The modern Fire & Rescue Service in Guernsey embraces all aspects of fire fighting and fire prevention, as do our colleagues in the UK. Guernsey, however, cannot benefit from any early assistance from a neighbouring Service and therefore has to be self-sufficient.
The Service has a significant role to play in the area of Fire Safety. If possible it is much better to prevent a fire from occurring and therefore save people from distress and perhaps injury or worse. To this end, the Fire Safety Department seeks to advise about the reasonable safety measures that should be adopted by property owners so as to safeguard people using particular buildings. The Fire Services (Guernsey) Law 1989 adds the force of law to this effort.
- Prior to 1907 the various Insurance Companies who insured property within the Island provided the only organised fire cover in Guernsey. There were three Brigades within St Peter Port and their purpose was to reduce the liability of the insurers in the event of fire.
- By 1907 the Parish Authorities of St Peter Port had assumed responsibility for the Fire Brigade, which was housed at on the outskirts of the Town and manned by volunteers. When called upon the Brigade would charge for its services. This arrangement continued until 1922, when the States of Guernsey assumed control.
- In 1935 the Brigade moved to the Town Arsenal site and has remained there ever since. Soon after, in 1938, the first full-time member was appointed to the Brigade, with his brief being to organise the training of Brigade members, administration and the maintenance of the fire hydrants located throughout the Island, (duties which remain very relevant today).
- On the 1st April 2005 the Guernsey Fire Brigade became the Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service in recognition of the broader role now carried out in the community and also in line with other British Fire & Rescue Services.
Major Fire Risks
- The major fire risk in the Island is the town area of St Peter Port. 'Special risks' in other areas include oil depots; power station; prison; airport; harbour and hospitals.
- In addition to extinguishing fires, the Service attends many other incidents which are classed as Special Services. These include:-
- Road Traffic Accidents;
- Assisting property owners after storm damage or flooding;
- Chemical incidents.
- All Service members, both operational and those in the Fire Safety Department, are involved in a continual process of educating members of the public in matters of fire safety. Community Fire Safety is gradually changing the emphasis of a Firefighters role from firefighting (cure) to fire safety (prevention).
Structure of the Service
- The Service resources are centred on one Whole-time Station on Guernsey and a Retained Station on Herm.
- The Chief Fire Officer is supported by an Area Manager who acts as the Head of Fire Safety and a Group Manager who acts as the Head of Operations & Training. They in turn receive management support from four Station Officers who each have a specific focus on Operations, Training and Fire Safety, in addition to a tactical operational command role.
- There are 55 Whole-time and 10 Retained (part-time) operational staff employed by the Service.
- Additionally there are 2 civilian staff positions providing support services.
- The Head of Fire Safety oversees the Service's Fire Safety Department, which consists of a Fire Safety Manager, a Fire Safety Officer and a Community Fire Safety Officer who work normal office hours.
- To provide 24hr emergency cover in Guernsey there are 4 operational shifts (known as 'Watches'), each consisting of 12 personnel. Each watch has a Watch Commander in charge, 2 Crew Commanders, and 9 Firefighters. These Watches operate a rotating duty system of 10-hour day shifts and 14-hour night shifts in order to maintain the necessary cover. In addition, off-duty Firefighters carry radio-pagers to provide backup crews when required. The Retained staff in Herm all work and live on the Island and therefore have a rapid initial response to incidents before support crews from Guernsey arrive.
- It can be seen that this provides a good career structure for those joining the Service and wishing to progress in the future.
- The Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service Annual Report provides information on the work and associated interests of the Service covering operational incidents, training, fire safety and support services.
- The Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service has historically been reviewed by Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate in order to obtain an independent appraisal of its general efficiency and effectiveness.
- The most recent Independent Inspection process was undertaken in October 2008 by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Advisory Unit (formally Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland).