As part of the service’s transformation of its prevention offer to a more efficient and effective risk-based model, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has rolled out a new approach to home fire safety with a bespoke digital solution, replacing its old paper-based way of working.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s new Home Fire Safety Assessment (HFSA) is a targeted home fire safety intervention which has been co-designed with operational crews and prevention delivery staff across the service. Central to this has been the development and subsequent launch of the HFSA Intervention Tool Application (HFSA app), which has been built in-house by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s award-winning digital team and is used by operational crews and prevention staff to carry out the assessment with householders.

The development and launch of the app has been an integral part of GMFRS’ adoption of the national online Home Fire Safety Check tool, a new digital tool commissioned by the Home Office in partnership with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and developed by a private company called Safelincs.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is one of number of fire and rescue services to launch the tool, which enables householders and third parties to self-assess their home fire safety online.

Local residents can access the easy-to-follow tool on the GMFRS website. The free online assessment gives residents personalised advice by taking them through the home one room at a time, asking simple questions to help spot fire risks as they go.

“Adoption of the online Home Fire Safety Check tool and development of our bespoke intervention app go hand-in-hand as part of the service’s move to a more efficient, effective and person-centred prevention model for Greater Manchester’s communities,” says Area Manager Billy Fenwick, Head of Prevention at GMFRS.

“The online tool triages risk so that residents whose risk of fire is low are offered tailored online advice, whilst those whose risk is medium, high or very high are invited to complete and submit a referral form for a face-to-face visit.

“This approach means that we can prioritise person-centred face-to-face visits with the most vulnerable residents in our communities,” he adds.

The Detail – How it Works

When a resident completes the online Home Fire Safety Check, if they are eligible for a HFSA, they are invited to complete and submit a referral form to request a face-to-face visit. The referral information is then transferred from the Safelincs system to GMFRS’s new HFSA site, a Sharepoint-based system which has been built to host HFSA referrals and data. The resident is then contacted by colleagues in the service’s Contact Centre to book a HFSA appointment.

The HFSA intervention app is pre-populated with information captured during the online assessment and booking process and uses technological logic so that questions, and risk reduction advice, expand and collapse in line with the recording of the householder’s responses. This gives the service a tool that hosts a full suite of home fire safety topics, but which closes topics that are not relevant to that particular householder. The HFSA visit and additional information collected during the face-to-face visit is recorded on the app, and includes the option to include any follow-up activity to ensure that resident gets all the support they need to stay safe from fire.

Rollout of MDTs

The launch of the app coincides with an innovative project to replace the existing Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) on all appliances and provide an additional detachable MDT in the rear of all front-line appliances.

The project was completed in April 2022 making GMFRS one of a handful of fire and rescue services to get this type of MDT and have an additional MDT in the rear of its appliances.

The new MDTs feature upgraded hardware, more responsive software, including a newer version of the satellite navigation software, and faster, clearer and more responsive touch screen devices. The demountable second MDTs allow crews to work more mobile on and off an incident.

Firefighters are also using the new portable MDTs to carry out HFSAs. The HFSA app is preloaded on to the MDTs, which are connected to the 4G network, so crews can take it into the household and carry out the visit efficiently and effectively, eradicating the burden of paperwork and reducing the likelihood of duplication or incomplete records.

How It’s Going So Far

Since the launch of HFSAs in January 2022, around 5,000 households have received a HFSA from firefighters or prevention advisers.

HFSA training has been rolled out to all operational crews and prevention delivery staff, including a bespoke e-learning package.

GMFRS has also been highlighted as a national case study by the National Fire Chief’s Council.

Billy Fenwick adds: “Whilst we are still in the early days of delivering HFSAs, the feedback from firefighters, prevention advisers and our partner agencies is positive. We continue to listen to feedback on the app and work with our digital colleagues to make further improvements and ensure the process meets the needs of not only our own staff, but our communities.”

Prevention staff have been kitted out with tablets, also preloaded with the HFSA intervention app, to enable them to carry out face-to-face visits in the same way as operational firefighters.

Prevention Manager Melanie Kearney says: “This has streamlined the way we work. The app is simple and easy to use, is in plain English and the training is easy to follow. During a HFSA we can now input the information straight into the app using the tablet, which is more efficient and more secure.

“Overall, the rollout of HFSAs means we are prioritising visits to those residents who are the most vulnerable and really need our support to keep them safe from fires in their home.”

An example of the impact of the HFSA app involved a crew delivering a visit to a home oxygen user. During the visit, the firefighters found that having the fire risk reduction information available on the intervention app, as an aide memoire, was effective and enabled them to confidently deliver oxygen and fire safety advice to the householder, in a situation they do not come across on a daily basis.

The HFSA app has also helped GMFRS better understand the number of deaf alarms fitted per week. With the new system, the service is able to pull that data from the follow up activity section on the app as well as the visit record, which gives a truer picture of the interventions delivered.

Working With Partners

The online tool allows partners, such as social workers, carers and housing providers to assess and refer vulnerable residents to GMFRS by using the Home Fire Safety Check on their behalf and with their consent.

To support and encourage this, GMFRS has delivered HFSA training to more than 80 colleagues from over 20 different partner agencies. The training explains the new referral process taking them through the online home fire safety check and triage process. This has been welcomed by partners across Greater Manchester with consensus that the move to a digital solution is a more efficient way of delivering this work.

As an example, Age UK Hospital Aftercare support older people in Salford who are either going home or have recently been discharged home from hospital, offering up to six weeks practical support. Part of the support plan is a home safety check to ensure that they can safely manage their day-to-day living, and the service has been routinely advising and promoting HFSAs, as many clients have long-term health and mobility needs. This has led to a number of referrals for HFSA visits, helping people feel more secure, safer and confident in their homes.

“The rollout of HFSAs is part of our move to a more risk-based and targeted approach to prevention activity, with the aim of improving the effectiveness of staff delivering fire reduction advice within a home setting and ultimately keep communities safe from fire,” continues Area Manager Fenwick.

“The online tool offers the possibility to reach every home in Greater Manchester to reduce the risk of fire, while ensuring face-to-face interventions are risk-based and targeted. Our partners are a key to helping us embed this new prevention offer, as they are often working with the most vulnerable residents in our communities, who are also at a greater risk of having a fire in their home.

“HFSAs are integral to the service’s Fire Plan and Prevention Strategy, which aim to ensure the most vulnerable residents are protected and get the support they need to stay safe from fire.

“GMFRS’ investment in digital also aligns with Greater Manchester’s wider ambition to be a world-leading digital city-region, part of which is about harnessing digital transformation to deliver public services and put the needs of residents at the heart of everything we do.”