Posted: Tue 10th Oct 2023

Senior fire and rescue officers predicts 20mph speed limit impact on response times

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Oct 10th, 2023

Senior fire and rescue officers have said response times will be affected by the default 20mph speed limit in Wales.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority has been holding a public consultation, seeking views on the future of emergency coverage across the region. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​ The results from the consultation are expected in December.

Central to the proposed modifications is the possible transition of Deeside Fire Station’s nighttime staffing from full-time firefighters to the Retained Duty System (RDS) format. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

In this system, firefighters, who may have other primary jobs, remain on-call to respond to emergencies. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​ These on-call firefighters, equipped with radio pagers, must reside or work near their station to ensure prompt response due to strict time mandates. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

The broader proposed overhaul also encompasses rural stations like Corwen, Dolgellau, and Porthmadog, which could be remodelled into daytime staffed stations. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

Such a move could result in the reassignment of 28 full-time firefighter roles, predominantly from Deeside and Rhyl, hinting at possible job cuts. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

Opponents of the proposal highlight potential adverse consequences on emergency response times. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

Apart from special exemptions, the speed limits of all former 30mph roads have been reduced to 20mph following the new legislation being introduced last month.

Whilst firefighters can exceed the speed limit in fire engines, those travelling to fire stations in a private vehicle must abide by the 20mph law.

When asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service if the new 20mph speed limit would reduce response times, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s head of response Paul Jenkinson admitted it would.

“The reduction in speed to 20mph may cause a slight delay in our response times to incidents,” said Mr Jenkinson.

“However, given the exemption from the speed limits in law, fire appliances (engines) can go above the speed limit.”

This same opinion was delivered by North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s assistant chief fire officer Stuart Millington.

Mr Millington was delivering a presentation to members of Conwy Council’s finance and resources overview and scrutiny committee when senior fire officers were explaining controversial proposals to close or scale back operations at several North Wales Fire Stations.

Mr Millington said: “In terms of the 20mph speed limit, that’s a complex subject in its own right with lots of opinion and debate that we are already aware of.

“We did provide a consultation response in relation to the 20mph response, and it was debated, and we provide information on what that would mean for reduced response times for on-call firefighters.

Of course, whole-time firefighters have exemptions. “When we are in a fire engine, we can exceed speed limits.

“But when our staff are responding from their home address or from work to the fire station, then they do have to apply to those 20mph restrictions.

“So we did provide feedback and make our representations, but ultimately we have to apply the law, and you are quite right – it will have an impact on response times.”

The fire service is reassessing its resources and how it can get to rural areas sooner, but the proposed reorganisation could mean reducing cover in other areas by cutting 24-hour service in favour of day cover and reducing equipment.

Fire officers presented three different options to councillors, including one which would see Conwy’s fire station closed together with those at Llanberis, Beaumaris, Abersoch, and Cerrigydrudion.

Mr Millington said the decision would be made by fire authority members but added public opinion was strong.

He said: “I think the fire authority members – and this is a members’ decision not an officer decision – I think the fire authority members felt that with the economic climate being as it was, it was only right and proper to include an option that saved some money.

“And the kind of money that needed to be saved could only be achieved by including options that included station closures.

“So the authority members wanted to consult the public on that. “I think that it’s been very clear from the consultations that have taken place in those station areas what the strength of feeling is from the public in those five station areas, and that’ll certainly be taken on board by fire authority members when they reconvene to debate this issue.

“So that’s why it was included. It was felt that it was right and proper.”

 

By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter and Deeside.com.

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