While all four reports stand alone, they each show synergies and link with one another to provide key guidance to the sector. FIRE picks out key highlights for focus.

Fire and Rescue Reform White Paper

The Home Office unveiled ‘ambitious plans’ for fire reform with Home Secretary Priti Patel saying: “The reforms we’ve set out today will strengthen and support our hard-working fire and rescue services.” But what does this mean for those on the ground?

Proposals are set to shape a modern day UK Fire and Rescue Service as well as heighten the support around it to tackle the challenges that services, and their communities, face.

At the centre of the white paper are plans to deliver:

  • Increased public safety: by improving the professionalism of the Fire and Rescue Service through modern workforce practices and potentially establishing a College of Fire and Rescue.
  • Improved accountability: through the proposals to transfer fire governance to a single elected individual, overseeing delivery by operationally independent chief fire officers.
  • Better engagement with the public: through the ten-week consultation the government will listen to the views of the public and stakeholders, after which it will finalise its reform programme.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry

The paper also takes into consideration the recently published Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 Recommendations report, which is the fourth of its kind. It reassured that ‘while more work still needs to be done, progress continues to be made across the country’.

Headline news: Twenty-one of the 46 recommendations from the inquiry have now been completed.

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 also launched on this day, incorporating nine of the 15 recommendations given specifically to government, building owners and managers. This saw regulations regarding what Responsible Persons (RPs) must do becoming law, therefore giving stronger powers to fire and rescue services to crack down on those not complying. London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe has publicly spoken out about the over 1,000 residential buildings in England’s capital that still have serious safety failings, almost five years after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

In brief summary, the regulations will require regular fire safety checks as well as a great deal more information to be shared with fire and rescue services – from information about the building’s external wall system to informing them if one of the pieces of firefighting equipment is out of order for longer than 24 hours. These new duties will commence on January 23 to allow time to prepare and for supporting guidance to be published.

The Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool (FRAPT) has launched and is being implemented by fire and rescue services across the country. The tool enables business owners to assess the impact of the legislation and which parts of their premises should be prioritised. It should enable RPs to develop a strategy requiring buildings to update fire risk assessments, ensuring it includes an assessment of the fire safety risks of external walls.

London Fire Brigade has progressed designing and implementing a new structured briefing and debriefing model for use by crews and officers on the incident ground. This will enable better information to be obtained from crews returning from deployments. The brigade has also launched their Fire Survival Guidance (FSG) application, which enables information from FSG calls to be displayed simultaneously at the incident ground and in the control room.

Services have continued to progress recommendations directed at them. One being improving the sharing of risk critical information during an incident between fire and other emergency services’ control rooms. As an example, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has introduced two new roles into their incident response: an Evacuation Sector Commander (who would be at the scene of an incident) and a Fire Survival Guidance Coordinator (who would be based in the Joint Fire Control).

Every fire and rescue service has acquired smoke hoods and have subsequently trained their staff in how to use them.

PEEPs Consultation Outcomes

This consultation ran between June 8, 2021 to July 19, 2021 and gained 382 responses. It set out how government proposed to implement the following two Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report recommendations:

  • The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to prepare PEEPs for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised
  • That the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to include up-to-date information about persons with reduced mobility and their associated PEEPs in the premises information box.

A large majority of respondents supported the proposal to require the Responsible Person to prepare a PEEP for every resident who self-identifies to them as unable to self-evacuate and do so in consultation with the residents. Whilst this quantitative intelligence is useful, many respondents also noted significant issues with respect to these measures (in relation to safety, practicality and costings).

In conclusion, this piece of work needs further exploration and means the Home Office is currently unable to mandate PEEPs in high-rise residential buildings.

What Next?

The Home Office is now seeking views via two new consultations.

  • The first is a reform proposal to introduce system-wide reform said to ‘strengthen fire and rescue services in England’.

Closing date for the consultation is July 27, 2022 – everyone can have their say on the plans outlined above by visiting www.gov.uk and searching ‘fire reform’.

  • Secondly, a new consultation, Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing (EEIS), was launched on alternative proposals to support the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.

This focuses on residential blocks of flats with a simultaneous evacuation strategy in place. It is open until August 10, 2022 and can be found by visiting www.gov.uk and searching ‘Emergency evacuation and information’.