The Authority is committed to sustainability and protecting the environment. Our work to reduce the number of fires is helping to protect the natural beauty of Kent and Medway and make our communities pleasant places to live. In 2015/16 we spent £896k on energy for our buildings and fuel for our vehicles. Any increases in the cost of energy and fuel will have a direct impact on us, particularly since our budget is decreasing. Therefore it is essential for us to make sure that we use energy and fuel wisely, not least because this is better for the environment.
Our “Caring for the Environment” Strategy sets out how we plan to protect the environment of Kent and Medway as an owner of both buildings and a range of vehicles, and also when we deal with emergencies.
In January 2009, the Authority signed the Nottingham Declaration, demonstrating its commitment to address climate change. The declaration places a responsibility on the Authority to reduce climate change by driving down greenhouse gases emitted. We have set ourselves a target to reduce emissions by 35% by 2017, compared to our baseline set in 2008/09. Last year we achieved a 31% reduction in CO2 emissions from all sources compared to the baseline year.
All our new fire stations are highly energy-efficient and include, where possible, renewable technologies and other related environmental improvements. In our older buildings we improve insulation or use energy-efficient heating and lighting systems when it is cost-effective and practical to do so. We have, for example, retro-fitted solar panels in 34 of our older stations. As well as reducing the need to buy electricity from the national grid, the solar panels installed are producing surplus electricity worth around £35k per year.
In our buildings we continue to look at how the space can be used more flexibly by our staff, partners and other groups. Ambulance vehicles are now responding from nine of our fire stations. Use of these locations allows ambulances to be better-placed to respond to patients whilst also allowing the ambulance crews to rest and use the facilities at the stations between jobs.
Our vehicle fleet is fundamental to delivering our services. However, we believe that we can deliver the same quality services whilst reducing the environmental impact that our fleet creates. Last year we introduced a new fleet of smaller vehicles which produce less CO2 emissions and are more fuel-efficient. By operating with a wider range of emergency vehicles we can be more flexible and send large fire engines only to incidents where we know the equipment they carry is required.
The amount of energy used in our buildings and by our vehicles can be influenced greatly by how our staff behave at work. We encourage our staff to consider the impact their actions have on the environment and make simple changes like turning lights off when offices are not in use, closing windows and doors to retain heat, or avoiding unnecessary journeys. Managers are expected to encourage these practices and to monitor the progress made to meet their environmental targets.
We continue to look at how we can be smarter in the way we work to achieve financial and environmental savings. Whenever possible we make good use of technology to simplify processes, remove unnecessary tasks and eliminate duplication. This year, for example, we will install telemetry and telematics systems in our vehicles. These electronic systems are used to monitor the activity of the vehicles e.g. journeys made, acceleration, speed, and braking. Having this range of management information available will allow us to learn more about how our vehicles are used and make changes to manage our fleet more efficiently. We are expecting that, as a result, we will see a reduction in fuel usage by improving driver performance.
Fires and other emergencies generate pollution if controls are not put in place. When attending an incident, our staff will always undertake the necessary actions to protect the environment. We have formed very good relationships with the Environment Agency and Natural England to ensure our actions do not have a negative impact on the environment, wildlife or heritage sites.