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EQUIPPING THE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE TO FACE THE CHALLENGES OF 21ST CENTURY

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The significant steps taken to enhance the fire and rescue service's...
The significant steps taken to enhance the fire and rescue service's

ability to respond to a major incident were highlighted today by fire

and rescue service minister Nick Raynsford.

The first national seminar on New Dimension - the government's

programme to ensure the FRS is properly equipped and trained to deal

with a wide range of emergencies - was an opportunity to review the

work already done and set out the vision for the future.

The government has already invested£56m in the first phase of

the programme providing mass decontamination equipment - and is now

rolling-out phase two with a further investment of up to£132m

to provide urban search and rescue equipment and high volume water

pumps.

Mr Raynsford said:

'New Dimension is not about something different as most of today's

threats are not new. It is about giving the fire and rescue service

more scope to respond to a range of challenges, whether from

terrorism or other major emergencies. So our aim must be to fully

integrate the 'new dimension' with the current multi-dimensional work

of the service.

'The flooding incidents in Carlisle and Boscastle showed the value of

the new high volume water pumping equipment, while the collapse of

the Stockline plastics factory in Glasgow was an early test of our

enhanced capability in urban search and rescue. But neither of these

was the result of terrorism, they were incidents to which the fire

and rescue service would have responded, albeit with more restricted

options for tackling them.'

By spring 2004 80 incident response units for mass

decontamination had been deployed and all fire-fighters in England

and Wales are now trained to support a CBRN incident (Chemical,

Biological, Radiological or Nuclear). At least one equipped urban

search and rescue team has been located in each region and since

providing the equipment, the kit has been widely tested in emergency

exercises and real life situations across the country.

Over the coming months the programme will continue to improve the

capability of the FRS through the deployment of high volume water

pumps with all regions to have one pump by April 2005 and the

rolling-out of urban search and rescue equipment across the country.

Mr Raynsford added:

'This important programme is not simply about providing the equipment

and training for the fire and rescue service. Crucial to the

effective handling of any major incident is ensuring we have the

right infrastructure and support systems in place assisting the

emergency services. This is why we are also funding improvements in

the fire and rescue service's radio communications system and

establishing regional fire control centres.

'We are committed to continuing the work to provide the equipment and

the infrastructure to deliver an enhanced capability throughout the

fire and rescue service. There is still work to do and this why the

commitment and professionalism of the fire and rescue service and

our other partners is vital to us moving forward and achieving our

aims.'

Alan Doig, president of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA)

said:

'CFOA has been fully engaged and support the New Dimension project.

The programme has made great strides over the past year in delivering

a step change in the nation's capability to cope with a major

incident and better protect the public.

'Today's event underlines the value of partnership in the service and

the close working between CFOA and government - at national and local

level.'

Notes

1. The event today was

attended by over 150 representatives from all English regions and the

devolved administrations. Delegates represented included fire and

rescue authorities, local government, the Local Government

Association and the Home Office.

2. The training of fire-fighters takes place at the Fire Service

College in Moreton-in-the-Marsh, but before this training facility

was in place, to provide the UK with an interim capability over 500

members of the FRS were trained at Texas A&M University. This

training formed the basis of courses now provided at the Fire Service

College which has since become the major provider of such training

outside the USA.

3. The government is taking forward plans to create a resilient

national network of regional fire and rescue control centres (moving

from 46 control rooms to 9), which will make possible more effective

responses to local, regional or national incidents of

significant/substantial scale or complexity.

4. The Firelink Project is an important investment in radio

communications for the fire and rescue service. It involves the

replacement of each fire and rescue authority's radio system with,

for the first time, a UK wide-area radio system. As a standard

national system, Firelink will introduce national roaming for all

fire and rescue appliances and vehicles, as well as bringing improved

resilience and inter-operability within the service and with other

emergency services. This will play an important part in assuring the

delivery of operational priorities, including a response to the

effects of a terrorist or other major incident.

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