Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Fire Service

10:30 am

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. Last weekend marked the 125th anniversary of Dublin Fire Brigade's dual ambulance and fire emergency response service. The fire brigade obviously plays a crucial role in keeping the people of this city and county safe and I pay tribute to the immense professionalism, commitment and care that firefighters give to their work every day of the week.

It is important that we acknowledge there has been very significant progress with regard to training standards and facilities in recent decades. We also must acknowledge there are very significant and real concerns among firefighters at this point about staffing shortfalls, the condition and age of the vehicles they have to work with and, most significantly, the failure to progress plans in this city to undertake pre-fire intelligence surveys of buildings across the city. The staffing concerns are such that over the past three months, there were 27 days when fire trucks could not have been deployed if they had been needed because right now, firefighters are facing shortfalls of up to 20 staff per day across the fire stations in Dublin city and county. We expect we will see the retirement of almost one third of firefighters in the next two years. There is a very serious recruitment issue.

While the responsibility is, first and foremost, with Dublin City Council to ensure there is a sufficient number of firefighters, I have to say to the Minister of State that the buck also stops with him and his Department. In ensuring a smooth recruitment process, it falls to the Public Appointments Service to be able to undertake the recruitment competitions. We saw two years ago and are seeing now again that there are systemic and capacity issues with the Public Appointments Service as it tries to take on those competitions. Those issues are leading to delays and what happened two years ago, which was an outsourcing of that competition. Frankly, it is not good enough. We have a serious recruitment issue but what I really want to ask the Minister of State is what work is being done by the Department to advance the undertaking of pre-fire intelligence surveys here in Dublin and in the main urban centres across this country.

It is now five years since the fire in the Metro Hotel in Ballymun. Dublin Fire Brigade faced challenges on that occasion because it was a high-rise building and there was a lack of information about water points and the structure of the building. A commitment arose from that fire to the effect that an organisational intelligence unit would be established within Dublin Fire Brigade to map out the city, identify its water points and have a basic structural outline of the buildings in the city so that if a fire breaks out, Dublin Fire Brigade can respond in the most time efficient manner possible. Frustratingly, we have seen glacial progress on these long-promised fire intelligence surveys in the city. I understand that only approximately 12,000 buildings have been surveyed to date when there is a total of approximately 45,000 buildings across the city that need to be surveyed. This really matters. It matters so we can have efficient response times and greater safety for the public. It also means greater safety for the firefighters themselves. They are really anxious because while they have had these promises for a number of years, they have not seen any progress. This is a very serious issue for the city.I do not believe it should be just left up to Dublin City Council and Dublin Fire Brigade to push this process. It also very much needs to be driven by the Department. It is not just about Dublin but all of the country. It is about ensuring that fire services in the Republic of Ireland match what is available in the North, which has a pre-fire intelligence service so that if a fire breaks out, they are able to type into the technology within the truck and see exactly what the structure of the building is. That is available in the North, in London and in most other European cities, yet it is not available here. I look forward to the response of the Minister of State.


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