Review of fire service targets

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

SOUTH Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is reviewing its response targets to life-threatening incidents - which the brigade has failed ever to meet.

It aims to reach 80% of emergencies within six minutes - usually house fires or car crashes – in line with a benchmark set in 2006.

The closest it came was the year the target was set, when the figure was 64%.

Last year, the target was met 55% of the time - and at its lowest level, in 2009, it was 52%.

But fire service managers said that despite missing the targets, the number of deaths and injuries recorded has fallen from 158 in 2006 to 50 in 2012.

The number of 999 calls the force receives has also gone down, from 42,835 in 2009 to 29,425 in 2012 - which the force claims is down to the preventative work it has been focusing on.

A fire service spokesman said: “Our current response time target was set in 2006. We believe it is the most challenging such target in the country, and we have been unable to meet it.

“However, in that time, the number of emergency calls to us has halved, and the number of fire deaths and injuries has gone down by two-thirds.

“Effective fire prevention, and the fitting and testing of smoke alarms, are more important factors in keeping people safe.”

Proposals to review the target will be presented to the South Yorkshire Fire Authority.

The spokesman added: “We will always respond to every life-threatening incident as quickly as we can, but we recognise that having a response time target helps to make us accountable and provides people with reassurance about the service they receive.

“Therefore, we are currently reviewing our targets, and will make proposals to our authority, aiming to set a more realistic target in the near future.”

John Gillivan, who is brigade secretary for the Fire Brigades Union in South Yorkshire, said changing the target would not ‘benefit the public’.

He added: “The target is needed because it is about accountability.

“These are targets that are going to affect lives so it’s absolutely imperative there is something to aim for.

“It is achievable.”

Numbers of ‘primary fires’, which affect homes, businesses or cars, have gone down in South Yorkshire from 4,685 in 2006 to 2,112 last year.