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‘State-of-the-art technology’ ensures Firefighters & resources are where they are when they are needed…except when they’re not

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Find your local fire station empty? Blame the computer!

It’s been a contentious topic of debate for a long time now and the reality of the situation seems to be getting clearer to those nearby in Horley and Salfords.

Only this week a driver crashed into a tree causing their car to catch fire. The local station, Salfords, was unable to attend due to ‘insufficient staffing numbers’ but this appears to be the reality of the service going forward and some firefighters concerns seem to be going un-noticed.

Well now this ‘hot’ topic (no pun intended) is starting to dawn on residents as well.

The issue comes down to how fire services are being deployed. According to Surrey County Council the use of new technology means that appliances and staff are being located around the county depending on where the technology dictates there to be a potential need for their services.

In essence the idea is to ensure that staff and appliances are not just sat idly at a station when there could be a greater need for them at another. An interesting idea but this does seem to have an adverse effect as demonstrated earlier this week with the Salfords car fire.

It does not take an expert to know that if there is a fire in a location and no firefighters there then the delay in bringing them from another location will cause more damage than it would were they still located nearby.

So the potential for having your local fire station empty of any crew is actually no longer a theory, it is a reality.

According to the council over 80 new firefighters have been recruited and that from April 2020 the service will have a full complement of full-time firefighters. BUT and this is where the new concept of moving staff around comes in, this still does not mean that you can always rely on your local station to be the ones to help you, as crews will still be constantly moved around as big brother dictates where they are most likely needed.

It is not yet clear how this technology seems to be able to see into the future and in the case of Salfords car fire this week…how do I put this…oh yes, was useless, but apparently we are now to rely on algorithms to ensure our trusted fire service are in the right place at the right time…except when they’re not.

And let’s be clear, NO-ONE knows when or where they will be needed, not even your bedside Alexa.

So the chances of seeing appliances sat in a layby awaiting a call out, similar to ambulances and police cars is likely to increase across Surrey.

So does this have any bearing on Sussex crews? Of course because the two counties now share a central communications centre meaning that they are becoming closer and closer in alignment with how they operate so it would be a strong bet that what is happening in Surrey will eventually seep into Sussex.

Protests have been made by serving officers and there are countless social media groups appearing all critising the new ‘concept’ way of operating. And the response to this critism? ‘People don’t like change’. Well they don’t if they feel it could harm people.

Because let’s not forget one major factor here. One of the greatest lessons to be learned about fire is time. Time can make the difference between something small and something big. Truth is time can be life or death.

So what happens when time is extended because a crew are not in their own station but miles away covering another and a fire breaks out near their own station?

Oh wait, we just did find out.

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Henry Smith MP: Working together to beat COVID-19

In his article Crawley MP Henry Smith talks about how the town is working together to beat Covid-19

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From princes to prime ministers, clearly Coronavirus (COVID-19) does not discriminate. It is essential we all follow the Government’s rules: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. By doing so we will get beyond these distressing times together.

I am having continued discussions with local and national government on this fast-moving situation, and the range of measures in place to support people, businesses and public services. In a sign of the scale of this response, ExCeL London has been transformed into 2,000 bed NHS Nightingale Hospital. 

My thanks as well to the companies based in Crawley who are working to ensure increased production of ventilators for the NHS to treat COVID-19 patients. I am also grateful for Gatwick Airport’s contribution in providing use of their long-stay car park as a drive-through testing centre. This is initially for use by NHS staff and invited key workers on an appointment basis. 

I know that many people are wondering when the lockdown will end; the Government are being guided by the science and the best way we can ensure this happens as soon as possible is to stay at home now. 

As the great Sir Winston Churchill is reputed to have said during the dark days of World War II, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” – Good advice I think for these challenging times too.  

Henry Smith MP

Crawley Constituency

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