Hide

Hide

Who is this consultation aimed at?

If you have an interest in the future of North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, then this consultation is aimed at you. 

Every year, before deciding on its plan for the following year, North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority invites comments on a particular subject.  The ideas, insights and different points of view that people contribute can be really helpful for making sure that the Authority’s plan for the following year is a good one. 

You don’t need to be an expert in environmental issues to respond.  All that the Authority asks is that you think seriously about the issues and submit your views, ideas or information by the deadline. 

 

What is this consultation about?

This year the Authority is asking about developing a long-term Environment and Sustainability Strategy.  What do you think that Strategy should include?  What should be at the forefront of the Authority’s thinking in terms of planning for the next 20 or 30 years?  What ideas do you have for the services that it might provide in the next decades?

Looking back over the past 30 years, we have seen significant changes in how people live and also what local people expect to contribute towards, and receive from, public services.  What do you think is likely to happen over the next 30 years?  Is there anything specific to North Wales that needs to be considered?

Climate change, environmental responsibility, social responsibility…what would you like to see in the Fire and Rescue Service’s plans for the future?  Everyone knows that it is a Service that has changed and adapted to a great extent over the years.  But waiting until the last minute before reacting is rarely the best way of doing things, which is why the Authority needs to plan ahead with an adaptable long-term strategy. 

We hope you find the information provided useful and that this will encourage you to submit your views before 31 December 2019. Details on how to respond are available at the end of the document.

 

Background Information

North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority operates across the six county council areas of North Wales, serving an estimated resident population of just under 700,000 people, over a land area of 2,375 square miles.

It employs close to 900 people in full- and part-time roles, with over a third of its workforce being fluent Welsh speakers.

Its emergency response is organised around 44 fire stations located across North Wales, with a fleet of 54 fire engines and 35 other appliances including environmental protection units, aerial ladder platforms, narrow access vehicles, foam carriers, boats, technical rescue and incident command units.  It also maintains a ‘white’ fleet of over 100 vehicles for non-emergency work. 

The Fire and Rescue Service responds to over 5,000 emergency incidents a year, many of which are weather-related.  In hot dry years, outdoor fires are more prevalent, and in cold wet years, it is more usual to see an increase in chimney fires, flooding and storm events.  Some years, of course, there are periods of both hot dry weather and cold wet weather.  Last year, 14% of incidents attended were non-fire emergencies, with the remainder an equal percentage of fires and false alarms. 

It spends an annual revenue budget of over £35million, with around 71% of that going on employee costs, 20% on non-pay costs, 10% on capital financing; and the equivalent of 1% being received by way of income.

The Authority takes its prevention role very seriously, allocating resources to schools programmes, safety campaigns, media messages, audits of non-domestic premises, visits to people’s homes to advise on home safety, arson reduction and work with particular groups such as farmers and landowners.  Not only does this prevention activity make sense in terms of public safety, but it also helps protect built and natural environments, agricultural land and important habitats, and contributes to cleaner land, air and water.

As a Category 1 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act, the Service remains available to respond to large scale events that could threaten serious damage to the welfare of people, wildlife, the environment and primary supply chains. 

Similarly, it must remain available for mass decontamination of people after chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents. 

 

Why adopt a new Environment and Sustainability Strategy for 2020 onwards?

The Authority can be proud of what it has already achieved in terms of its environmental policies, but it needs to continue to do more.  In 2010 the Authority adopted a Sustainable Development Plan.  In 2011 it set up a Sustainability Development Board to help drive down its energy consumption and reduce the environmental impact of its buildings and vehicles.  In 2013 the Authority re-committed to its Energy and Environmental Policies and a programme of improvements in its consumption of fuel, utilities and resources; its management of waste; and its promotion of biodiversity.

With the introduction of the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, the Authority turned its attention to complying with this new legislation and finding ways of working with other organisations to improve the environmental as well as the social, economic and cultural well-being of future generations of people in Wales.  One of the key requirements of this Act is for the Authority to act “in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. 

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 paved the way for the Welsh Government to set interim greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040 (leading up to at least an 80% reduction by 2050) and five-yearly “carbon budgets” that set limits on the total amount of emissions that can be emitted in Wales.  . 

In March 2019, the Welsh Government published its low carbon plan for achieving a low-carbon Wales.  Soon afterwards, it declared a climate emergency to strengthen and galvanise climate change action at home and internationally.  One aim relates to reducing the carbon footprint of Welsh products by introducing a more resource efficient (circular) economy.  Part of enabling that would be through public sector procurement to stimulate the market.

In June 2019 the Welsh Government further committed to achieving a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with an ambition to reach net-zero.

 

Will Climate Change really affect the Fire and Rescue Service?

Yes, we think it will.  As long ago as 2006 a research report[1] published by the UK Government recognised the impact that climate change would be likely to have on fire and rescue services:

“Climate change will bring more frequent, hot, dry summers, warmer wetter winters and an increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as heavy downpours and flooding, summer droughts, and coastal flooding.

[…] climate change will lead to an increase in the frequency of hot summers and therefore to an increase in the number and severity of grassland and forest fires, requiring significant extra effort from Fire and Rescue Services.  These summers are also predicted to be very dry, which may lead to water shortages. Water shortages during the summer will impact on Fire and Rescue Services in the UK in both training and fire fighting.

It is also shown that increased winter rainfall and higher sea levels will lead to an increase in the frequency of flooding events during winter.”

The natural environment is vital for well-being; it provides air to breathe, food, drinking water, clothing, medicines, building materials and provides green spaces for leisure pursuits, however, according to the Future Generations Commissioner[2] Wales is now among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.  It has the worst air quality in the UK and still emits high levels of greenhouse gases. It faces an increase in the risk of large scale flooding and soil erosion and is facing the extinction of 1 in 14 wildlife species.

The Authority’s vision is to be an environmentally conscious and responsible organisation which is important because not only do more frequent extreme weather events like flooding and grassland fires have a direct impact on the demand for our services, they also present significant financial risk to the Authority.

By working with partners, the Authority hopes to bring together stakeholders and communities to tackle climate change in the hope that neighbourhoods can be strengthened and additional benefits can be created through the knowledge that by acting together a better future is achievable.

We think that the most likely impacts will be on the Authority’s:

  • Response to emergencies;
  • Prevention activity;
  • Corporate actions and responsibilities.

These are considered in more detail on the following pages.

 

[1] Department for Communities and Local Government: “Effects of Climate Change on Fire and Rescue Services in the UK.  Fire Research Technical Report 1/2006”. 

[2] https://futuregenerations.wales/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Resilient-Wales-Topic-1.pdf