New £1.2M fire training facility in Orkney

Orkney communities are benefitting from a £1.2m investment which has delivered a vital firefighter training facility.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) unveiled an on-island carbonaceous fire training unit at Kirkwall Airport Fire Station in May this year.

Delivered in partnership with Highlands & Islands Airport Ltd, the investment allows crews to train in temperatures up to 600 degrees and share expertise – and follows the introduction of similar specialist units at Stornoway and Sumburgh airports.The impressive facility was officially opened by Chief Officer Alasdair Hay and Chair of the SFRS Board, Kirsty Darwent.

Chief Officer Hay said that the facility is the culmination of a long-term strategic plan to deliver a truly outstanding facility for our firefighters across Orkney.

“They are committed to their communities, responding at a moment’s notice to protect at times of emergency – and we are clearly fully committed to them.

“This significant investment will provide our firefighters with the modern resources and training required to keep standing on that front line and I commend their unwavering dedication.

“Crucially, this training facility will also reduce the requirement for local firefighters to travel off island to undertake training – making the process far smoother for those wishing to join our fantastic service.”

The new training unit at Kirkwall – which follows last year’s £3m upgrade to Stornoway’s fire station – is the latest stage in a significant Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investment to support retained duty system firefighters (RDS) across Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles.

Annabelle Ewing MSP, Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister, said: “The Scottish Government is fully committed to supporting the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other relevant partners to continue to reduce the number of fires and fire related injuries in our communities. This successful continued partnership between the SFRS and the Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd is excellent news for communities and firefighters alike. It will help to protect and improve local services by delivering modern resources and training without firefighters having to leave the island.”

Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service hosts multi-agency training exercise

In June, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) utilised its state of the art training facility at Bury to test its operational preparedness. A large scale, multi-agency, multi-themed exercise was conducted to work with partners on the use of JESIP (Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles) at a major incident involving a high-rise building. 

GMFRS crews and officers worked with colleagues from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), North West Ambulance Service Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) and the North West Counter Terrorism Unit to manage the scenario and tackle the fire, which presented a number of complex challenges that agencies had to work collaboratively to overcome.

North West Fire Control was also involved in the exercise and all partners had to use the principles to work together, ensuring information was shared properly and the incident was tackled correctly. 

JESIP has produced much needed practical guidance to help improve multi-agency responses. It set out the standard approach for multi-agency working, along with the training and awareness products for organisations to inform their staff. 

Since its initial two-year programme from 2012 until 2014, JESIP has initiated the largest and most successful joint training initiative across the emergency services. GMFRS has been integrating JESIP into all their policies and procedures. The exercise was an opportunity to work on JESIP with other organisations. 

Twelve pumping appliances plus special appliances from GMFRS and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service deployed to the Bury Training and Safety Centre for the exercise, which focused on a scenario involving two large fires in the centre’s state of the art high-rise facility. 

The £10m complex is the largest firefighter training centre in the UK and one of the most advanced in Europe. The centre contains facilities to practice for a variety of incidents such as air crashes, residential fires, commercial incidents and fires in high-rise premises. The facility was built to help operational staff refine their skills as well as provide learning opportunities about prevention and protection for organisations, including schools and community groups. 

The staff involved were not told the details of the exercise in advance to make the training as realistic as possible and to help test their operational preparedness. 

Volunteers helped to enhance the exercise by acting as casualties, ensuring that the scenario was as close as possible to a real-world fire incident.  

The situation involved a fire on the fifth and sixth floors of the high-rise and crews were quickly in offensive mode, utilising breathing apparatus and hose reels inside the building to deal with a multi-seated fire. 

A bridgehead sector was set up on the third floor and cordons were put in place around the building. A hydraulic platform was set up as a water tower and firefighters inside worked to rapidly evacuate the building. 

A multi-agency briefing was held and a
M/ETHANE message was sent with NWAS declaring a major incident. The incident that presented itself to all agencies was complex and quickly developed from a high-rise situation into one that involved a number of scenarios including post-fire complications. 

NWAS crews needed to deal with a medical emergency involving a carbon monoxide leak and firefighters were also tested after a counter-terrorism element presented itself during the exercise. 

While battling the fire and searching the building, explosives and other terror-related paraphernalia was discovered by crews and, by effectively working with other agencies,
a tactical withdrawal was made. 

Fire crews worked with GMP colleagues to share situational awareness and understanding of risk, and to protect the scene to preserve evidence for specialist Counter Terrorist investigation teams. 

A major incident was subsequently declared by GMFRS and GMP and a further M/ETHANE message was sent before the organisers brought the training to its conclusion. 

Station Manager Jim Bridge, who organised the exercise, said: “Collaborative working was tested during the exercise due to the complex and wide-ranging nature of the scenario. By applying JESIP, the exercise was handled in a professional and collaborative manner by all partner agencies.

“Operational leads from all organisations attended regular briefings and provided updates to ensure that all parties shared situational awareness at all times. 

M/ETHANE was used promptly by North West Ambulance Service when a major incident was declared and the exact location, type of incident, hazards, access, casualties and the services present and required were conveyed quickly to all other agencies present. 

“Using JESIP and M/ETHANE ensured information was shared quickly and easily between the several organisations involved in the exercise.”

The operational capabilities of GMFRS in a major incident, and the ability to work with other agencies was quickly put to the test following the exercise when large moorland fires broke out in Tameside and on Winter Hill on the border between Greater Manchester and Lancashire. 

The fires took a number of weeks to tackle and required collaboration with a number of other fire services, local authorities, police, ambulance services, water companies, land owners and even the army, who were called in to assist with the fire in Tameside.

SM Bridge said: “I was extremely happy with how the exercise went. All of the objectives were realised and all of the partner agencies achieved the desired learning outcomes.

“There was a high level of coordination and cooperation between partner agencies. There was a lot of positive feedback gathered during the debrief and there were learning opportunities identified for all the agencies. We saw why exercises such as this are so important just weeks after it took place when we were faced with unprecedented moorland fires. These fires were challenging not just for GMFRS but all agencies and only by working together could we successfully get them under control.

“JESIP and M/ETHANE are important for us to make sure we are working with partner agencies in the most effective way possible and are communicating at all times. Our Bury facility allows us to work on a variety of real-world scenarios and is about a lot more than practicing extinguishing fires. 

“This training scenario allowed us to see what we do well together but more importantly what we can improve on. It was a very complex exercise and it took a lot of planning and preparation. I want to thank everyone who helped arrange the exercise for their hard work and all who took part for their enthusiasm and professionalism.”

Crews from Hindley, Farnworth, Whitefield, Broughton, Bolton North, Eccles, Manchester Central and Hollins took part in the exercise from GMFRS as well as Bacup, Burnley, Hyndburn and Preston crews from Lancashire.

A formal multi-agency debrief will be held and the learning from the exercise will be fed back to all partners to further improve collaborative operational work in the future. 

Diesel shows off his new doggles

Scotland’s hottest fire dog is going viral with the recent launch of his own Twitter account @SFRSDog. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) asset will tell followers how he works and trains to keep communities safe.

Diesel the dog shows off his new doggles

Diesel, shown here in protective ‘doggles’ and booties, will tell his fans about how he works to protect Scotland’s communities. It is expected the Springer Spaniel will further assist the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to reach out to followers with safety advice.

Diesel’s expertise is called upon at major disasters around the world where he has used his outstanding urban search and rescue skills to locate casualties in collapsed buildings.

Deputy Chief Officer Iain Bushell said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that Diesel is the hottest looking search and rescue dog in Scotland with his doggles and his booties.

“But these pieces of equipment are absolutely vital to protect this outstanding and highly valued member of our team.

“They enable Diesel to enter some of the most hostile environments, not only reaching casualties but helping protect his firefighter colleagues as they work in risk zones.

“It is crucial that we have this capability as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service enhances wherever possible its response to major incident and also seeks to transform to meet modern risks such as terror attack.”

He added: “It is clear that Diesel is held in the very highest regard not only by ourselves but by the Scottish public – he is indeed a very good boy.

“I am therefore delighted that he is being given a platform to outline his fantastic work, key safety advice and even a picture with his beloved play ball – the only reward he ever asks in return … although I think he’ll now be looking for a follow on twitter too.”

Diesel is a vital member of SFRS’ Urban Search and Rescue’s (USAR) National Response and is deployed anywhere across Scotland with his dedicated handler, Gary Carroll.

Diesel in his specialist harness and booties, ready for action

The pair are also part of a specialised UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team which can be mobilised around the world at a moments’ notice.

They assisted at the devastating Nepal earthquake which sadly claimed the lives of thousands of people.

It is therefore vital that Diesel, who can travel by helicopter to carry out search and rescue missions across Scotland or abroad, is kitted out with protective equipment.

The doggles help to shield his eyes from dust and debris thrown up by landing and hovering aircraft, while the special booties protect his paws from rubble and glass as he searches collapsed buildings.

K9 handler Gary is a Crew Manager based at Portlethen, Aberdeenshire. He said: “We are a single service providing an unrestricted response to emergencies occurring anywhere in Scotland, and beyond.

“Diesel and I have worked together for many years in some of the most challenging environments, and there is no doubt whatsoever that he is integral to that response.

“We have an incredible bond and he is a very special wee dog, to the point where we think he really does deserve his own dedicated online account.

“It will provide everyone with a real insight into not only how he is trained and his serious capability but also how he likes to spend some down time playing with his ball.”

Follow Diesel on twitter @SFRSdog.

Specialist wet weather kit for SFRS

More than 7,000 firefighters across Scotland will soon benefit from a £1.3 million investment into new specialised kit for severe weather response.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is issuing new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits to every firefighter across the country – from Baltasound on Shetland to Drummore in Dumfries and Galloway, and everywhere in between.

The significant investment will strengthen resilience for frontline crews to respond to weather-related emergencies, such as flooding, while protecting traditional firefighting kit from risks such as damage and contamination.

The heavy-duty PVC kits made by Safequip have already been introduced to thirteen stations in each of the West, East and North Service Delivery Areas – including Banchory, Inverurie, Oldmeldrum, Altens, Braemar, Fochabers, Dreghorn, New Cumnock, Newton Stewart, Lockerbie, Peebles, Jedburgh and Eyemouth – and will soon be rolled out across the country.

This investment follows the devastation caused by Storm Frank in 2016, when hundreds of homes were evacuated and communities were left stranded as a result of unprecedented flooding across Scotland.

SFRS crews worked tirelessly for days following the storm, while providing enhanced resilience to ensure that fire and rescue cover was maintained during an extraordinary and extremely challenging period.

The introduction of the new PPE kit also follows a recent £5.2 million investment into more than 2,200 new Breathing Apparatus (BA) sets – which has ensured that all crews across Scotland are now using identical BA equipment.

Iain Bushell is Deputy Chief Officer for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. He said: “Our firefighters are fully committed to keeping Scotland’s communities safe – and it is absolutely vital that they are given the correct tools and equipment to stand on the frontline during times of emergency.

“These impressive new PPE suits will keep firefighters warm and dry, while ensuring they can continue to work in the most challenging conditions to protect Scotland’s communities.

“These new kits form part of an extensive and carefully planned strategy to enhance our arsenal of nationwide equipment, and will ensure that all firefighters can operate with greater ease across the former legacy boundaries to protect the public at times of significant emergency.

“This is yet another major step forward for our national service and I thoroughly commend all of those involved in this major project for their dedication in helping us build a safer Scotland.”

New lance technology for Scottish firefighters

Scotland’s firefighters will soon be armed with the latest in high pressure lance technology to tackle fires. The Ultra High Pressure Lance systems from Swedish firm Cobra enable crews to inject a fire suppressant through the wall of a burning building to more quickly douse the flames inside. The Powerful tools are capable of blasting through solid concrete and steel.

Already used by fire and rescue services in forty-five countries, they keep crews safer as they do not have to enter the burning building to reach and extinguish the flames.

The proven technology will now form just one part of an arsenal of the latest equipment carried by forty brand new, purpose-built fire appliances.

This represents a combined £7.6 million investment by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) into the safety of the country’s most diverse, rural and remote communities. The move comes as the SFRS seeks to transform to meet new and emerging risks.

Alasdair Hay, the SFRS’ Chief Officer said: “This proven firefighting technology means our crews can begin firefighting within seconds of arriving by cutting straight to the heart of the fire.

“Retained and volunteer firefighters are the most amazing people, dedicated to protecting their communities and it is right and proper that we provide them with the best tools for the job.

“The current operating model makes it difficult for us to ensure the availability of resources in rural areas.

“This new technology, combined with state-of-the-art fire appliances and a more flexible crewing model will improve that availability – and create safer communities in the process.”

The service recently conducted a live demonstration of the new technology at the SFRS research and development hub in Portlethen, Aberdeen for guests and staff.

This included the first look at new and bespoke appliances, built by Scottish firm Emergency One. Each can carry up to four firefighters, are agile and have been designed specifically to meet the needs of Scotland’s most remote geographical areas.

Amongst their suite of capable and proven equipment is breathing apparatus from German firm Dräger and battery powered hydraulic multi-tools from Lukas.

Chief Officer Hay added: “The equipment carried by these appliances is absolutely state of the art. For example the battery powered hydraulic tools are lighter than their traditional counterparts and perform both cutting and spreading actions in one unit.”

“Like everything on these appliances, it is very much pick up and go – fast, efficient and manageable and will ensure our volunteer and RDS firefighters continue to reach casualties quickly and safely.”

Additionally, thirty two brand new eighteen-tonne fire engines, also built by Emergency One, will also shortly be welcomed into the SFRS fleet to protect Scotland.

Chief Officer Hay continued: “We are absolutely committed to investing in the latest technologies and techniques to ensure the continued safety of Scotland’s communities.”