With the unpredictable British climate and the increased incidence of extreme weather events, those operating fire stations across the UK need to ask themselves the following question: what happens when the temperature plummets to sub-zero and the severe weather threatens the running of their operation? Have they put procedures in place to ensure that the forecourt, pathways and entrances are safe for staff (in particular, the fire fighters whose jobs are mission critical), as well as site visitors? And have they collated a fail-proof winter gritting programme to make sure the site remains both safe and operational, when the weather takes a turn for the worse?
When it comes to the fire service, I’d imagine many stations will self-deliver their winter maintenance – given the long periods of free man power on the part of the fire fighters, whilst they wait around. But, for those which do follow this route, are they doing this correctly and are there complete logs and records of that delivery taking place? If not, then there ought to be.
Fire engines and vehicles can often be sitting on forecourts being washed and maintained, which in itself, can create a slipping hazard – where the water turns to ice in sub-zero temperatures.
When it comes to severe and wintry conditions, the service faces an array of challenges – not just in keeping stations safe, but also being on top of the routes that they can travel through carefully and with ease, in order to reach the locations where emergencies are happening.
Clearly, the councils’ main priorities will be in keeping the bigger trunk roads safe and free from ice and snow. Fire fighting teams should (if they haven’t already), familiarise themselves with these routes, so they can ensure the fastest and safest ways of getting to an emergency.
On a separate note, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that in today’s ‘compensation culture society’, it is well-known that if you slip and sustain an injury, you may be entitled to make a claim. The majority of claimants are likely to be employees. An ex-prison officer who can no longer walk after slipping on ice has – recently – been awarded a £500,000 payout. Fire stations have a duty of care to ensure that premises are kept safe and free from hazards – as far as is reasonably practicable, from both a staff and visitor perspective. Failure to take the appropriate actions to reduce the risk of slipping and falling could be considered to be a breach in their duty of care, and possible negligence.
Already this year, we are hearing reports of the strongest El Nino for 65 years grabbing the headlines. Indeed, we look set to have some very unsettled weather ahead. An (El Nino) event occurs when the waters of the Pacific become exceptionally warm and distorts weather patterns around the world. However, as the rest of the world warms, Europe looks to get increasingly colder. El Nino occurs every two to seven years, and it never behaves in the same way twice and is only one of the elements in play that will influence the winter weather to come.
Clearly only time will tell if we are set for similar weather trends this winter. There are other factors to take into account such as the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) and Sun output. The long-term forecast is unclear but the more credible camps are erring towards a milder and changeable start to the winter with periods of high winds and rain. Any gaps in this pattern could see temperatures plummet and snow on lower ground. Indicators of the NAO changing later in the winter months would bring colder, snowier weather conditions later in 2016.
We work closely with the MeteoGroup, Europe’s largest private weather forecasters to make sure they have the best forecasting available at the earliest possible opportunity both in pre-winter planning and operationally should severe weather occur.
In the knowledge that snow, or any extreme weather will have a huge impact on any public-facing organisation, particularly one which operates 24/7, it is vital for them to recognise the fact that there is a real need for effective winter planning to avoid accidents, and possible reputational damage.
Whether we like to admit it or not, frost, ice and snow — even if they don’t last long — are predictable features of the British winter. To protect staff and the public, there is a real need to plan ahead before the first ‘unexpected’ snow flurry puts people at risk and causes disruption. Planning ahead of time doesn’t cost anything, but – if needed – it can make the difference between remaining operational, and ensuring exposure to slips and trips is minimised.
As one of the longest established companies in our sector, we provide reliable and affordable services carried out by fully-trained and insured operatives. We have a robust systemised service and management systems in place, which are dedicated to providing clients with the level of service needed when it is needed. At the end of the day, it is about keeping Britain moving (and safe).
For more information, go to www.de-ice.co.uk