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Fire Staff Accomodation May be Unsafe

Accommodation for Fire Safety Officers attending a national training course may not meet the Fire Service's own safety requirements, according to Alliance Emergency Services Spokesperson, Grant Gillon MP.

The five day "Fire Dynamics Course" was due to start today (Monday 16 August) at the Central Institute of Technology (CIT) in Upper Hutt.

"A number of Fire Safety Officers are refusing to use the accommodation provided at CIT claiming that it's in breach of Fire Service safety and evacuation requirements. As a result, these officers may not be attending the course," says Mr Gillon.

"In July 1998, the then National Commander of the Fire Service, Bob Sampson, sent Fire Region Managers a memo setting down minimum safety and evacuation requirements for various types of building.

"The memo identifies an automatic smoke alarm system in sleeping and egress areas as the minimum requirement for a nine level accommodation building such as that at CIT. Wellington Fire Safety officials have approved this building's evacuation scheme, even though it apparently falls short of the memo's requirement.

"It's extremely worrying that Fire Safety Officers should be asked to use accommodation when no consensus exists as to whether it's safe. The situation reveals an unacceptable lack of concern for staff safety as well as sloppiness in applying agreed standards," Grant Gillon says.

"The Fire Service Commission has made great play with the need to improve Fire Safety and Prevention in a bid to justify cuts in professional firefighter numbers. However, concerns have been raised in Parliament's Select Committee on Internal Affairs and Local Government over slow progress in implementing programmes for safe buildings and evacuation procedures.

"It's certainly reasonable to question the depth of the Fire Commission's concern for safety and prevention when Fire Safety Officers themselves are expected to put up with facilities of dubious safety. It's also regrettable that this factor should prevent some officers from taking part in a valuable training exercise.

"If the Fire Service goes ahead with using this building, it will be showing that there is one rule for the public and another for the Fire Service. And it will also jeopardise its credibility in any legal challenges concerning compliance with fire safety regulations. At least one of these is pending at the moment," he adds.

ENDS

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