Incident training deficit: a gap or a chasm? As part of this month's feature on possible knowledge gaps within the Service, FIRE correspondent Mike Fordham contends that not only has the operational experience of firefighters decreased but also the importance of operational skills training, possibly endangering firefighters' lives.(Risk Management)

IT IS NEW YEAR'S DAY. A MAN in his mid 80s makes his daily visit to check on his next door neighbour who is also in his mid 80s, blind and living on his own. On hearing a bleeping noise, which appears to be coming from the smoke alarm, and concerned about the safety of his neighbour, he telephones Stretford Fire Station in Greater Manchester.

A short time later an appliance and crew arrive at the address and promptly and efficiently not only identify that the batteries needs replacing but also that the alarms are incorrectly sited. Remedial action is taken and advice given.

Community fire safety at its operational best. Not quite, as it was further enhanced the very next day when the crew returned to offer additional advice to the neighbour, particularly in respect of alleviating the dangers posed to his safety by his smoking habit. Advice importantly strengthened by positive moves to reduce the risk given that the smoking was going to continue. Checks were also made on the alarms fitted in the original caller's house which were found to be fine and therefore no action needed to be taken. The reassurance given, however, was well received.

At the same time that the crew in GMC were taking this positive community action firefighters from London Fire Brigade were dealing with a very severe fire at the specialist cancer hospital, the Royal Marsden.

Thankfully, due to the prompt and efficient response of the brigade, the heroic work of the nursing staff and the co-ordinated actions of the other emergency services no lives were directly lost, nor were serious injuries suffered. The longer term impact of the fire may though still be considerable given the extraordinary role the hospital plays in the treatment of cancer and the associated research carried out at the site. …

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