FIRE brigade chiefs are asking that members of the public only call 999 in an emergency while crews are on strike.
Cleveland Fire Brigade made the appeal to the people of Hartlepool, and across Teesside, ahead of strike action by firefighters tomorrow.
This means that for four hours – from midday to 4pm – while industrial action takes place, residents and businesses should only dial 999 and request fire brigade assistance if there is a real emergency.
Non-emergency incidents, such as cats being stuck up trees and people being locked outside of their homes, will not be dealt with during that time period.
The brigade described the service as “a reduced emergency response”.
Ian Hayton, chief fire officer at Cleveland Fire Brigade said: “While the industrial action is ongoing, we will still be responding to 999 calls, but we are asking people to take extra care and to only call 999 if they really do need a fire engine. Our priority at the moment is to respond to those priority calls where a life may be at risk or someone needs to be rescued. If we respond to non-emergency calls then those most in need could be at risk.”
He added: “A non-emergency call could be to someone who is locked outside their house or where debris has fallen in the road. There are other agencies and organisations that can help in this instance. We do find ourselves in an unusual situation where we must prioritise our calls for those who are most in need of our assistance.
“However, I must emphasise that you should still call 999 in an emergency so that an experienced control room operator can deal with your situation.
“You must not try and call your local fire station directly.”
The strike comes after rows over firefighters’ pensions and will see auxiliary firefighters take the reins during action.
Ninety-seven per cent of crews are also opposed to brigade bosses’ proposals to “mutualise” the fire and rescue service. A Fire Brigade Union spokesman said if services were changed to a Public Service Mutual, “they would eventually be made subject to a bid from a private company taking it out of local authority control”.
For advice and information on keeping safe during the strike log onto www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/safety or call (01429) 872311.