Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Services gathered at the historic Blenheim Palace to showcase one of the successes of their ongoing collaborative partnership to deliver increased efficiency and effectiveness for the communities they serve across the Thames Valley.
The event was attended by elected representatives from the Thames Valley, Senior Officers from each of the three fire services as well as team members whose hard work has resulted in the seamless delivery of this great achievement.
Vehicles on display
On show in front of the Great Court were new Volvo fire engines, an Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) and the standardised personal protective equipment (PPE) kit.
In the past few years, the framework of the three fire services using a single supplier has been established with 51 Volvo fire engines being purchased and deployed in service throughout the Thames Valley. This means the engines have the same key pieces of equipment throughout the region to ensure over the border incidents can be dealt with in the most effective way possible. The streamlined process has also resulted in improved efficiency in regional procurement working practices.
In response to local needs and risks, two of the fire services have upgraded their ALPs to offer improved technologically advanced equipment and provide a more effective response to residents.
Electric vehicles have also been purchased by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in a drive to lower carbon emissions.
Councillor Glynis Phillips remarked: ‘I was proud to be part of the celebrations of the joint working across the Thames Valley Fire & Rescue Services. These services not only do outstanding work keeping us all safe but are using working collaboratively to realise efficiencies and become even more cost-effective.’
The operational alignment programme
Improving efficiency and effectiveness is at the heart of each collaborative project. This long-term initiative is one of many examples of ongoing closer working by the emergency services to reduce the risk of the communities they serve of the Thames Valley. The joint purchasing of appliances and acquiring the same PPE facilitates the three fire services to work closely as a fully integrated team at incidents throughout the Thames Valley as a whole.
One of the programme‘s early successes was the opening of the Thames Valley Fire Control Service (TVFCS). The highly effective joint control room for BFRS, OFRS and RBFRS marked its sixth anniversary in July 2021. It replaced the individual fire and rescue service control rooms in Aylesbury, Kidlington and Reading and is now responsible for answering over 200k calls from an area with 2.3 million residents.
There are further projects in progress and once completed this significant programme will bring key benefits including:
- Consistency in our response to incidents within the Thames Valley, leading to an efficient resolution.
- Increased effectiveness with the same operational procedures resulting in improved productivity.
- Increased opportunity to share best practices via combined training for continuous improvement.
- Cost savings of over £1.2 million per year for the three fire and rescue services via TVFCS.
The Chairman of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority, Councillor Lesley Clarke OBE, said this is a great example of where the collaboration work that we are all committed to delivers key benefits and improved effectiveness to all the communities we serve in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Royal Berkshire.
The collaborative partners remain highly motivated in their vision of working together on innovative strategies to keep their communities safe. Further integration is on the horizon with the services taking advance of new technologies of using the same breathing apparatus (BA) equipment. Developments will be taking place over the next two years to enable the three fire and rescue services to purchase the same BA sets, have the same policies and be trained in the same manner resulting in a ‘Thames Valley BA wearer’ being available at over the border incidents.
Royal Berkshire Fire Authority Chairman Councillor Colin Dudley said: ‘I am proud of our achievements, which have been driven through using well-established process and strong relationships. We proactively encourage our staff to always keep collaboration with our blue-light partners at front of mind when discussing initiatives, whether it be a large project or day to day activities.’