We felt compelled to write this article, based on the numerous messages we have received from our Firefighting colleagues via our Facebook page (Emergency Services Humour), and having seen the manner in which some parts of the civilian press are covering what happened in May 2017.
Be under no illusion, that every single member of the emergency services who was on shift on that dreadful day in May last year, would have wanted to do all that they could have done in order to try and help the victims of this ungodly and barbaric act.
You will hear in the civilian press about how Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service did not become actively involved with the incident until a few hours after the spawn of satan set off his device that was jam-packed with explosives and shrapnel (although you won’t hear about the journalists who went around to the addresses of the victims before the authorities had a chance to tell the victims families that their loved ones had been caught up in the attack).
Every single firefighter who was on duty that day, would have wanted to go straight into the area in order to render assistance.
They were not allowed to, in part, because it was thought that there might be an ‘active’ shooter at the arena. It is not for me to question this decision, because only the person who made it would have known, based on all they were seeing and hearing, on what basis the call about a potential active shooter and/or secondary device was made.
The security services know that there are some sick-and-twisted individuals out there, who, having murdered innocent civilians in cold blood, would then want to murder the men and women who make up the various teams of first responders.
We have seen this type of atrocity time and time again, all around the world.
I can, like most people, understand the rationale behind not wanting to expose our colleagues to the risk of being shot and or blown up.
However, I also believe that the senior management, having made it clear what the potential threat could be, should let those brave men and women who still wish to enter the aftermath of the explosion do just that.
It should be down to the individual as to whether or not they decide to enter the crime scene, knowing that there could be an imminent threat to their life. It should not be down to a ‘policy’ that has been drawn up by some elements of a Health & Safety conscious and risk averse management team.
Acting fire chief Dawn Docx told reporters at a press conference: “There were clearly failures in leadership and poor decisions made. As a result firefighters themselves, desperate on the night to attend the incident, were also let down by their senior colleagues.
“It is because of them that this report was commissioned in the first place and I want to thank them for raising their concerns. I also want to apologise to all of our workforce who demonstrate day in and day out their bravery and commitment to keeping the people of Greater Manchester safe.”
I am not a betting man, but I would put money on the fact that EVERY firefighter who was on duty that day, would have still gone to the incident, even if they had been told that the ‘Gold’ Incident Commanders thought that perhaps there was a secondary device or active shooter present.
Not allowing them to make their own decision was, in my own humble opinion, wrong.
It should have been down to the crews themselves to decide if they wanted to move forward to the incident location, based on the information which they had available at the time.
Rather than worry about the impact that a decision to let the firefighters move forward could have had on their careers, they should have instead let the Firefighters do what they signed up to do.
Andy Dark, FBU assistant general secretary, said:
“The report has some important lessons for the fire service and for all emergency services. It raises important questions on the issue of communications that are central to the criticisms made of the fire service not least the impact of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service being the only emergency service in Manchester without its own dedicated service control room.
“A major cause of the problems encountered was the absence of any information being received by the fire service from the police. The wider issue, of course, is that government requires only small teams of firefighters to be trained and equipped for such incidents. There is currently a dialogue with the Home Office on the issue of funding for these arrangements.
“The FBU will be addressing these matters with vigour to find solutions to the problems identified in order to ensure that the fire service is prepared for such events in the future.”
When you join the emergency services, you know that you could potentially lose your life doing the job that you sign up for. Its a front-of-mind thought that our colleagues contend with on a daily basis.
To be told by senior management, that you are not allowed to attend an incident such as this, defies any notion of logic or common sense.
If I was still serving in the emergency services, then it should be MY decision as to whether I put my life on the line or not. It should not be down to someone who is perhaps too worried about making a decision that could affect their career if their staff end up getting hurt.
You either want your staff to do the job they signed up for, or you don’t.
I had a chance to speak on air this morning (28th March) to radio presenter James O’Brien from LBC Radio about the messages we have received from colleagues concerned about the manner in which they have been portrayed by some sections of the press (not LBC by the way).
It is good to know that there are still some sections of the media who do understand the workings of the emergency services enough to help rectify the negative image that is often portrayed (whether intentionally or otherwise) by some sections of the National Press.
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Sadly the ‘press’ want to vilify the emergency services at every twist and turn, from the ‘angel of death’ on BBC South Today to the national press, including the BBC, the tone taken by the One Show with Commissioner Dick on the Salisbury attack because she would not condemn the Russians until definite proof was found shows just how shallow the pretence of honesty and truth has become with the propaganda machine.
As to allowing individuals to choose, not a good idea, no matter what training they may have ever had, if a secondary or even tertiary device had gone off the outcome could/would have been many more valuable people turned into… CASUALTIES. Needing even more assistance and resources.
And no matter what the HSE would prosecute their employer for failing to follow the protocols laid down.
As we were taught many years ago an injured responder is no help, but simply an extra drain, unlike a dead one, no help but not a drain once tagged… Except for their families.
The problem is one that has crept up on us over the years. We are no longer trusted to perform our own dynamic risk assessments, instead bound by static ones, policies and procedures. There needs to be trust that our training has been sufficient to permit us to make our own choices, on the ground, on the fly, and to not be choked by people who have little or no experience on the ground, or worse who had those experiences, and have forgotten them or discarded them in favour of politics and more pips or scrambled egg.