County of Cumbria to get its first blue light tri-service building

The new Furness Peninsula Blue Light Hub will accommodate not only the fire and rescue service, police and ambulance, but also other Cumbria County Council departments.

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The new building, which received more than £4.6 million from the government fire transformation fund, will be a “one-stopshop” for the local community. It will enable the various services, departments and third sector volunteers to increase their interoperability and collaborative working to provide an effective, efficient and resilient service to the public.

The Hub will also provide a shared training facility for joint learning and development, allowing each service to develop a greater understanding of other services’ roles, responsibilities and capabilities, as well as joint exercises to improve operational efficiency at emergency incidents.

John Wall, Cumbria County Council Fire and Rescue Service Operational Commander for Barrow & South Lakes, said: “The new training facility will provide a platform for collaborative learning and development. Due to the nature of our environment we will not only be training with other blue light services but also with our colleagues from the volunteer rescue sector for incidents such as flooding, wildfire, sand rescues and animal rescues.”

During the flooding in Cumbria in December, firefighters from the area responded to an emergency call from North West Fire Control that proved to be particularly critical.

In the Levens Valley area of South Cumbria where the River Kent had broken its banks, a young woman was trapped in her car by the volume of water. Stuck in a flooded ditch, the women was up to her neck in water with her face pressed against the rear windscreen of the near-submerged car. With minutes to spare, two firefighters waded to her, smashed the rear windscreen and pulled her to the safety.

“The firefighters showed great professionalism and bravery to rescue the lady that day,” said Operational Commander Wall. “By collaborative training, the critical lessons and experience learnt from such an incident can be shared with other services, to ensure the safety of both the public and colleagues when dealing with such emergencies.”

Regular day-to-day collaboration will enable services to share their knowledge, intelligence and resources to both identify and reduce the risk to the most vulnerable in the community along with effective targeted prevention interventions. The enhanced community facilities will also support community youth activities such as the young firefighter scheme. Operational Commander Wall said: “There will be opportunities in the future for joint community safety initiatives, where personnel working within the Hub will be able to identify and deliver on various issues such as domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and antisocial behaviour. As a fire and rescue service we can use our prevention experience to emphasise fire safety awareness to the public as well as staff from other departments.”

Operational Commander Wall said the future direction of travel was to work in partnership with the North West Ambulance Service to provide a joint response to medical emergencies.

Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member, Councillor Barry Doughty said “The Blue Light Hub will provide for more effective and efficient operations across the whole Furness peninsula. Cumbria has a first rate fire and rescue service that is valued by its local communities and we welcome this investment in our local front line services.”

The Hub offers the opportunity for increased efficiency savings arising from removal of the duplication of property costs and savings through shared utilities. Other efficiencies may include the sale or re-use of existing sites and properties.

Building work will start on the Hub in March 2016 and it will be open by the end of the year.