Central government funding cuts are slicing into firefighter training budgets, reports The Guardian.
National guidance states that each firefighter should do refresher practical training at least every two years, and preferably every year. But it’s expensive, requiring a high level of supervision, safety controls, emergency procedures, contingencies, trained instructors, equipment and fuel.
Senior fire officers forced to allocate increasingly tight budgets are in an extremely difficult and unenviable position — one made harder in some cases by the recent recategorisation of certain types of fires. What was once classed as FDR1 — the code for property fire, such as a small cooking fire with damage only to food and cookware — is now known, in some fire services, as a “false alarm, good intent, near miss” incident. This means that, despite needing an approach with similar planning and control measures as many much larger incidents, these are no longer “fires” in the eyes of statisticians and politicians. And with fewer “fires”, why push funds towards training to combat them?
All fire service departments have seen budget reductions, but as the national focus has turned to community safety — home fire assessments, fitting free smoke alarms, and so on — training and operational response seems to me to have been hit harder. Meanwhile chief fire officers such as Peter O’Reilly at Manchester and Dan Stephens at Merseyside have gone on record, warning of the catastrophic consequences of the decisions they are being forced to make.
An ever-increasing pool of information has been shoe-horned into pre-existing “refresher” training courses on general breathing apparatus skills, such as searching in darkness, safe movement and entry control. These are all critical skills — but it is very difficult to impart all relevant information and learning into annual or bi-annual two-day training courses.
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