Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from Herefordshire and Shropshire will soon undertake training to become on-call firefighters.
This pilot joint police/fire initiative, which supports the on-going programme of retained firefighter recruitment was developed earlier in the year between Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS), Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and West Mercia Police (WMP).
Along with other trainees, the PCSOs will undertake an intensive recruits training course which will commence in January and span over a five week period.
This is a first recruits course that has been run jointly between HWFRS and SFRS and will meet the same standards and requirements as all other new recruits course.
Each PCSO candidate has had to meet the same levels of entry requirements, will undergo the same training and be employed in the same way as any other applicant, although the whole process has been far smoother and quicker due to close working with WMP.
Ultimately, this means the community will have more on-call firefighters on fire engines available sooner.
PCSOs will be employed on a retained firefighters contract and, like any other on-call firefighter, will provide cover when they are available and not committed to police emergencies.
It is expected that, based on call historical volume, a PCSO will attend less than one call a week.
The average time taken on these calls is normally around an hour, so the actual time away from PCSO duties will be minimal, but could be the difference between a fire engine being available or not.
Our on-call (retained) firefighter programme of recruitment is continuous and we constantly look to all members of our communities at all our 27 locations, in both Herefordshire and Worcestershire, for potential on-call (retained) recruits who live within 5 minutes of their local fire station. We find it increasingly difficult to find recruits able to give cover during week day-times and weekends, and it is a growing challenge for employers in local communities to release their staff for on-call firefighting duties during working hours. This joint initiative with WMP agreeing to release the PCSOs for fire and rescue service on-call duties in an emergency means that Herefordshire and Shropshire we will now have more firefighters available at key times.
It is hoped that that the successful PCSO candidates will be responding as on-call firefighters by April 2016 and that this pilot scheme may be extended in the future into Worcestershire and other parts of Herefordshire.