Today’s columnist, James Courtney: Services’ joined-up thinkging

South Yorkshire fire chief James Courtney
South Yorkshire fire chief James Courtney

Earlier this month the Home Secretary Teresa May made a speech about reforming the fire service.

The speech was described as being ‘radical’ and the national media, inevitably, chose to pick up on some of Theresa May’s more strongly worded statements, for example around workforce culture and diversity. Other areas she discussed included introducing a new inspection regime for fire and rescue services and further measures aimed at improving transparency and value for money.

However, after hearing what she had to say, I was reassured by how well placed your fire and rescue service is locally to respond to some of the reforms spoken about, not least our efforts to collaborate with our emergency service partners.

For example, for several months three of our fire stations have operated Emergency First Responder schemes, whereby firefighters at Stocksbridge, Rossington and Dearne jointly respond to medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, alongside paramedics from Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Elsewhere, plans for a joint police and fire station in Maltby have been approved and we hope that the new facility will be open later this year.

Work is also ongoing to look at other areas where we can work more effectively with the police.

We have also been helping to gain entry to properties on behalf of the ambulance service for almost two years now.

Frefighters provide humanitarian assistance at incidents where people are thought to be in need of urgent medical attention, but where paramedics cannot get to them, for example when they are locked indoors.

Firefighters use specialist equipment to break into properties, allowing paramedics to quickly deliver much needed help to patients. We attend dozens of incidents like this every throughout South Yorkshire.

We will continually look for further opportunities to extend the work we do, beyond what many of you would regard as our traditional work.

Fire and rescue services are required to publish plans which detail the steps they will take and the resources they require to improve public safety, reduce the number of fire incidents and save lives. These are known as Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs).

Our current four-year plan was published in 2013 and work is now beginning to research options for how we will deliver our service beyond 2017.