Tanya Broadfield, London Fire Brigade Environment Adviser
GiGL works with the great and the good in London conservation and development. But the services that GiGL provides are of use to more organisations than you might expect. One of GiGL’s less obvious partners explains all.
The London Fire Brigade is the third largest fire fighting organisation in the world with 113 fire stations and over 7,000 staff protecting people and property from fire across the capital. We make London a safer city by minimising the risks of fire and other hazards and their social and economic costs.
Preserving human life and property is our principle aim. Preserving wildlife is not something most people would consider to be our role, but the London Fire Brigade is a forward thinking organisation and we have made considerable progress in environmental protection and sustainability.
As a public organisation this is required by central and local government directives. The Fire and Rescue Services Act, 2004, provides for the ‘Fire and Rescue Authority to take any action it considers appropriate if the event or situation is one that causes or is likely to cause harm to the environment (including the life and health of plants and animals)’.
The Civil Contingencies Act, 2004, notes that at an emergency which threatens serious damage to the environment, the role of the fire and rescue services is to ‘save life, protect property and protect the environment’.
By partnering with GiGL we go beyond this.The London Fire Brigade aims to encourage and facilitate the protection of the environment at emergency incidents, during training events and as part of day-to-day management of fire stations. And by being environmentally conscientious, we can set an example through local communities.
GiGL data on London’s SSSIs, all Sites of Metropolitan Importance and the reasons for their designation is now available in a palatable form on our command system. Should an emergency incident, such as a fire, occur on one of these sites our firefighters will have the information necessary to make a decision on how best to respond to the incident. For example, a controlled burn could be a more appropriate response than using water or fire-fighting foam to extinguish it.
Prior to our partnership work with GiGL, basic information on London’s SSSI sites was individually researched and entered onto the command system.This approach was very resource intensive and the London Fire Brigade lacked the expertise
to interpret complicated ecological information. Working with GiGL gives us up to date information and the expertise to interpret it.
GiGL data have also helped us to complete ecological surveys of our new build and major refurbishment sites. It is our aim to achieve a minimum of BRE Environmental Assessment Method ‘status of ‘excellent’ for our new fire stations.We are also producing reports covering a 1km radius from each of our stations to identify our ‘Top 10’ sites of biodiversity importance, to facilitate effective emergency planning and incident response, but also to raise awareness and encourage our staff to engage with the issue of biodiversity.
In late 2009, we also joined the London Biodiversity Partnership to further enhance and support our knowledge on biodiversity. In the future we hope that our partnership with GiGL and with The London Biodiversity Partnership will help us to fulfil our environmental protection duties, understand what we have on our own estate and to promote awareness and action amongst our own staff and local communities.