Aberdeenshire Council agrees priorities in new Local Fire and Rescue Plan

A range of proposed priorities for the development of a revised Local Fire and Rescue Plan for Aberdeenshire have been agreed by councillors.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is required to prepare Local Fire and Rescue Plans for each local authority in Scotland. Looking ahead to the next three-year plan, the key priorities will be:

• Unintentional Harm and Home Safety
• Non-Fire Emergencies
• Deliberate Fire Setting
• Non-Domestic Fire Safety including Accidental Primary & Secondary Fires
• Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals
• Emergency Response and Community Resilience

On Thursday (Sept 3, 2020), members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee received a presentation from Martin Tait, Area Commander, LSO Aberdeenshire and Moray, who highlighted the ongoing partnership work in the North-east which is essential to make our communities safer.

Highlighting some of the key figures of the report, Mr Tait said that over the last three years the service had seen an 8% reduction in fire incidents and a 9% reduction in false alarms. There was a 15% increase in special service calls across the area.

With regards to cases of unintentional harm and home safety – of which there were 155 cases reported in 2019-20 compared with 163 in 2017-18 - the report said this was now widely recognised as presenting significant issues to the health of the public, as well as the wider impact these injuries have on public services.

Mr Tait said that over the lifespan of the plan the service has seen a reduction in those types of incidents and it continues to carry out considerable efforts to try and reduce those types of instance further very much in partnership with a key partners.

In terms of home fire safety visits delivered by both local crews and dedicated staff in the community action team, 2,107 were delivered last year compared with 1,976 in the first year of the plan. Mr Tait said the service has also seen an increase in the number of referrals it is receiving for home safety visits (780 last year compared with 458 in 2017-18) which was testament to the strong partnership working with other agencies.

Councillors were unanimous in their praise and recognition of the hugely-important work the fire service undertakes to support health and social care across North-east communities.

Protecting and responding to those most vulnerable and at risk from fire and harm in the home remains a key priority for the service and Mr Tait said this could only be achieved through effective collaboration with partners such as the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership.

Another core element of Scottish Fire and Rescue’s local activity is responding to emergencies such as road traffic collisions and co-response to medical emergencies and flooding. Members were told that there had been an increase in non-fire emergencies (500 in 2019-20 compared with 425 in 2017-18) but he said that thankfully the highest category of those types – road traffic collisions – had actually fallen from 182 to 156.

He said: “It’s still far too many and we’re still doing a lot of work in conjunction with other partners to try and reduce that, but it is encouraging to know that we’ve seen a decline and hopefully that will continue.”

Looking to the strength of the service, Mr Tait said two new additional posts had been secured for the whole-time complement at Peterhead Fire Station and a number of additional whole-time rural watch commander posts had also been introduced across Aberdeenshire which demonstrated commitment to the local area.

During discussion on the service’s participation in the Grampian Local Resilience Partnership, Mr Tait spoke of the recent tragic train derailment which occurred at Carmont near Stonehaven which claimed the lives of three men and injury to several others.

Firstly sending the service’s thoughts to the families and friends of those affected from that incident, Mr Tait explained: “From a multi-agency approach, there was some really good work undertaken by key partners in relation to the incident and that just highlights our commitment to partnership working.”

Communities Committee chair Cllr Anne Stirling said afterwards: “We welcome the progress being made against the priorities in the current plan and I have no doubt that the service will continue to make inroads to tackle the areas highlighted as being of particular importance.

“I think we can all agree that the commitment and dedication continually being demonstrated by all personnel within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service across Aberdeenshire and nationally is truly exceptional.

“Tragic incidents such as the train derailment are never easy to deal with. Both emergency services and council services worked together extremely well during that response.

“Our thoughts go not only to the families and friends of the bereaved, but also the emergency service workers who were involved and who, I am sure, will have been deeply impacted by that very difficult situation.”