who give up a huge amount of their time to protect their local communities,” said Jon.
Families also made sacrifices with firefighters turning out in the middle of the night despite having regular day jobs and turning out at a moment’s notice to answer 999 calls.
“Shrinking” villages, High Street shop closures and population movements had all affected recruitment, he said.
In Shropshire, they have introduced a team of experienced full-time firefighters working as Retained Support Officers who make up the numbers where firefighter turnout is low. They also carry out a number of additional duties to relieve the pressure of junior retained officers, plan exercises and assist in overall Service delivery.
“There is a huge amount of goodwill among our on-call firefighters and we work to make the service more attractive to them and less burdensome,” said Jon.
The introduction a decade ago of fire appliances with nine seats meant that firefighters who turned out to answer a fire call were not disappointed by being turned away once the previous six seater appliance had been filled. This not only assisted in improving morale but also assisted in our firefighters gaining additional valuable experiences and maintaining their competence, he added.
“Shropshire is predominately a retained fire service with wholetime firefighters based in the large towns. That is where we are different from most of the UK and we invest heavily to recruit and retain the best and make them feel valued.”
Each year, a Celebration of Success event recognises the achievement of firefighters, applauds their families and thanks employers for giving their staff time off to attend emergency calls.
For more information please visit: www.shropshirefire.gov.uk