Fire service response to second tranche of inspections

Following the publication of the second tranche of fire and rescue inspectorate reports, the National Fire Chiefs Council and Fire Brigades Union have responded to the findings 

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 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, the Inspectorate says.

National Fire Chiefs Council Chair Roy Wilsher


FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack

NFCC Response

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 comes 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 risk. I 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 country.

“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.


“Responsibility for the delay in resolving this rests entirely with fire service employers and central government who have been complacent throughout these discussions”


“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 is 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 that 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.

“In our view there needs to be much wider planning and preparation for such terrorist attacks. Every firefighter in the country needs to be trained and equipped for any incident they might be sent to”

FBU Response

Commenting on the latest assessments from HMICFRS, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, said: “These reports confirm what we have been saying for years. HMICFRS is absolutely right, a decade and a half of localism and austerity has led to fragmented services and a postcode lottery of response times and crewing levels, leaving the public dangerously unsafe in some areas. Services are in urgent need of investment and overhaul and cannot rely on reserves for financial sustainability.

“Fire and rescue is a vital public service, which needs central oversight, national standards and structures and an urgent improvement to 999 response times. After Grenfell, we wrote to the Prime Minister outlining why fragmentation of the Fire Service is unsafe, yet worryingly our calls for change have fallen on deaf ears.

“In this day and age it is completely unacceptable that a lack of basic facilities is preventing women firefighters being recruited to some stations. We have been raising these issues for years, and it is worrying that women firefighters are frequently forced to use inadequate and ill-fitting personal protective equipment and workwear uniform. A one-size-fits-all attitude is not acceptable – fire and rescue services must urgently address these concerns.

On response to terrorist incidents, Matt Wrack said: “From the start we have tried to discuss national proposals to expand firefighters’ roles to cover ‘marauding terrorist firearms attacks’. We have been willing to take the necessary steps to bring firefighters in to the aftermath of terrorist incidents, with the essential protections in place.


Fire service staff honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019

Firefighters and Fire and Rescue Service personnel have been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019

A number of people from fire services across the country have received an accolade recognising their dedication in Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

National Fire Chiefs Council Chair Roy Wilsher said: “Once again it is wonderful to see so many people from fire services being recognised by Her Majesty the Queen. I am delighted to see the wide range of people who have been honoured this year; recognising their hard work and commitment to making a difference to people’s lives, as well as their contribution to the Fire Service. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to all those who have received a honour. You should all be very proud of this achievement, you are a credit to your service and the sector as a whole.”

Officer of the Order of the British Empire

  • Paul Hancock (Lately) Chief Fire Officer Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service

Member of the Order of the British Empire

  • Veronica Adlam, Health and Safety Manager, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. For services to firefighter safety
  • Aghia Singh Pal, Engineer Infrastructure, West Midlands Fire Service. For services to charity and the community

Medal of the Order of the British Empire

  • David John Arlott, Watch Manager, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service
  • Graham Ayres, Firefighter, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service. For services to the fire service and the community
  • Martin Lown, Group Commander, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service. For services to The Fire Fighters Charity
  • William Robert Caskey, Watch Commander, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. For services to the community
  • George Clarke McLaughlin, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. For services to the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade and voluntary service to the community in Limavady

Queen’s Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service

  • Malcolm Livingston Cowie, (Lately), Watch Manager, Kent Fire and Rescue Service
  • Mark Hardingham, Chief Fire Officer, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service and NFCC Chair of Protection Coordination Committee
  • Joanne Stephens, Watch Manager, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service
  • Jeremy Peter Leonard, Response Management Team, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
  • Paul Hedley, Chief Fire Officer, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and NFCC Wildfire lead
  • John Joyce, Area Manager, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • John Dickie, Assistant Chief Officer, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

London Fire Commissioner announces her retirement

After 32 years of dedicated service to London, Dany Cotton, London Fire Brigade’s first woman Commissioner, will retire from service in April 2020

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton

Speaking after informing Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience Fiona Twycross of her decision to retire, the Commissioner said: “I have worked with the best people in the world on some of the most exciting projects, and also some of the most painful incidents to have occurred in London Fire Brigade’s history.

“The utter devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire and its impact on so many people will never leave me. I want to reassure my staff and all those affected by the tragedy that I will remain dedicated to leading London Fire Brigade through any findings from phase one of the Public Inquiry and into phase two which is expected to begin next January.

“When I joined London Fire Brigade, I was one of a handful of women in the service. It was a very different organisation, with very different attitudes, and I hope that through my work I have helped change the perception of what an incredible professional career the Fire and Rescue Service offers, equally, to both women and men.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I would like to pay tribute to Dany for her hard work, courage and dedication during her 32 years of service at London Fire Brigade and as London’s Fire Commissioner.

“Dany has led the London Fire Brigade through an unprecedented period of major incidents, including the awful Grenfell Tower tragedy, and has proven time and again that she is a truly exceptional firefighter.

“I‘m sure all Londoners would like to join me in thanking her for doing everything she can to keep our city safe.

“She is a true role model who has broken down barriers for women in London and inspired people who wouldn’t otherwise have considered being firefighters to join the fire brigade.

“I wish her the very best in retirement when she leaves the Brigade next year.”

Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience Fiona Twycross said: “It has been a privilege and an honour to work so closely with Dany in recent years, and I have seen at first hand just what an inspirational firefighter and leader she truly is.

“Dany has led the Brigade through some very difficult times for our city and deserves enormous recognition for her heroism, determination and bravery when Londoners needed it the most.”

Due to the early notice given by the London Fire Commissioner, plans to appoint a new Commissioner are not yet final.


Joint control room for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire goes live

A joint emergency 999 call control room for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire fire and rescue services has gone live

From left Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping; Chief Constable Craig Guildford; Greg Cox, General Manager for Nottinghamshire at East Midlands Ambulance Service; and Ian Pritchard, Assistance Chief Officer at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service at the site where the new tri service hub will be built

In 2018 Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire’s fire and rescue authorities both agreed on the Joint Control Project with Derbyshire chosen as the most viable location to meet the requirements for collaboration and service delivery for both organisations. A year of business planning, preparation and consultation has followed to deliver a Joint Control for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire’s 999 call handling, based at Derbyshire’s Ascot Drive Community Fire Station.

The new Joint Control operates using the tri-service mobilising system, a system that Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire fire and rescue services have been using to handle emergency calls and mobilise crews to incidents since 2015. The tri-service system allows all three services to mobilise across three county borders, with the ability to automatically call on the nearest fire engine, without the need to request its use if that fire appliance belongs to one of the other two services. Therefore, the new Joint Control only means a change of location for Nottinghamshire and it will not affect the level of service provided to anyone calling 999.

Following comprehensive consultation and support for all affected staff, Nottinghamshire’s control room staff have been transferred to Derbyshire. No compulsory redundancies have been made as a result of the process.

John Buckley, Nottinghamshire’s Chief Fire Officer, said: “In April, when we launched our new Strategic Plan, we outlined ten projects for Year 1, supporting our vision for creating safer communities across Nottinghamshire. This is the first to be delivered from that plan.

“Introducing Tri-Service Control back in 2015 was about ensuring we continued to effectively function cross-borders, so that the nearest asset was mobilised to an incident, no matter where in the three counties that appliance happened to be. This remains at the core of what we do, keeping our communities safe. Creating a Joint Control room at Ascot Drive means a change of location, but the function remains the same.

“Full credit must go to our fantastic staff in our control rooms who have fully engaged in this process.”

Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Terry McDermott said: “The newly formed Joint Control Room provides an efficient and effective emergency call handling service for the communities of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, the very communities whose safety is at the forefront of our decision making.

“Bringing the two control rooms together will not affect the way 999 calls are handled, or the level of service people will receive when needing the fire and rescue service in an emergency.

“Through proactive prevention campaigning, over the past ten years nationally the Fire and Rescue Service has successfully reduced the number of emergency incidents it attends. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of 999 emergency calls received and has therefore provided an opportunity for us to review the delivery of our call handling provision, to ensure it is as effective and efficient as it can be in line with the demand for service from our communities.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to praise all the control room staff, from both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, who have worked closely with the project team to deliver the joint control project and more importantly, I’d like to welcome our new colleagues from Nottinghamshire to Derbyshire.”


A training expedition like no other

Firefighters flew 6,000 miles to share their knowledge, skills and comradery with counterparts in Kenya – and see how their contribution is saving lives overseas

A group of more than 20 emergency service staff have continued to build a lasting relationship with Kenyan firefighters during a trip to the African country. The volunteers from fire and rescue services in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire were joined by paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) for the two-week trip in the Spring.

Former Bedfordshire FRS firefighter Ray Willet co-founded the project with Fred Akandi, who lives in Dunstable but was born in Meru, Kenya. They established the partnership in Kenya over a decade ago, with volunteers from the service first visiting in 2009 following a donation of vehicles and equipment.

Since then, there has been a strong bond between the Kenyan and British partners, which has seen all three fire and rescue services and the ambulance trust donate tens of thousands of pounds of life-saving equipment to their Kenyan counterparts.

The focus of this trip – the longest one ever completed – was to train Kenyan firefighters on the equipment most recently donated and pass on valuable skills and experience to help them on their firefighting mission.

Bedfordshire FRS donated two fire engines fully loaded with equipment at the end of 2018 and on this expedition took bags full of old personal protective equipment (PPE) with them.

All 75 Kenyan firefighters along with police officers were also taught basic first responder skills, immediate medical care and bandaging techniques by ambulance staff.

Bedfordshire Firefighter Ryan Phillips helped organise the trip and explained how lots of planning made sure everyone got the most out of it. He said: “It’s a massively rewarding experience; you see an immediate change in the people you’re training. I found the Kenyan firefighters were very practical and learnt the techniques we were showing them quickly. They have really developed and grown in confidence because of the skills passed onto them by the volunteer trainers.”

Activities included basic firefighter training like how to use the fire engine, operate the pump, run out hose, vehicle marshalling, ladder pitching variations, knots and lines, hauling aloft and getting jets to work.

The volunteers were joined for part of their trip by Bedfordshire’s Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller and former Chairman of the Authority Cllr Paul Downing, who met with Kenyan Government Officials to discuss the fire and rescue service moving forward.

CFO Fuller explained how the training and supply of equipment is futureproofing the capabilities and providing resilience to small teams of Kenyan firefighters. He added: “Since we’ve been supporting this partnership, the areas that have benefited from equipment have reported many genuine cases where lives have been saved in both fire and rescue circumstances and on our trip this year I was encouraged by the continued passion and dedication of disaster management officials we met.”

FF Phillips added: “People have put in a tremendous amount of effort to enable this extraordinary exercise to take place. From the volunteers who drove us to and from the airports, to those colleagues who work in stores, workshops, technical and driving – the list is endless. Thank you all so much. We hope you agree it’s a worthwhile cause.”

If you want to find out more about how your service can donate equipment or volunteer, contact Ryan: