When a serious safety incident occurs, it takes more than one organisation, working effectively together, to minimise risk and loss. And the adage ‘practice makes perfect’ is especially true here, where the ability to co-operate swiftly at the scene can save valuable seconds. This is the thinking behind partnership between Stagecoach bus operations, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and TfL. CIRAS’ Amanda O’Donoghue visited Stagecoach’s West Ham garage to find out more from Head of Engineering, Terry Austin.

What’s the partnership all about?  

The London Mayor's Transport Strategy sets out the goal that, by 2041, all deaths and serious injuries will be eliminated from London's transport network. Several years ago, TfL brought us together to drive this exciting collaboration and LFB has worked tirelessly (both with us and other operators across the capital) to bring it to life. The partnership provides vital familiarisation training to firefighters, should there ever be a serious bus incident. In return, our drivers are also learning vital new skills and knowledge which could help them preserve life.   

We have donated scrap buses for firefighters to practise using their cutting equipment. As a result of the sessions, local firefighters have a sound knowledge of our different vehicles and their on-board isolation, safety systems and lifting/cutting points. They’ve also been able to practise various extrication techniques and work together with our staff in a dynamic and stressful operational scenario. 

What’s been the benefit of this approach? 

By familiarising themselves with the new technologies on TfL’s bus network, and the inner workings of a London bus, firefighters will be able to perform a quick and safe rescue if anybody is trapped within or under a bus.  

The aim was also to give our staff a better understanding of how they can support firefighters in an emergency. For example, drivers are advised not to turn off the ignition, as this can lower the bus and increase injury to anyone trapped underneath. Equipping our drivers with the right knowledge is intended to help them respond calmly, protect them from unnecessary stress and anxiety in a difficult situation and aid LFB and ambulance services in safer operations during an incident. 

As well as the health and safety benefits, improving response times minimises the time the road infrastructure is closed or compromised, reducing congestion – a safety risk in itself. 

Any challenges? And how did you overcome them? 

The biggest and most important challenge was making sure that everybody understood the objectives of the programme and the benefits. In addition, ensuring that resource was available to secure risk assessments at all the training sites. We ran mass briefings across the network to ensure all our staff were informed and engaged.   

To any CIRAS members considering doing something similar, I would recommend early liaison with your partners to understand any risks that may be present in your area of work, and early communication with key stakeholders including trade unions.  

Next steps 

Allen Perez, LFB’s North East Deputy Assistant Commissioner, has presented Terry Austin with a letter of recognition, to acknowledge the success of the partnership, saying: 

“This training is a unique opportunity that will be welcomed by our firefighters and shows the benefits of big London organisations working together to improve staff and employee skills and safety."

Terry has since demonstrated the training to other TfL bus operators, including Go Ahead, Arriva, Tower Transit, Abellio and RATP. Stagecoach has also assisted with rolling out a ‘train the trainer’ package over London bus operators. By 2020 all London bus operators will be delivering guidance, in line with the Stagecoach/LFB partnership, to LFB in their local areas. 

Food for thought…

  • Is there anything in the way that Stagecoach has worked with LFB that could be used in how you are working with the emergency services? 

To find out more about the Stagecoach/LFB collaboration, contact Terry Austin at Terry.Austin@stagecoachbus.com