Below-average fire response times in Suffolk will be investigated

Fire crews were called to Felixstowe docks this evening. Stock image Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The report will look at fire response times in the county (stock picture) - Credit: Archant

A task force has been formed at Suffolk County Council to investigate speed of response standards in the county’s fire service.

The cross-party group is due to present its findings to the cabinet in February, the council has confirmed.

The group – known as a policy development panel or PDP – was formed to look at speed of response measures to support Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s IRMP (integrated risk management plan), a document which identifies all foreseeable future risks that could affect the community.

It stressed it was not because of any particular concerns around response times, although latest annual data indicated Suffolk was behind both the England average and average for predominantly rural authorities.

Home Office data for the year ending June 2021 indicated that Suffolk’s average response time for primary fires was 10 minutes and 56 seconds compared to the 10m 30s average for predominantly rural areas and 8m 39s average for the whole of England.

For secondary fires – those which are generally smaller or do not involve a threat to people or property – Suffolk’s average was 11m 34s compared to 10m 33s for rural comparators or 9m 20s for England as a whole.

A council spokesman said: “The speed of response review is looking at how we report and present our data to the public and key stakeholders and is not a fire cover review group which would look at number and location of operational resources. There are no operational changes being considered as part of the project.”

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According to the council, the current measures have been in place for around a decade and only report on 20% of the calls attended to by the service, with new measures set to include all calls.

It will also take into consideration the time it takes for the control room to take a call and mobilise a fire engine, which is not currently included.

Other blue light services, the Fire Brigades Union, and the Fire Officers Association have all given representations to the group, while the task force has also visited the fire control room and some fire stations as part of its work too.

Councillor Andrew Reid, Conservative cabinet member for public health, public protection and communities, said: “We are continually developing our service, so that we can respond to incidents appropriately and as quickly as possible.”

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