LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - July 31, 2012) - The Fire Brigades Union has attacked today's government decision to risk public safety in England and Wales by refusing to require fire and rescue services to respond to flood emergencies, despite the wettest June on record.
Last month firefighters carried out scores of rescues and protected vital national infrastructure during major flooding. Although the fire service routinely responds to serious floods, it is not mandated to do so by law. This means that funding for firefighters and the specialist equipment needed is not guaranteed and has to be found within existing budgets.
Exercise Watermark, the flood rescue exercise in 2011 showed that the fire and rescue service does not have enough firefighters, boats and equipment needed to respond to flooding over prolonged periods (1). However the Westminster government has concluded that placing a statutory duty on the fire and rescue service to respond to flooding "is not the best way forward at this time" (2).
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said:
"The Fire Brigades Union fears that the public will be put at risk because fire authorities will not have the resources to respond to flooding, particularly in the context of massive cuts to the fire and rescue service.
"This summer, firefighters have again done magnificent work in rescuing people from floods and protecting vital infrastructure. Firefighters always turn out to help the public during these emergencies, but there is no requirement in law in England and Wales to make sure the fire and rescue service has the necessary staff, equipment and resources to make this intervention effective.
"Government reports show that flood risk has increased and is increasing. Flood defences can help, but there will always be extreme weather which requires emergency intervention. I call on the government to make sure the public enjoys the protection of a properly equipped fire and rescue service."
"The public rightly expects firefighters to respond to floods and the government needs to recognise this in order to ensure that the public are protected."
The increased risk of flooding is recognised in Defra's Climate Change Risk Assessment. Firefighters in Scotland and Northern Ireland are bound by law to deal with the effects of major flooding, but governments in England and Wales have failed to follow suit.
1. The Exercise Watermark report (31 October 2011)
2. The government's response to the Exercise Watermark report was published today