Converting South Woodham Ferrers Fire Station from day crew to on-call frequently asked questions
What is the current crewing system at South Woodham Ferrers?
South Woodham Ferrers Fire Station is currently covered by a day crew system. During the day the crew provides a wholetime firefighter response, meaning they are based at the station waiting for a call. During the evening, overnight and most of the weekend they provide an on-call firefighter response, meaning they stay within 5 minutes of the fire station and make their way there as soon as they are called.
Why is the crewing system at South Woodham Fire Station changing?
In 2016 Essex residents had the opportunity to take part in a consultation which asked people to give a view on which of three possible options for the future they preferred. More than 17,000 people responded to the questions posed.
74% of respondents supported the second option which outlined, among other things, the crewing system to be changed to on-call at Dovercourt, South Woodham Ferrers, Great Baddow, Waltham Abbey and Great Dunmow Fire Stations.
So far Great Dunmow, Dovercourt and Waltham Abbey have already converted successfully.
What is an on-call firefighter?
On-call firefighters are a vital part of today’s fire and rescue service. They have everyday lives and jobs, until their pager sounds; then they immediately make their way to the fire station. They don’t work for a back-up team or a second rate crew. On-call firefighters are contracted, professional firefighters, on the front line, saving lives.
On-call firefighters are not based at their fire station, but instead commit to staying within 5 minutes of the station and immediately making their way to meet the crew when they are called.
They provide around 90 – 120 hours of cover a week, and this can be done during their time off or alongside their primary employment so long as they are able to leave when called.
Being an on-call firefighter means people become part of a close-knit team, gain a range of new skills, earn additional money which fits around existing jobs and commitments, while making a difference within the local community.
How can we trust on-call firefighters not to simply turn off their pagers?
On-call firefighters are paid employees of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service and are required to meet the same standards as all our firefighters.
Those responding as on-call firefighters are paid a retaining fee on this basis, as well as being paid when attending an incident or completing other work such as working within the community to stop incidents from happening in the first place.
It’s simply not true to say on-call firefighters turn their pagers off when they want to or that they decide they are not attending an incident once arriving at a fire station. It’s as likely as saying any employee could call in sick because they don’t want to work.
Those working the on-call system live and often work in their community and are required to attend incidents at times set out within their contract which enables us to plan and recruit to ensure most effective availability.
Which other fire stations in Essex are crewed by on-call firefighters?
Almost three-quarters of Essex fire stations are crewed by on-call firefighters, many of which are called to more incidents than South Woodham Ferrers. It’s a similar picture in most other counties too – with some almost exclusively covered by on-call fire stations.
When does a town become too big to safely be covered by an on-call fire station?
There’s no one reason for a town to have an on-call or a wholetime fire station. Instead, lots of risk factors are considered as well as which other local stations exist too. Most of our wholetime stations are positioned in the busier parts of our county, and that can be down to factors such as industrial units, major road networks and population.
Although over population is a concern for many residents in different towns and villages, we see the on-call model work extremely effectively in higher population towns. For example, both Braintree and Maldon have over 40,000 and 60,000 residents respectively and are both surrounded by rural villages and other on-call fire stations.
In fact, the more residents you have in a town the more people there are to meet the requirements and join the on-call crew.
Will the new crewing system mean a drop in availability of firefighters or South Woodham Ferrer’s fire engine?
We are currently recruiting on-call firefighters at South Woodham Ferrers and so far, have had a very positive response. We are confident that we will recruit the required number of firefighters to cover the fire engine at South Woodham Ferrers, day and night.
As with any location in our county, if availability drops in an area (due to a large incident, unavailability, or unexpected events) we will move resources to ensure fire cover is maintained across the whole county.
How many on-call firefighters to you currently have at South Woodham Ferrers?
We currently have seven on-call firefighters at South Woodham Ferrers. One is currently in phase three, two are in phase two, with the rest in phase one.
We’re still recruiting, so if you live or work within five minutes of South Woodham Fire Station we’d love to have a chat about how becoming an on-call firefighter can work for you.
What other stations could support the Dengie Peninsula area?
Our Service actively manages its resources to ensure fire cover is maintained when fire engines are unavailable for whatever reason, including large incidents and shortage of firefighters. This includes moving fire engines to stand-by at specific core stations.
Within the immediate area Tillingham, Burnham-on-Crouch, Wickford, and Maldon are all close by and often support South Woodham Ferrers with bigger incidents.
Will this change mean an increase in risk to life in the South Woodham Ferrers area?
We’re committed to protecting our communities and preventing fires from happening. If a fire does occur in your home or business, regardless of where your local fire station is, getting out is your number one priority.
The most important and easiest way to protect your family is by having working smoke alarms in every floor of your house. Smoke alarms are without doubt the most important piece of equipment in your home, they sound at the first sign of fire giving everyone a chance to get out, stay out and call the fire service out.
There are also some behaviours that increase the speed of fire spread, such as hoarding, excess clutter and leaving internal doors open – subjects we also work with communities to educate and change.
The number of incidents that we attend has fallen significantly over the past 10 years, and historically an increase in population and traffic does not mean an increase in emergency incidents. We annually review our Strategic Assessment of Risk and this covers changes in population and number of dwellings, informing our response planning.
We include future building proposals in our planning and also, fortunately, new housing tends to be lower risk from fire, due to fire precautions that are now an integral part of new housing (i.e. mains fitted smoke alarms).