I shall be supporting Amber Rudd’s petition against the downgrading of The Ridge fire station, but for rather better reasons than some of those advanced in last week’s Observer. The proposal has no operational justification.
The word “redundancy” is used by engineers to denote something which duplicates or even triplicates mission critical electrical or mechanical components of a system so that if one part fails, its identical twin is ready to instantly take over. Earth-orbiting satellites have electrical circuits with substantial built-in redundancy for what I hope are obvious reasons. As Milton put it “They also serve who only stand and wait”.
East Sussex has more than 20 fire stations. Each was put where it is for good reasons following a technical evaluation, and its status (Wholetime, Day-crewed, or Retained) established, also for good reasons. Which of these reasons has changed at The Ridge? Has the geography of East Sussex changed? Have the number of Fire and Special Services calls decreased? Please don’t try to tell me that Control, Command, and Communications systems have improved so much in recent years that a station can be safely downgraded. During the terrorist bombing in London in July 2005, C3 all but collapsed. The mobile telephone network had inadequate redundancy and had to be switched off. By definition, emergency services exist to deal with large-scale disasters as well as the routine and the mundane. So why is an established fire station being downgraded?
I suspect that the reason is purely financial. Someone at ESCC has worked out that money can be saved by reducing the Fire and Rescue Service’s full-time staffing level and “making better use of resources” as the usual mendacious phrase has it. Exactly this reasoning was behind the disastrous decision to impose mixed-sex wards on NHS hospitals, a policy now being expensively reversed as the consequences come home to roost: it was an affront to human dignity in any circumstances.
ESCC councillors must be completely open about why they want to downgrade The Ridge. If the reason is money, they should say so.