RESIDENTS in West Sussex are urged to stay safe as firefighters will go on strike twice in the next seven days.
Strikes are planned for Friday (November 1) and Monday (November 4) after the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) failed to reach an agreement with the government over changes to firefighters pensions, despite calling off a planned strike on October 19.
The West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service will still be responding to emergencies during the industrial action by members of the union, however the service is appealing to residents, businesses and road users to take extra care and reduce the demand on 999 services.
“West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has contingency plans in place to minimise the impact of the strike action and is confident emergency services to the public can be provided by non-striking staff and firefighters who are not members of the FBU,” said a fire service spokeswoman.
“We expect to have fewer resources available and we realise it will be challenging to meet normal emergency response times. However, our experience from previous strike action has shown our contingency plans work, and how this is helped by the public taking note of safety advice and reducing the number of 999 calls made.
“Simple steps, like ensuring your home has a working smoke alarm, not leaving cooking or candles unattended, and extinguishing cigarettes properly can make the difference between needing to dial 999 or not.
“We hope the strike action can be avoided by meaningful negotiation. This is a national dispute and not one between West Sussex firefighters and WSFRS or the county council. We therefore do not have the statutory authority to resolve it locally but we do have a duty to prepare contingency plans and maintain services, for example during industrial action or other reasons for staff shortages.
“We therefore again urge people to take extra care, but to still dial 999 if we are needed for a genuine emergency. We will need to prioritise resources to calls where there is a risk to human life but we are still very much here if you need us.”
The strikes will take place between 6.30pm and 11.00pm on Friday night, and between 6am and 8am on Monday morning.