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Firebuy’s integrated clothing project to benefit firefighters with new PPE

Published on 16 August 2010
Firebuy's integrated clothing project will benefit firefighters with quality and efficiency
Firebuy's new protective line of clothing has been a boon to
firefighter efficiency 

Since the first Firebuy Integrated Clothing Project firefighter clothing was deployed in March 2009, over 6,600 firefighters are in line to be re-equipped with the new protective clothing, of which almost 4,500 are already in use. By autumn 2010, just under 10,000 sets of kit will have been ordered by, or delivered to, nine county brigades across the UK and the MOD's worldwide fire risk management organisation (DFRMO).

With around 49,300 full-time and part-time firefighters in England & Wales, the 7700 being deployed within the county fire & rescue services means that more than 15% of all firefighters will be protected by the new PPE by mid-2011, just over two years into the 15-year ICP contract term. With various contract options available under the flexible procurement scheme, 35% will involve a complete head-to-toe PPE contract with the balance calling for a combination of coat and trouser and additional protective garments. Four of the procurement contracts include station wear involving almost 35% of the total number of firefighters with over 40% also including an integrated fully managed service package.

In addition to the four fire & rescue services whose kit has been introduced over the past 15 months, the pace of uptake has increased as a further six services have opted to procure their clothing through the ICP, including Hereford & Worcester, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

These are at various stages, with a number going through the extensive individual sizing exercises prior to manufacture. Delivery will take place between the autumn of 2010 and spring 2011.

Roger Startin, Bristol's joint MD, commenting on the success of the Firebuy scheme said, "These figures clearly speak for themselves and paint a rather different picture than the one described in the recent NAO report which failed to identify that 12, not five, ICP contracts have been signed to date. In addition, by concentrating on procurement covered by framework agreements, attention was diverted from the success of the Integrated Clothing Project which is not a framework agreement". Reflecting on the role of government in the overall management of the various strands of the procurement strategy through Firebuy, he added, "Whilst clearly successful, the lack of support from the DCLG in adhering to the original principles of the scheme, and abandoning the original plan to encourage the eventual adoption of a national identity throughout the country, has considerably diluted the level of adoption from that envisaged in its original objectives".

Firefighter clothing needs to be upgraded in order to provide a better approach for firefighting

Despite the government's failure to fully support Firebuy, and by pursuing an inconsistent policy towards the operation of the scheme since the contract was let in 2008, the adoption rate clearly indicates that a growing number of fire & rescue services are taking advantage of its benefits. All the clothing has been rigorously and independently tested for performance and physiological effects on firefighters thereby providing considerable cost savings from not having to individually carry out the many pre-qualification and pre-contract testing, selection and purchasing procedures which would otherwise be involved. By undertaking this work on behalf of the fire service, as part of the extensive and thorough development phase which took place during 2005-2007, the entire process of procuring firefighter PPE has been simplified.

This aspect, coupled with the security inherent in using the procurement scheme, has taken on an increased relevance since the impact of the financial crisis and resulting recession.

The in-built flexibility of the ICP, with its offer of over 140 products, provides for both purchase and lease contracts on nationally agreed terms which provide real value-for-money. This aspect, coupled with the security inherent in using the procurement scheme, has taken on an increased relevance since the impact of the financial crisis and the resulting recession. The expected prolonged period of severe spending cuts in the public sector, which is already impacting on the future spending plans of local and central government, places greater pressure on FRAs to look for further procurement savings to help maintain front line services. 

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