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Essex: PCSOs could become retained firefighters

The fire took place in Parade Road - stock photo

The fire took place in Parade Road - stock photo

Archant

PCSOs in Essex could take on a dual role as firefighters while on the beat.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) is conducting a review of its retained firefighter system in a bid to make it work more effectively.

The brigade is facing a shortfall of retained firefighters to cover daytime shifts as increasing numbers of people work away from smaller towns and villages.

Retained firefighters work on an on-call basis, and must be able to get to their station within five minutes of being paged, though this is set to increase to seven minutes in some areas.

In a report to the Essex Fire Authority, due to be discussed tomorrow, the service has set out a number of recommendations, including sharing personnel with other authorities such as traffic wardens and social services staff.

A pilot scheme is already being organised with Essex Police to re-train Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) as firefighters so they could bolster retained crews while on the beat.

The project, to be trialed in Braintree and Uttlesford districts, will be voluntary and PCSOs, frontline civilian police staff, will not be forced to take part.

All 12 fire stations in the area are retained except Great Dunmow, which has a mixed crewing system of retained and full-time firefighters.

An ECFRS spokesman said the project was in its very early stages, but the brigade was excited about taking the scheme forward and seeing how it might work in practice.

Essex Police said it was too soon to comment on the scheme, but said the force was looking forward to working collaboratively with ECFRS.

News of the initiative came as Essex Police yesterday switched to a new operational structure with 500 officers joining new local policing teams in each of the county’s ten policing districts, instead of being run as a centrally co-ordinated team.

As part of the launch of the new model Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “Local policing is at the very heart of how I believe the public want policing delivered in the county.

“PCSOs visibly patrolling their beat continues to be a key part of the policing style in Essex. I understand and agree with the importance residents and businesses attach to this local presence.”

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A policing hub in each district, led by a local inspector, will be responsible for maintaining community ties and working with others to tackle local problems. The teams will take a particular interest in issues such as anti-social behaviour, safeguarding repeat and vulnerable victims and tackling drug and alcohol misuse.

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