Cambridgeshire has become the first fire and rescue service in the UK to achieve the national business continuity standard BS 25999 after passing the Stage Two Assessment.

The decision was made by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to pursue the standard to satisfy obligations under the Civil Contingencies Act and the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. These two pieces of legislation require all category one responders to have business continuity plans in place to ensure that core activities can be carried out in situations, such as power failure, flooding, flu pandemics, fires in fire stations and extreme weather conditions.

Director of Resources Matthew Warren, said: "As with many fire and rescue services, we had built up a 'can do' culture, as we were used to dealing with emergencies. While this is a very good thing in many respects, it also meant that we sometimes didn't spend enough time planning for our own disasters because we knew we would be able to cope with them.

"This is fine when a single isolated emergency occurs, such as a loss of electricity in the control room, but as we all know, when disasters happen, everything tends to go wrong at the same time. This was when we recognised that we really needed a business continuity plan."

Work on gaining the standard began two years ago and in order to ensure that the process was being followed correctly, CFRS employed consultants Det Norske Veritas for guidance.

The first step involved the formation of a 'core crisis team', which consisted of key managers and directors. Whenever an internal emergency occurs, which threatens to affect the service's core duties, the team meet and make decisions on what should be done. Alongside this, a list of contact numbers has been collected, which ensures that relevant people can be contacted both in and out of hours.

Cambridgeshire told FIRE: 'As the concept of business continuity is a relatively new one to emergency services, workshops were then held for members of this team to introduce them to the concept and give validation to as to why it was needed.

'Once all managers and directors were trained, a number of strategies were developed across the organisation, which outlined what should be done in the event of an emergency. If flooding is due to occur in the Fenland district, a strategy lists exactly where each fire engine should be relocated to during the incident.

'This led to the implementation of a number of departmental and corporate plans, focusing on keeping resilience in different areas of the service, including operational and also non-operational. These were tested extensively, with more than 30 exercises taking place across the service.

'The next process was to ensure that all members of staff were aware of the service's pursuit of the business continuity standard and the work that was being completed for this. This took the form of a questionnaire which was signed off by over 800 employees.'

Project Quality Assurance Manager for Information Management, Graham Edridge, said: "Over the last few months, managers across the service have been writing and testing group and district business continuity plans and ensuring that their staff are aware of their responsibilities in a contingency situation.

"Every member of staff has played a part in securing the BS 25999 certification and this is reflected in the fact that the embedding of business continuity in CFRS has been cited by the assessors as an example of best practice."

Director of Resources Matthew Warren added: "A great deal of hard work has gone into the production and testing of the new business continuity plans as well as the overarching policy and we are very proud to be the first fire and rescue service which has achieved the standard."


Posted: 10.33am, 04.03.11