HMICFRS publishes new fire service inspection reports

Following the publication of the second tranche of fire and rescue inspectorate reports (Thursday June 20th), the National Fire Chiefs Council has responded to the findings.

Overarching themes show services respond well operationally and are good at providing emergency response.

The report - produced by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) – gives an overview of its findings from the 16 recent inspections.

The inspection focussed on: Effectiveness on keeping people safe from fire and other risks; how efficient services are at keeping people safe, and how individual fire services look after their people.

The Inspectorate voiced its concerns over funding and questioned whether fire and rescue services have enough resources. It notes that some fire services are well resourced, while some are struggling with demands. It is important services have the capacity to transform at this time of change.

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Roy Wilsher, commented: “We have now seen more than half of English Fire and Rescue Services inspected and common themes are emerging. However, we will not see the full national picture until all services have been inspected.

“It come as no surprise that operational and emergency response - along with prevention work - has largely been praised, which we know are vitally important to our communities; while helping to reduce riskI am also pleased to see funding has been raised and the need for government to consider whether fire services have enough finances at this time of change.

“HMICFRS recommends the identification and measuring of emergency response standards, following a local IRMP.  We welcome the fact that HMICFRS have acknowledged the importance of a robust IRMP with response standards flowing from this local assessment. 

“The NFCC already has a Community Risk Programme that supports this approach, but this still needs a lot more exploration as it is a complex area to define. It is not as simple as introducing a blanket response time across the county.

“We know there has been a reduction in protection work and it is essential the government appropriately fund this. The Hackitt Review into building regulations recommendations and implementation will continue to increase demand. We must be given the resources to do this effectively.

“Definition of high-risk buildings and risk-based inspection programmes is a thread running throughout the reports, but it is not as simple as fire and rescue services being able to ‘fix’ this. Definition of what constitutes ‘high-risk’ is not as simple as setting a height or building type; the reality is far more complex and must evaluate risk using a number of consistent factors. These include the size, age, the type of people residing there and what the building is being used for.

“This needs a coordinated approach with government and both fire prevention and protection experts. NFCC have been calling for this for some time through consultations and workstreams we are actively involved in and we will continue to do so, through the right channels. 

“It is also apparent there a clear difference between larger and smaller services; we cannot ignore the impact almost ten years of localism has had on fire services and what they can deliver. Smaller services have struggled more with this and they simply cannot mirror large services; this needs addressing in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

“JESIP and NOG were highlighted in the report and the number of services which were advanced in this area, as this evidences how effective services are at adopting a joined-up and collaborative approach.

“The introduction of the newly-formed Standards Board has also been welcomed which NFCC is playing a key role in. I was also pleased to see the importance of NFCC recognised as a national body, along with the inspectorate’s comments that the Home Office should consider what the future of it looks like, along with future investment.

“However, it remains a concern than culture and diversity remain one of the main areas for improvement. Work from our national People Programme will help to address some of these areas.

 “While these concerns must be recognised and addressed, further analysis is essential to understand the reasoning and to ascertain whether there is bullying culture, or whether these issues relate to change and other national factors, including pay.”

Other areas highlighted for improvement include: Differences between larger and smaller services and their capacity to deliver some areas of work; more consistent evaluation is needed; prevention work could be more targeted to focus on vulnerable people; technology is not always being used effectively; budget reductions in areas such as operations; more consistency is needed - including integrated risk management and planning, and there are often too many variations of how work is carried out. 

Roy Wilsher added: “NFCC takes these areas for improvement very seriously and we are already working on a number of these key areas nationally. These will help to introduce a more consistent approach in key areas. We also have a programme focusing on digital and data to help enhance what technologies we already use, and how we can use these more effectively, while looking at future opportunities.

Services inspected were: Humberside; Norfolk; Oxfordshire; West Sussex; Northumberland; Shropshire; Dorset and Wiltshire; Northamptonshire; Leicestershire; Merseyside; Greater Manchester; Kent; West Midlands; Royal Berkshire; Tyne and Wear and Nottinghamshire.

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