Fire contingencies at hospitals

HOSPITAL directors are set to start their own fire response team to fight flames and help evacuate patients, in case Suffolk firefighters strike.As previously reported in the Evening Star, the Fire Brigade Union is in dispute with its employer about pay, and is balloting members about industrial action.

HOSPITAL directors are set to start their own fire response team to fight flames and help evacuate patients, in case Suffolk firefighters strike.

As previously reported in the Evening Star, the Fire Brigade Union is in dispute with its employer about pay, and is balloting members about industrial action.

The results of the ballot should be known within the next two weeks and a 'yes' vote could result in a strike being taken by October 25.

The hospital has been asked to review its arrangements and devise a contingency plan to cover a period of industrial action.


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Any action will mean the armed forces will use Green Goddess fire engines across the county, and reduce the support for firefighting and evacuating buildings including Ipswich Hospital. Two fire engines plus a turntable ladder or hydraulic platform are usually sent to blazes at the hospital, but directors expect only one Green Goddess to rush to their rescue at first.

A report due to be presented at the hospital's board meeting on Friday by director of estate and facilities Steve Harrup states: "The personnel manning the appliance will not have any specific technical knowledge of the site or be trained in evacuation procedures regarding patients. They may also not have any sophisticated communications systems generally available to the fire service."

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The Port of Felixstowe Fire Service is also due for a site meeting with hospital bosses, and has agreed to send its rapid response fire engine with a crew of three to an actual fire.

The hospital already has arrangements about what to do in the event of a fire, but will start new fire response team and appoint a fire marshall to continuously cover any period of industrial action. Marshalls will be recruited from the estate and facilities staff who know the site and will be trained.

Managers will do daily inspections of the workplace, and a Fire Policy Group will meet every day during industrial action.

A hospital vehicle will be equipped with extinguishers, hose and protective clothing so staff can fight fires before help arrives, under the direction of the fire marshall.

Suffolk firefighters were called to the hospital in August last year when the boiler room flooded, and to flooding at West Suffolk Hospital and the Nuffield Hospital in Bury St Edmunds in July 2000.

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