KFRS's acknowledgment that it needs to adapt its traditional but resource-hungry 'one size fits all' approach to dealing with incidents is at the heart of a fundamental review of its operational response. 

The Operational Capability Review follows a three-year period of intense change for Kent, which started with the emergency response provision review in 2008. This looked at how many appliances are needed on a day-to-day basis and in a major emergency.

Running alongside this was the move from the former retained system to contractual on call hours, which better aligned staff availability to local risk. The next logical step was to underpin these changes with a review which sought to ensure that Kent has the right operational equipment and vehicles to manage and respond to the county's demands.

Equipment Review 

Leading the project is Head of Operations Chris Colgan. He said: "The emergency cover and retained to on call reviews have presented an ideal opportunity for Kent to focus on its operational fleet and how we can work more efficiently to make the best use of our resources. However, in order to do this we now need to challenge the way we use both our staff and our equipment to establish the best way to deal with an incident, as well as  what equipment and staff are required and where the equipment is best positioned.

"At the moment Kent has a traditional approach to operational response, using its fleet of fire engines to respond to the majority of incidents in a 'one size fits all' model, supported by special appliances which are used at more complex incidents. While this was beneficial to achieving regional interoperability and standardisation, it has the disadvantage of tying up life saving equipment at the majority of incidents regardless of whether they are needed or not."

He added: "As the service has taken steps to base the number of appliances and their location to the profile of an area, it now makes sense to move towards this approach in terms of equipment and special appliances. So, rather than equip all areas with the same resources, look at what's needed within an area. It is about fundamental assessment of what staff and equipment are needed to deal with an incident, how it should be used, how it is transported to an incident and where it is based."

Challenging Current Procedures 

In broad terms the review will look at challenging current policies and procedures to assess whether they are fit for purpose; it will identify where KFRS could improve operational capability and how incidents are dealt with; it will make an assessment of whether Kent is using its current kit to its full potential. It will also examine the possibility of collaboration with other agencies as well as looking at new innovative ways of meeting operational requirements. 

Chris added: "Kent's review of its operational policies and procedures has clear links with local, regional and national projects, such as regional ways of working which aims to develop a set of Standard Operation Procedures for national incident types. As both the review of Operational Capability and ways of working are looking at how emergency incidents are dealt with, it is inevitable there will be considerable links between the two projects. Fundamentally however, there is also a clear distinction between the two − ways of working looks at what is being done now while our review is looking at what we could do in the future and how we can do it."

As part of the review Kent is looking at trialling a number of new initiatives, including a Multi Role All Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle and All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) that feature fire fogging units designed to fight woodland and grassland fires. KFRS is also piloting the use of Cobra cold cut equipment which is capable of piercing steel, and has seen the introduction of the Drager PSS 700, a self contained breathing apparatus set fitted with a electronic monitoring unit.