Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Friday, 13 April 2012

A Very Important Seagull.

EVERYONE'S missed the biggest story of the day.

Twenty five firemen stood and watched as a struggling seagull floundered in a 3ft-deep pond, too scared to wade in and save it.

The papers have all blamed health and safety rules and praised the member of the public who grabbed a net and went and did the job himself.

Answers have been demanded of the fire brigade and parallels drawn with similar instances in which humans were left to drown after fire crews were ordered by their superiors not to try a rescue because they might be in danger.

(Let's not wonder too hard about the person who saw the struggling gull and thought they'd call the fire brigade away from their important work of putting out actual fires, rather than just wade in and get the poor thing themselves.)

The most telling part of the whole silly mess comes from bystander Ted Burden, who said: "It was a bit ridiculous really. Five fire crews turned up but because of protocols they couldn't go into the water... Luckily the gull escaped uninjured. He was just a bit shocked."

Well, I know how he feels. FIVE FIRE CREWS? FIVE? After a call about a SEAGULL?

While their reasoning about not going in the knee-deep water was clearly bonkers, I can half understand it. You might slip. There are 24 other chaps nearby who'd pull you out before you drowned, but yes in theory there might be a danger in going for a paddle IF YOU'RE A MUPPET.

But just what, in the name of all that's fartarsing holy, went through the minds of the first crew to turn up?
1. It's only a seagull
2. Ooh, I might get wet
3. What we really need is another four fire crews
The only times in my career I've seen five fire engines in one place are tower block infernos and tyre conflagrations. Never, it must be said, for anything that couldn't be called threatening to a multiple number of lives.

Yet for some reason, after turning up to reports of an animal in a pond, firemen 1 through 5 didn't think to get on to dispatch and call off the other crews. Firemen 6 through 10 then turned up and joined in the standing around, shortly followed by firemen 11 through 20.

It would seem not one of them rang the office to say they didn't need any more firemen. Presumably the last five turned up just because they felt a bit left out.

I'm not going to put it to the test but I'd bet you my last Jaffa cake that if I rang the fire brigade right now and told them my house, in a street surrounded by other houses, all with people in them, was on fire they'd not send more than one engine, or at the most two.

But then, I'm not a seagull. Quick question - if Kate Middleton was in the pond, would they have gone in and rescued her? Because that probably would have led to a few injuries.

On the same day the National Trust has published a list of 50 things every child should do before they grow up, including making mud pies, lighting a fire without matches and going blackberrying. Never mind that if those children grew up to become firemen most of the activities would be ruled out under Health and Safety risk assessments, especially the ones about playing conkers and finding frogspawn.

But in a spirit of helpfulness, here is a short checklist of things every fireman should do before he qualifies:
1. Tell a superior to naff off
2. Differentiate between a SEAGULL and a HUMAN.
3. Or a fox. You can rescue foxes.
4. Learn that 'Health' and 'Safety' are not the same thing.
5. Sit in the middle of a knee-deep icy pond with a plastic bag on your face and see how long it takes to be rescued.
I love firemen. They're generally brilliant, brave people and they have lovely arms too. But even I don't want to see five crews in the same place, not unless it's a Christmas party or a disaster of some kind.

Not even if I get my head stuck in the drain after a heavy night on the tiles.

I still think the hose was a little unnecessary.



jaljen said...

Yes, the 2 craziest elements are
1 calling the fire brigade in the 1st instance
2 5 fire crews! - don't they have radios???? "Er, it's just a seagull, Fred. Stand the other fellas down."

What did they think it was?

Caller: In the lake. Drowning. Seagull. (Foreign, you see - no proper sentences.)
Emergency call-handler: Simon Cowell, did you say? Our national treasure. I'll send 5 crews.

I can't see it myself.

Martin said...

The problem here is that the emergency services are now covered by the Health & Safety at work Act AND things like Corporate Manslaughter.

Everyone laughs but if a fireman did drown it's quite likely his superior officers may face a personal prosecution and a civil claim there ar cases going on now that involve the death of firemen in fires.

It's clearly madness to make emergency workers and their managers comply in the same way as normal workers in the construction or engineering industries.

The fault here is with the EU and politicians. The EU generates the bulk of H&S legislation (that most other EU Countries either ignore or pay lip service to) and our political elite then tell the HSE how to enforce it.

The media that Foxy works for love to blame the HSE, but they like the Police are given the laws and told to enforce them.

As an example, the regulations that cover working at height used to basically allow you to not consider work under 2 metres off the ground as significant. This 'sensible' rule was removed meaning that even in an office where you might use a hop up to get a book off a shelf you have to have a risk assessment in place for using it just as if you were working off a cherry picker or mobile tower on a building site. Who is to blame for that? It's not the HSE and not the employer, who is rightly told what the law requires of him but the stupid politicians here and in Europe who dream this crap up in the first place.

It's like the regulations that cover using computers in the office, your employer has to pay for eye sight tests and if needed glasses. Yet if you drive a forklift truck or a car for company purposes and need glasses etc you have to pay for them yourself. Utter madness.

Blunt said...

From LFB:
Firefighters were called to reports by the RSPCA of a trapped seagull on Carshalton Ponds, close to North Street in Carshalton SM5 on Saturday 7th April. The Brigade was called to the scene by the RSPCA as an emergency and the Brigade always takes calls from such organisations seriously. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 1407 and the incident was declared over at 1411.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said:

“The RSPCA called us out as an emergency. Our firefighters rushed to the scene only to realise they’d been called out to a seagull with a plastic bag round its leg which was swimming around quite happily and wasn’t in any distress. This clearly wasn’t an emergency so the firefighters left it to a local animal rescue charity to deal with and swiftly left the scene.”

“Often, by the time our firefighters arrive at an incident, someone has waded in to try and rescue an animal only to get into danger themselves, so we send enough crews to deal with whatever we may find. The safety of the public and our firefighters is always our priority.”

Firefighters were not stopped from entering the water due to health and safety protocols. Just this week, LFB crews were called to rescue a man after the bulldozer he was driving fell 40 feet down into a quarry pit. When they realised the man’s life was at risk, the firefighters acted outside of normal procedures and risked their own personal safety to lift him out and save his life. London Fire Brigade’s firefighter are trained to make difficult judgement calls about when it is right to risk their lives in order to save another.

Just goes to show that you shouldn't believe everything you read in the papers.

Foxy said...

And proves my point - the real story here wasn't the health&safety line everyone's gone with today but the fact FIVE crews were sent to deal with it. Did LFB think there was going to be a riot or something? Totally duff decision, and an even duffer justification.

pirate said...

The real story here is that the person who dumped the plastic bag should be prosecuted for littering, sent the bill for this mess and forced to lick Foxies feet clean after the moon walk, provided they don't enjoy that kind of thing.
PS If it Kate Middleton then I'd let the stick insect drown. Pippa on the other hand.

Anonymous said...

with 3 Warwickshire fire-fighters up on a potential manslaughter charge brought by the HSE for doing their jobs If it goes throgh, I don't think many of them will want to be in charge of an incident involving burning buildings and people trapped, let alone rescuing a seagull. Would you?

Martin said...

Anon: That was my point, if you remember there was an incident where plastic plods failed to go into the water to go and rescue a drowned child.

Senior officers often go OTT because they fear that they may be held accountable if something goes wrong.

Same happened on 7/7 fire fighters at first were told NOT to enter the tunnels to get to the blown up train.

"...A group of firefighters refused to enter a tunnel after one of the 7 July Tube bombings because of health and safety concerns, the inquest has heard...."

Can you imagine what would happen if army or RAF officers were held accountable in a court for sending people into war and who then get shot?

The comment in an above post that the rules were 'bent' to rescue someone won't wash in a court.

What we need for the emergency services is an interpretation of H&S law a bit like changing the interpretation of 'reasonable force' when a home owner kills a burglar.

Regarding Foxy's comment about the number of crews, they have to consider their own safety as they may not be aware of how deep the water is until they get there or any other hazards. You will often find an ambulance attends these incidents even though no one may be injured. That's there in case a fireman is injured during the rescue or clear up. No doubt people think that's a waste as well.

Foxy's beloved Nu Labour were the worst for passing endless H&S laws and it was Labour that changed the law to include the emergency services.

Foxy said...

For the umpteenth time - I am not a card carrying member of any political party. The people in charge get a kicking from me, and that's it.

I wasn't blogging when New Labour were in power but had I been they'd have got their share. Gordon had ROTTEN dandruff.

Anonymous said...

Should have walked past with a bag of chips, that seagull would be out like a shot

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was a slow day. Sometimes firemen go whole shifts with barely a call out. I don't blame them for wanting an hour or so in the park, it's not like they've got a bar back at the station anymore.

Anonymous said...

There's a famous Luenig cartoon. Bloke is watching a sunrise on TV. Outside the sun is rising. Anyone spoken to one of the firemen? All fun anyway. Thanks Foxy.

Blunt said...

I've asked around my contacts (I'm an ex Firefighter) and I have established that the PDA (Pre-determined attendance) for this incident would have been 2 pumps (10 crew) 2 FRUs with boat attribute(10 crew)and a third appliance may have been sent for a Watch Manager to be in charge* (*once an incident has more than a certain no. of bods, it is deemed to need a more senior officer in charge, hence the third pump)
= 25

It's all down to the PDA for the incident type.
This was rung in by the RSPCA as an emergency (which the OIC decided wasn't) so they left.
Why is the RSPCA bod not in the firing line here? Why did they call an emergency when they could've waded in themselves?

Sorry if I come across as a bit defensive, but I'm fed up of the bad press that good people are getting due to the ignorance of their operational procedures.
There have been a couple of high profile cases recently where the FB was vilified for standing back when they should've been jumping in;
All the FF's I've spoken to have said they were as aghast as the rest of us at the decisions that officers have made;
But when you think that after suffering the loss of close colleagues, some officers have been charged with manslaughter (Warwickshire), you can understand that others are watching their backs.
I hope that makes things a bit clearer.

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