Fire service plans for equipment switch raises concerns

Plans are in place to relocate specialist equipment presently based at Falkirk fire station
Plans are in place to relocate specialist equipment presently based at Falkirk fire station

Concerns have been voiced about plans to move specialist equipment out of the fire station closest to Grangemouth’s sprawling petrochemical complex.

As part of a sweeping review, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has recommended the mass decontamination units based in Falkirk fire station be transferred to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The tented units are used to remove chemicals or other materials from very large numbers of people in the event of an industrial incident which could be accidental or intentional.

Gary Laing, the SFRS’s local senior officer and area manager for Falkirk and West Lothian, said the mobile assets would also respond to terrorist attacks on chemical or nuclear facilities.

But the plan has prompted questions from worried members of Falkirk Council’s scrutiny committee.

Grangemouth Councillor Allyson Black admitted: “I don’t see the logic. It might never happen, but if it does the results could be catastrophic if this equipment is not there. I’m sure my constituents, like me, would feel more comfortable if firefighters had it to hand.”

Baillie Joan Paterson said: “There was a very good reason for this equipment to be in Falkirk in the first place and as far as I’m concerned that risk is still there. Surely a petrochemical complex is an obvious hazard zone which should have its own decontamination asset close by in case of an industrial incident and not just the threat of a terrorist attack?”

Mr Laing told the committee: “In the event of an incident at Grangemouth the thinking is it would likely be fire or explosion. The mass decontamination assets are also not being moved that far away and can be at an incident pretty quickly. As many resources as we want can be deployed right away and Falkirk will still have specialist equipment and every fire engine also carries decontamination equipment. You also have to remember Ineos has environmental protection equipment on site as well and security at the complex is pretty tight.”

A final report on the review of specialist equipment will be put to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board for approval next month.