Lack of workforce planning in Dublin Fire Brigade has real life implications

Senator Marie Sherlock
28 September 2021

Labour Dublin Central Senator Marie Sherlock has called for an urgent review into the operations of the Dublin Fire Brigade service as staff shortages remain. Highlighting the concerns of communities and staff, Senator Sherlock said there is a need for better workforce planning within the service.

Senator Sherlock said:

“There is a very serious situation brewing within the Dublin Fire Brigade service which has not been properly resourced in terms of workforce or indeed in terms of physical equipment. Had there been a serious incident in Dublin like the unfortunate incident witnessed at Glenisk in Offaly yesterday, up to one in five fire engines would not have been available for deployment should their need arise.

“Right throughout the summer we’ve had reports that up to five fire engines per day could not be deployed due to a lack of staffing. This is hugely worrying for the communities that the Brigade service, as well as staff who are totally under resourced.

“These issues are also impacting on the speed at which ambulance calls can be responded to. All Dublin Fire Brigade firefighers are trained to paramedic or advanced paramedic level and it is Dublin Fire Brigade who is responsible for ambulance service across the city. We know from staff within the fire brigade that there can be up to 30 calls queued at any point in time. If there was a critical incident in the city, the capacity of both the fire services and the ambulances services may not be able to respond.

“So for example, we’re learning more and more about apartment blocks with very serious fire defects in this country. In my own area in Dublin Central, there are six apartment complexes with either no fire insulation or substandard insulation. If there was an issue in one of those apartment blocks, we know that up to a fifth of the fleet would not be available. This is not acceptable and could be avoided were a better recruitment and training policy in place.

“Fire service training typically takes eight months and recruitment only takes place once a year. We need to ensure that the scale of the recruits is increased, that training programmes are run back to back and not just once a year and we need to put in place proper workforce planning. It beggars belief that with an estimated 40-50 retirements out of Dublin Fire Brigade this year, far above the usual 20-25 retirements per annum, that so few would be recruited. 

“This lack of workforce planning is happening in the context of a population in Dublin that continues to expand across all four local authorities that the Dublin fire brigade service and there are additional ambulances planned for the city. Minister O’Brien and Dublin City Council need to work together to make changes so that Dublin fire brigade can be placed on a sustainable footing befitting such an essential public service. If this was a once off issue, allowances could be made, but this is something that there has been a huge need to to resolve for a number of years.”

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