Strabane doesn’t have enough full-time firefighters to meet risk

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Strabane doesn’t have enough full-time firefighters to match the emergency response risk effectively, according to an assessment conducted by the Northern Ireland Fire Service (NIFRS) over the past five years.

The fire brigade has issued a final call to get the views of the public on proposed changes to manage firefighter resources, given the changing risk profile of Northern Ireland.

It’s also consulting with its current staff and trade unions with a view to making changes across its workforce to meet the demand idenitfied in Strabane and elsewhere.

Essentially, there are not enough full-time firefighters working the 2-2-4 shift system (two day shifts followed by two night shifts followed by four days and four nights off) in the Strabane area, which is overly reliant on ‘retained firefighters’ - or part-time workers living near the local station and available to answer emergency calls.

The consultation follows a risk assessment, identifying the risk levels in all 67 station areas over a five year period.

This assessment has clearly identified that in 11 station areas the risk levels and resources are not effectively matched.

Under the proposed new changes NIFRS has identified four station areas - Enniskillen, Downpatrick, Dungannon and Strabane - which would benefit from additional Wholetime Firefighters whilst at the same time maintaining the ‘Retained’ cover 24/7.

The Wholetime Firefighters would provide enhanced prevention, protection and emergency response from Monday - Friday, 0800 – 1800.

Coleraine, Carrickfergus, Antrim, Portadown, Armagh, Newtownards and Omagh currently have Wholetime Firefighters based in the station 7 days a week, 0730 – 1930 plus ‘Retained’ Firefighters providing cover 24 hours a day.

Under the new proposal these stations would maintain the Retained cover 24/7 whilst Wholetime Firefighters would be based on station Monday – Friday 0800 – 1800.

The availability or number of Fire Appliances will not be impacted by these proposed changes.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Gary Thompson said, “NIFRS is your fire and rescue service and it’s important that we get your views on what we propose to do to make the most effective and efficient use of our operational resources aligned to the risk profile of Northern Ireland.

“We are confident that this proposal will help us deliver the best possible fire and rescue service which reflects current and emerging risks to community safety.

“We welcome your views and there is still time to tell us what you think.”

The availability or number of Fire Appliances will not be impacted by these proposed changes.

The public consultation period is live and the closing date for comment is Monday, March 7, 2016.

Consultation documents can be accessed on NIFRS website http://www.nifrs.org/consultation/ or hard copies are available by contacting NIFRS’s Equality & Inclusion Unit, on 028 9266 4221.