This issue of FIRE magazine delves behind the headlines to spark wider debate as FIRE correspondents comment on fire safety regulations, international perspectives on risk reduction, improving workforce diversity and inclusion, and Grenfell learnings from the Marchioness disaster.

Perfect recipe for disaster: complacency and neglect

Thirty years after recommendations following the Marchioness disaster have yet to be enforced, FIRE Editor Andrew Lynch reports on the danger of complacency post-Grenfell

As FIRE went to press Sir Martin Moore-Bick released his Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 Report, condemning London Fire Brigade’s response, whilst he has been roundly condemned by the fire sector for publishing the emergency response before reporting on the catalogue of failures which led to the tragedy in the first place.

As fire safety specialists work tirelessly towards implementing the recommendations of the Hackitt Report, a sobering reminder that tragedy does not necessarily lead to change is issued elsewhere in this edition in our report on the inadequate response to another disaster in London – that of implementing the Marchioness Inquiry findings (see pg 14).

Read more on page 4 of FIRE Magazine November 2019

Chiefs’ Autumn Conference sets future direction

National Fire Chiefs Council Chair Roy Wilsher reports from the conference which shared collective learning from fire and rescue services and the wider sector

The National Fire Chiefs Council recently held its Autumn Conference. This once again provided an excellent opportunity for our members to come together to hear about NFCC’s work, input into setting our future direction – and of vital importance – share our collective learning from services and the wider sector.

The event provided an opportunity to hear from a wide-range of people from home and abroad, which helps to expand our learning and understanding as a sector.

The conference also provided an opportunity to reflect on over two years of NFCC work, while also taking the time to look forward.

It would be impossible not to acknowledge how busy the fire landscape currently is; the Grenfell Phase One report was set to be published at the time of writing; we have had the first two tranches of fire inspections published by HMICFRS – with the third due to be published imminently, the State of Fire report is due out towards the end of the year; the Building Safety Regulations work continues and on top of this, we continue with our day-to-day work.

We must ensure all FRS staff are given the space and knowledge to implement the necessary changes; we should not be making change for changes’ sake. Part of NFCC’s role is to assist in making this happen through representation at national level, highlighting what FRSs need to ensure they can be the very best they can, with the resources currently allocated.

Read more on page 10 of FIRE Magazine November 2019

Overcoming fear of positive action to ensure fairness and promote diversity

Nicola Green, Director at Capsticks, and Jagtar Singh, National Advisor for the Asian Fire Service Association, report on the effectiveness of positive action.

The Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA) and Capsticks have been advising a number of fire and rescue services (FRS) on the use of the positive action provisions of the Equality Act 2010 with a view to improving workforce diversity and inclusion. Positive action allows for the more favourable treatment of those with protected characteristics (eg because of their sex, age, race, disability, or sexual orientation) when certain criteria apply. More information on positive action in FRS can be found here.

Currently, efforts at improving diversity are targeted at recruitment. However, attracting a more diverse workforce is only part of the issue. The culture of an organisation has a huge part to play in the retention of employees and we look below at some of the trends which have emerged from the ‘People’ section from Tranches 1 and 2 of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services’ (HMICFRS) reports and the issues highlighted therein.

Read more on page 32 of FIRE Magazine November 2019

International perspectives on risk reduction

Fresh from the two-day International Symposium hosted by West Midlands Fire Service, Phil Loach shares his thoughts on why it is so important to look beyond the UK to learn from others when it comes to understanding risk and keeping communities safe.

I have known about the IFE (US branch) hosted Vision 20/20 project for some years and admire the efforts they are making to influence US fire departments to focus on community risk reduction. It is a very different world, where over 30,000 fire departments meet the needs of the 300 million plus population of the US and where volunteers run a large proportion of them.

Listening to and more recently contributing to CRR Radio, the Vision 20/20 podcast, gave me an insight into the challenges faced by the US and a chance to view our own challenges in the UK through a different lens.

In my role as Programme Executive for the NFCC’s Community Risk Programme I spend a lot of time talking to colleagues from other fire and rescue services about how we can continue to evolve our approach to risk management. Much of that is about culture and how we run our fire and rescue services but it is also about how we use evidence and data to underpin our decisions, matching our resources both to demand and risk.

Read the full article on page 12 of FIRE Magazine November 2019

Ensuring fire safety in an ever-changing regulatory landscape

In the wake of the Hackitt Review, Peter Lackey, Fire Manager, Johnson Controls, calls for a complete, end-to-end overhaul of the way businesses understand and apply fire safety regulations

Fire regulations are higher on the agenda than ever before, particularly following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, which rightly put regulatory change under intense scrutiny. Despite this, many UK businesses are still just as in the dark about their legal obligations when it comes to fire safety as they were several years ago. But with ongoing developments in building safety regulations following the Hackitt Review – with the government announcing that all 53 of Dame Hackitt’s recommendations will be addressed by a new building safety regulator – there is still momentum to make tangible changes to health and safety regulations.

A major stumbling block faced by the industry is that if regulations are introduced bit by bit, then they will also be implemented bit by bit, which can be more of a hindrance than a help. This means that despite the same shared goals, every business will have its own level of commitment to fire safety. But best practice and regulation alone are not enough to ensure occupant safety across the board – there are many pieces to the puzzle. The safest bet is a complete, end-to-end overhaul of the way businesses understand and apply fire safety regulations. While the ongoing public inquiry is driving momentum behind this, there is always more work to be done.

Read the full article on page 52 of FIRE Magazine November 2019

Grenfell learnings from the Marchioness disaster

Tracie Williams, Managing Director of Evident Software, reports on the inadequate response in implementing Marchioness disaster inquiry findings. She cautions that it is a warning from history and such complacency as seen since the Grenfell fire can lead to history repeating itself

August 20, 1989 is a day that sadly will always be remembered in the UK for the Marchioness disaster. After being hit by the 1,475-ton dredger Bowbelle on the River Thames in the early hours of the morning, the Marchioness sank in just half a minute.

The devastating collision resulted in the loss of 51 lives, all of whom were enjoying a birthday party on-board the 47-ton pleasure boat. Following the tragedy, an investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) paved the way for a 1991 report that overhauled marine safety on the Thames. A number of safety recommendations were implemented, including navigation lights and improved lookouts on boats.

After significant pressure from the victims’ families in 1999, John Prescott, the then-Deputy Prime Minister, demanded an Inquiry into safety on the River Thames as well as an investigation into the factors that led to the sinking of the Marchioness.

The result of the 2000 Inquiry was a report that was published in February 2001 by Lord Justice Clarke, which made a number of river safety recommendations. They were all accepted by Mr Prescott.

Despite these reviews, recommendations and legislation, a shocking story emerged 30 years later from Port of London Authority (PLA) which has revealed that the ‘most basic’ safety recommendations made after the disaster have still yet to be enforced.

Read the full article on page 14 of FIRE Magazine November 2019