Rural fire services back in fashion: the financial and logistical difficulties facing smaller, rural fire services are well known. As the debate continues over whether bigger is really better, FIRE visits Wiltshire to see how frontline fire personnel are striving to improve service delivery through innovation and perseverance.(Rural fire services)

WHATEVER RECOMMENDATIONS come from CFOA's deliberation over the optimal size for Fire and Rescue Services, and whichever way the next Government moves, there is a truism, which should pervade deliberation. That is the consistent ability of fire service personnel to produce innovative and effective initiatives and deliver them with sustained passion and commitment. Such PQAs are seldom reflected in Select Committee reports or CPAs.

On a recent visit to Wiltshire, CFO Andy Goves encouraged me to speak to those who are leading these initiatives; some original others taken from elsewhere and tweaked for local needs; all showing signs of reducing risks to the community.

Reducing Road Risk

'Safe Drive--Stay Alive' is one of the most impressive and hard-hitting initiatives the Fire Service has devised in recent years. Northern Ireland first developed the concept of producing film footage of a devastating crash involving teenagers followed by live talking heads from the emergency services, victims, parents et al talking about their role, experience and personal impact of road traffic collisions. Having witnessed several of these dramatisations, which are directed at school leavers and would-be drivers, they are always intense and emotional. The effects upon the audience can be readily seen as many leave the theatre visibly shaken.

FIRE has long called for this initiative to be rolled out regionally. Steve Williams, Group Manager, headed up the scheme in Wiltshire after seeing the Northern Ireland dramatisation. "Within minutes of seeing it, I felt really good about it. I had a gut reaction that it feels and looks right," he relates. "But it looked difficult, almost impossible for us to do."

However, after breaking it down to manageable chunks: venue, speakers, audience, the scheme began to pick up steam. "The bottom line was the 20,000 [pounds sterling] we were granted from the Safer Wiltshire Executive to launch it as a pilot scheme. We then built bridges with the police, ambulance, bereaved parents groups, the Primary Care Trust and so on. …

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