Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from Herefordshire and Shropshire will soon undertake training to become on-call firefighters.
This pilot joint police/fire initiative, which supports the on-going programme of retained firefighter recruitment, was developed between Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS), Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and West Mercia Police (WMP).
Along with other trainees, the PCSOs will undertake an intensive recruits training course, which commenced in January and spans over a five-week period. This is the first recruits course that has been run jointly between HWFRS and SFRS and will meet the same standards and requirements as all other new recruits courses.
Each PCSO candidate has had to meet the same levels of entry requirements, will undergo the same training and be employed in the same way as any other applicant, although the whole process has been far smoother and quicker due to close working with West Mercia Police. Ultimately, this means the community will have more on-call firefighters on fire appliances available sooner.
PCSOs will be employed on a retained firefighter’s contract and, like any other on-call firefighter, will provide cover when they are available and not committed to police emergencies. It is expected that, based on call historical volume, a PCSO will attend less than one call a week. The average time taken on these calls is normally around an hour, so the actual time away from PCSO duties will be minimal, but could be the difference between a fire appliance being available or not.
Area Commander Jon Pryce said, “Our on-call firefighter programme of recruitment is continuous and we constantly look to all members of our communities at all our 27 locations, in both Herefordshire and Worcestershire, for potential on-call recruits who live within five minutes of their local fire station. We find it increasingly difficult to find recruits able to give cover during week day-times and weekends, and it is a growing challenge for employers in local communities to release their staff for on-call firefighting duties during working hours. This joint initiative with WMP agreeing to release the PCSOs for fire and rescue service on-call duties, in an emergency, means that Herefordshire and Shropshire we will now have more firefighters available at key times.”
He continued, “Where the public sector, and especially the emergency services, can find ways of working closer together to share resources and staff, this can only be good thing for the public. This initiative provides real value as there will be more widely skilled and trained professional responders in our communities to deal with emergencies, whatever that emergency is and whenever the public need us. I am not sure it’s important who the person dealing with the crisis works for or what they do when they are not answering an emergency, only that the public get the highest quality and fastest response possible. We have nearly 400 on-call firefighters, who come from all parts of our communities and, when needed, answer the call and put their lives at risk to help the public as a professional firefighter.”
It is hoped that that the successful PCSO candidates will be responding as on-call firefighters by April 2016 and that this pilot scheme may be extended in the future into Worcestershire and other parts of Herefordshire.