Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) is the statutory fire and rescue service for the county of Essex in the east of England, and is one of the largest fire services in the country, covering an area of 1,338 square miles and a population of over 1.7 million people.
In 2015, the service attended around 14,000 emergency incidents within the year, mostly fires and road traffic collisions (RTC). Additionally, lift releases, effecting entry into buildings, flooding incidents and animal rescues are also incidents dealt with by the ECFRS. However, around 40 percent of these incidents are false alarms and require no further action. Between 2004 and 2014 the number of incidents attended by ECFRS decreased significantly by around 50 percent, with around 38 calls per day, compared to around 77 calls per day in 2004.
ECFRS employs 1,354 staff: 570 full-time firefighters, 486 retained firefighters, 36 control personnel and 262 support staff.
There are 50 fire stations in Essex, 12 of which are wholetime and generally located in the more densely populated areas; 34 are retained and 4 are day-crewed. ECFRS have 74 frontline fire appliances, with between 55 and 70 available for mobilisation at any moment.
Major risks covered include Stansted and Southend airport, Harwich seaport, Lakeside shopping centre, Coryton oil refinery, power stations and docks at Tilbury and part of the M25 and M11 motorways, A127 and A12 road.
As well as attending fires, traffic collisions and other rescue operations, ECFRS provides emergency response to hazardous materials incidents and has an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team of officers with special training and equipment to conduct rescues from collapsed buildings and enclosed spaces. The Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team have their own fire station separate from others across the county, the ECFRS being the first to do this in the country. Their resources include a search dog trained to locate people trapped in rubble. Another primary role of the service is preventative community safety work; in 2010 ECFRS fitted over 7,000 smoke alarms in houses across the county.
ECFRS's headquarters is located in Kelvedon. The Service is divided into two Area Commands:
- East Area Command (Rayleigh Weir)
- West Area Command (Harlow)
The acting Chief Fire Officer is Adam Eckley.
The Emergency Operational Fire Control is situated in Hutton. 36 control staff handle approximately 500,000 calls each year, including over 14,000 999 emergency calls. The control staff also carry out incident co-ordination, appliance mobilisation and movements to ensure strategic fire cover, movement of personnel and advanced call handling to give life protecting advice via the telephone. Radio communications are made between incidents and Fire Control and control staff liaise with other emergency services and provide additional resources when requested by firefighting personnel. Emergency calls are handled in an average of 54 seconds from the time of answering to the time of dispatching the fire crew.
There are five firefighter training centres, located in Basildon, Chelmsford, Orsett, Witham and Wethersfield.
The Service workshop is in Lexden, where the operational fleet of frontline fire appliances and specialist appliances are maintained, and the reserve fleet of spare appliances are stored.
ECFRS has the following standard fire appliances in operation:43 Rescue Pumps (RP): the standard firefighting vehicle mobilised to all emergency calls. These appliances are equipped with a high-pressure two-stage main pump also capable of making foam via an onboard foam inductor system, two high-pressure hose reels, a set of rescue ladders, a light portable fire pump, four breathing apparatus sets, two spare breathing air cylinders and hydraulic rescue equipment, as well as other miscellaneous tools.
25 Water Tenders (WT): similar to the Rescue Pump except with less emphasis on rescue equipment and greater water capacity.
8 Heavy Rescue Pumps (HRP): similar to the standard Rescue Pump but with more emphasis on heavy rescue operations and incidents (e.g. road traffic collisions).
5 Aerial Ladder Platforms (ALP): extendible ladder platforms with rescue cages, stretchers and additional lighting, these vehicles provide high-level access and firefighting capability, with a vertical reach of almost 100 ft, almost 80 ft sideways, and up to 55 ft below ground level. They are based at Chelmsford, Colchester, Grays, Harlow and Southend-on-Sea.
3 Foam Tenders (FT): introduced in 2011, these units are cheaper to maintain and easier to use than the previous foam vehicles, and can provide state-of-the-art foam proportioning equipment for transport incidents and refinery fires. They are based at Maldon, Orsett and Stansted Mountfitchet.
2 Control Units (CU): based at Basildon and Clacton-on-Sea.
2 Water Bowsers (WB): based at Chelmsford and Halstead.
1 Hose Layer (HLU): based at Rayleigh Weir.
1 Animal Rescue Unit (ARU): introduced in 2011, the ARU is based on an all-terrain Unimog chassis and is fitted with a Hiab crane capable of extending up to 13.7 m and lifting weights of up to 3,250 kg. The vehicle is also equipped with three 'pods' containing all the equipment that crews might need to carry out specialist animal rescues; its crew is specially trained in large animal rescue and welfare. It is based at South Woodham Ferrers.
2 Flood Response Units (FRU)
1 Welfare Module
1 Special Rescue Van
1 Off-Road Vehicle
1 Environmental Module: to help crews contain pollutants at incidents, this unit carries a wide range of equipment including pumps, oil and chemical absorbent materials, booms, drain-blockers and over-drums for containing leaking chemical containers. It was launched in 2011.
The service is also reviewing requirements for a breathing apparatus tender. The standard appliances (Rescue Pumps and Water Tenders) are crewed by at least four and as many as six firefighters, while specialist units such as the Aerial Ladder Platforms and Rescue Tenders are crewed by a minimum of two.
USAR appliances, based at Lexden, include:1 Incident Response Unit (based at Chelmsford) (IRU)
1 High Volume Pump (HVP)
5 prime movers with various demountable pods
1 Search Dog Unit
1 personnel carrier
1 Detection, Identification and Monitioring (DIM) vehicle
The service's driving school is at Chelmsford, and is home to three emergency fire appliance driving (EFAD) pumps and two multi-purpose driver training lorries.
Training centres at Wethersfield and Witham each have at least two designated training pumps.
In 2010, the service responded to the scene within an average of 8 minutes 56 seconds (10 minute target), and 93% within 15 minutes (90% target).
In 2014, the service responded to the scene within an average of 9 minutes 10 seconds (10 minute target), and 91% within 15 minutes (90% target).
When the control operator receives an emergency call, the average time it took to identify the emergency and allocate the right resources was between 70–80 seconds. For wholetime crews, a turnout took on average 2 minutes to be ready for mobilisation. For on-call crews, a turnout took on average 4 minutes 30 seconds to be ready for mobilisation.See: Interactive map of fire stations
This is a complete list of the service's 50 fire stations (wholetime/retained/day crewed), appliances allocated to them, and number of emergency callouts in 2016:
Southend fire station is also home to the UK's first dedicated Young Firefighters' Centre, opened in July 2010.
State-of-the-art equipment, multi-purpose vehicles, a search and rescue dog and a purpose-built base staffed with a highly trained and experienced team comprise the county's urban search and rescue (USAR) team.
The team is equipped to rescue victims trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, or major transport accidents, for example. They are able to locate and safely extract trapped person, and can shore up unstable buildings so that firefighters can continue with rescue operations.
The USAR team are equipped with prime movers, specialist hook-lift vehicles that can be loaded with one of five different equipment pods, depending on what situation the team are going to face. These pods include hose layers and high-volume pumps, technical rescue, timber for shoring up unstable structures, and even a multi-purpose skid loader that can access tight spaces, explore voids, and move heavy loads of debris.
Following the September 11 attacks new risks were identified for which rescue services would need to be better prepared, and the British government responded with the announcement that USAR units were to be established throughout the country. The Lexden base became the UK's first such facility.
ECFRS was chosen as one of the 17 strategically suitable services partly because it already had 14 officers trained in urban rescue, members of the UK Fire Service Safety & Rescue Team who were part of the rescue effort that was sent to Bam in Iran after it was hit by a major earthquake in December 2003 where they helped in the search for victims amongst the ruins of the ancient city.
The station commander at Lexden, a specialist co-ordinator of search and rescue operations, was also sent with the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Haiti in January 2010 after a major earthquake struck the country.
In February 2011, six ECFRS firefighters, including two from the USAR unit at Lexden, joined the UK's International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team sent to assist with rescue efforts in New Zealand's second city Christchurch after an earthquake hit the region.
In April 2015, six firefighters and rescue dog have been deployed to Nepal to join a team of 67 search and rescue and medical experts to help and look for earthquake survivors.
Formed in 1992, the UK's ISAR team comprises specialist search and rescue officers drawn from 13 brigades who are on call 24 hours a day. The ECFRS team's primary role is urban search and rescue but it has also trained and involved in water rescue and working at height.
ECFRS assisted in the emergency response to floods in Oxfordshire in 2007, where seven firefighters from the Swift Water Rescue team helped rescue victims trapped by the floods with a specialist fireboat.
Essex was also one of 16 brigades called in to attend the Buncefield oil depot fire near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, in December 2005. Fire appliances from Orsett, Hadleigh, Harlow, and foam appliances from Grays, Maldon and Epping assisted in operations at the largest ever blaze in peacetime Britain.