- Meeting of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority, Wednesday, 14th October, 2020 11.00 am (Item 4.)
To receive the Chairman’s announcements (if any).
The Chairman announced that:
Signing the national Armed Forces Covenant is the Authority’s promise to actively support the armed forces community. It acknowledges that the Authority recognises the value serving personnel, reservists, veterans and military families can bring to our Service. It also indicates that the Authority will, through its business dealings, work to ensure they are treated with fairness and respect within both the local community and wider society and help remove any disadvantages they may encounter in their day-to-day lives. By signing the covenant, the Chief Fire Officer has pledged that the Authority will seek to uphold the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant, where it can, by:
· Promoting the fact that we are an Armed Forces friendly organisation.
· Supporting the employment of veterans of any age and working with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) on establishing a tailored employment pathway for service leavers.
· Supporting the employment of Armed Forces spouses and partners, and advertising job opportunities through armed forces friendly recruitment agencies and charities.
· Recognise relevant military qualifications in our recruitment/application processes.
· Offering a degree of flexibility in granting leave for Armed Forces spouses and partners.
· Supporting our employees who choose to be members of the Reserve forces, by accommodating their training and deployment where possible.
· Offering support where possible to our local cadet units, either in our local community or in local schools, and encouraging our employees to be cadet helpers or instructors.
· Actively promoting and when possible participating in Armed Forces Day.
Kate Lole, Regional Employer Engagement Director – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Berkshire South East Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association had joined the meeting and gave Members a brief overview of the national Armed Forces Covenant.
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescues Service (BFRS) hosted and took part in a National Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) exercise on the 9 September 2020 along with USAR teams from Essex, Leicester, West Midlands and Norfolk Fire and Rescues Services. All these services form part of the National Zone 2 USAR capability and supports the other 3 zones that make up the 20 teams across the country. In addition, other emergency responders and agencies took an active part in the exercise and these included, NHS Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART), South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams from the Police Force, Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and local council officers and officials.
The exercise took part at Westcott Venture Park, just outside of Aylesbury. The exercise was designed to demonstrate our capabilities and interoperability arrangements with our USAR Zonal Partners and other emergency responders in preparedness for a major incident of this type. The exercise was audited by the National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT) who are commissioned by the Home Office to ensure all USAR teams are providing the capability against set Key Performance Indicators.
The exercise proved to be a huge success with all the teams working very well together, we have received very positive feedback from all involved, including NRAT which has shone a positive light on BFRS. The official results from NRAT are not yet released but will be very soon.
Station Commander Aylesbury and USAR joined the meeting and gave Members a presentation on USAR and their recent training exercise.
(Councillor Mallen joined the meeting)
Councillor McLean had taken part as a casualty at the exercise and gave Members an overview of his day. He thanked the Station Commander Aylesbury and Daniel Cadwell, Health and Safety Adviser, for their parts in arranging his participation.
A Member asked that with a lot of the USAR equipment coming up for 20 years old, what was the expectation if USAR carried on after the 2024 refresh. Would it be a requirement for the Service to take over funding or would it still be funded by government.
The Station Commander Aylesbury and USAR advised that this would be the subject of the whole national capability review, no final decision had yet been reached.
The Chief Fire Officer asked if all Members could agree, cross-party, that this was a resource that should be kept in Buckinghamshire.
A Member asked how does the utilisation of the Authority’s USAR team compare to the other 19 teams across the country, and was advised that there was a range of performance indicators used for all USAR teams, and whilst the USAR capability was housed in Buckinghamshire, it could serve anywhere in the country as part of a whole nationwide response and capability was kept under regular review.
A Member asked if the uncertainty around funding and multi-year settlements affected the planning, delivery and recruitment for the Service.
The Chief Fire Officer responded that it did affect the planning, the Authority discussed USAR funding every year because the funding was rolled over every year. Moving forward the current planning assumption was that the Service would keep the funding up until 2024.
The Chief Fire Officer hoped that any review would not just look at the number of teams, but at the equipment involved. An equipment refresh was needed due to the age of the equipment. Looking forward, the Authority would like to keep this team in Buckinghamshire. Also, the Service had an excellent training record, not just internally, but nationally and with other agencies across the country.