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Fire service 'vehicle incidents' up by a third

PHOTO: Devon And Somerset Fire And Rescue Service

Firefighters in Devon and Somerset are having more and more crashes in fire service vehicles.

The number of fire service personnel being involved in vehicle incidents has risen risen by more than a third over a two-year period.

In the year to date, fire crews have been involved in more than 100 separate crashes - the equivalent of one incident every two days.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has said this represents less than one per cent of vehicle mobilisations, and says it is working to ensure its drivers’ safety.

A report on vehicle incidents came before the fire authority’s human resources management and development committee in Clyst St George on November 6.

There were a total of 188 'vehicle incidents' involving fire service personnel in Devon and Somerset in 2018/19 - up from 137 in 2016/17 and 163 in 2017/18.

Between April and October 2019, there have been 108 such incidents - the equivalent of one every other day.
If this trend continues, the total predicted number of incidents in 2019/20 will be 216 - more than 50 per cent higher than the figure for 2016/17.

Mike Pearson, the fire authority’s director of governance and digital service, said the incidents occurred 'primarily during non-blue light activity' - in other words, when fire engines or other such vehicles were not attending an emergency call.

He also maintained in his report that the majority of incidents involved 'light fleet' - such as cars or vans belonging to the fire services - rather than the 'red fleet' fire engines (also known as fire appliances)

However, figures subsequently released indicate fire appliances have been involved in a majority of cases in two of the three previous years.
In 2016/17, 81 of the 137 incidents involved either fire appliances or aerial ladder platforms - just under 60 per cent of all incidents.

A similar level was seen in 2017/18 - when ladder platforms or fire engines accounted for 98 out of the 163 incidents - and between April and August 2018 (the most recent figures available).

The fire service was not able to provide a figure for the cost of insurance claims involving its vehicles.

A spokesman said: "All third party damage is dealt with by the Fire and Rescue Indemnity Company (FRIC), of which we are a part.

"FRIC has been set up to provide indemnity against risks normally fully covered by a traditional insurance company. 

It has appointed experts in this field, and is proud to offer great solutions to all the specific needs of fire and rescue services.

"We do have a dedicated budget with an excess for each claim."

Area manager Joe Hassell said the number of 'safety events' involving firefighters or fire personnel was very low, and internal programmes have been put in place to ensure drivers and crew were safe when on call.

He said: "The number of safety events we experience when responding to incidents is very low, accounting for less than one per cent of the total number of vehicle mobilisations.

"This is testament to the skill and training of the drivers of our responding vehicles.

"However, we are continually monitoring our safety event data and we put measures in place when a trend is identified - for example, an internal awareness programme was implemented recently on new procedures for the reversing of appliances.

"In addition, we are signing up to the government initiative ‘Driving for Better Business’, which will help us review our processes and reduce safety events, most of which are at low speeds."

Driving for Better Business is operated by Highways England, and offers services to both the public and private sectors to reduce 'work-related road risk', decreased associated costs (such as insurance) and ensure compliance with existing legislation.


By Daniel Mumby, local democracy reporting service

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