Fire Standards Board publish the first Fire Standards for England

The first four Fire Standards for fire and rescue services in England have been released

Suzanne McCarthy, Chair of the Fire Standards Board

Suzanne McCarthy, Chair of the Fire Standards Board (FSB) told FIRE that the announcement of the first Fire Standards “is a monumental announcement, building upon and driving professionalism within our sector.”

These initial Fire Standards have an operational response focus, outlining what frontline best practice should look like. The standards are about identifying what it is to be prepared, how best to respond and then how to learn and embrace new thoughts and technologies to drive a culture of innovation and prevention. The four Fire Standards are:

  • Emergency response driving
  • Operational preparedness
  • Operational response
  • Operational learning.

The three operational Fire Standards are underpinned by the National Operational Guidance (NOG). The Board says that the key to services successfully achieving these Fire Standards is the successful implementation of NOG.

Supporting guidance and implementation support for all Fire Standards will be provided by the National Fire Chiefs Council drawing on their network and subject matter expertise. An online guide to help services with implementation of NOG is being launched at this time.

Suzanne McCarthy said: “These Fire Standards are the first of a suite of standards that the Fire Standards Board will be producing which will cover activities carried out by fire and rescue services. The aim of these organisational standards is to drive improvement and enhance professionalism, helping to identify what good looks like for the benefit of both Fire and Rescue Service personnel and the communities they serve.

“These Fire Standards and the others that will follow will contribute to shaping professional fire and rescue services that all who work in them can be proud of. They will help drive improvements and fuel innovation.”

Other Fire Standards in the pipeline include Code of Ethics, Community Risk Management Planning, Prevention and Fire Protection. The former is due to be published within the next few months.

To keep abreast of these developments visit: www.firestandards.org


Fire services now part of Covid-19 rapid testing programme

Fire and Rescue Service staff across the country are now part of a Covid-19 rapid testing programme. This is part of a drive to keep staff, their colleagues, families and the communities they serve, safe

The rapid testing programme has been extended to fire services as part of the government’s ongoing UK-wide drive to increase the availability of testing and reduce the spread of Covid-19. Fire and rescue services have received a stock of lateral flow tests, provided by NHS Test and Trace, as part of a government scheme of employer-led testing.

Figures from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) show that since January 25, more than 15,000 lateral flow tests have been carried out, which is around 30 per cent of the UK workforce. Some of these were provided through local arrangements, but with the added provision from the Department of Health and Social Care – and distributed via NFCC’s National Resilience function – this means more staff will be tested, allowing them to continue their important Covid-related work.

And the availability of these tests not only enhances the safety of fire and rescue services staff but also enables them to undertake additional Covid-related activities, which includes supporting the nationwide vaccination programme.

Fire and Rescue Service staff are also being encouraged locally to have the tests, to keep them and everyone around them safer. This helps to reinforce that the health, safety and wellbeing is a priority for the service.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter Covid-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster. Lateral flow tests hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see rapid testing available to people across the country.

“I’m delighted that fire services across the country are working with us to use the latest technology, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, both in helping target the virus locally, and helping find ways to roll this technology out further.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “The innovation and evolution of NHS Test and Trace continues to improve our detection of positive cases and I am incredibly proud of the speed at which we have been able to roll out these initiatives to protect more people more quickly. This is a national effort and a partnership of public and private sectors is instrumental in our response to this virus.

“Around one in three people with Covid-19 don’t display symptoms, meaning you can infect others unknowingly. This rapid testing programme with fire services is one of many that will inform our understanding of how rapid asymptomatic testing can be operationalised in the real world to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help us go back to as normal a way of life as possible.”

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher commented: “It is great news that fire and rescue services are receiving the lateral flow tests. This will not only help keep our staff safe, but allows important Covid-related work to continue. FRS staff are on the frontline – assisting those who need their help the most – showing it is in their DNA to be ready, willing and able to help.

“The health and safety of staff is of paramount importance and regular testing sends a very clear message to staff, your wellbeing is incredibly important, while helping you to do what you do best; be at the heart of the response.”


FIRE magazine passes remarkable milestone of 30,000 readers

Over 27,000 new subscribers have signed up for FIRE magazine as part of the bespoke ‘FIRE for All’ campaign for fire and rescue services

  • All fire and rescue personnel in Wales join the whole of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in having access to award-winning FIRE magazine
  • Majority of UK fire and rescue personnel now have access to FIRE magazine to help with their personal development
  • Extensive UK-wide coverage as services across the British Isles sign up to the print/digital bundle offer launched during the first Covid-19 lockdown

 

The three Welsh fire and rescue services have joined the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in signing up to the ‘FIRE for All’ subscription offer which means every member of staff now has access to FIRE magazine. The bundle offer of print and digital copies has been developed to ensure everyone in the Fire and Rescue Service can have access to the magazine to support their personal development.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer, John Roberts, says: “We recently took the decision to give new subscriptions to FIRE magazine for all West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue sites. We know from research amongst colleagues that they like to take time to keep up to date with the latest innovations in the Fire Service, to see what’s going on outside our county and perhaps get inspiration for enhancements to our own service.

“We feel it’s important that all our staff, whatever their role, have the chance to develop their knowledge and stay better connected with the sector through news and features on people, projects, kit, equipment and best practices.”

Developing knowledge is a key element of Fire Knowledge’s mission (the company which owns the magazine). Fire Knowledge Director Andy Fry says: “FIRE magazine has consistently kept its readers abreast of current affairs and leading professional practice, as well as challenging current thinking, exploring new ideas and, in doing so, helping to shape the direction of the sector. In short, FIRE doesn’t just report on the fire and rescue agenda; it helps set it.

“The ‘FIRE for All’ bundle offer has opened a window to the FIRE world for over 27,000 additional subscribers and, in doing so, created a new opportunity for 27,000 fire professionals to increase their knowledge and develop their professional practice.”

Andy’s remarks are echoed by CFO Mark Hardingham, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, and the next Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council. He says: “The personal development for our staff, and the organisational benefits that brings, have never been more important as the UK Fire and Rescue Service looks to the challenges and opportunities of the next ten years.

FIRE provides a fantastic way to share what is happening in the Fire and Rescue Service beyond Suffolk. Every member of our service, regardless of their role, is now able to access a hard copy or digital version of FIRE. I want Suffolk colleagues to use the wide variety of Fire Service articles to help them grow and develop in their current and future roles.”

FIRE Editor and Publisher Andrew Lynch says: “I am pleased that all fire and rescue personnel in Wales will join every member of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in having access to the magazine. It shows that we now have extensive UK-wide coverage which bodes well for sharing best practice as we highlight the excellent work fire personnel undertake across the whole of the UK.

“We believe that as the UK Fire Service’s only fully subscribed publication[1], the bundle subscription approach gives great value as a personal development tool for all personnel.

“Don’t just take my word for it. A chief officer told me recently that he quite rightly always asks, ‘why should we subscribe to something, what value does it bring? With the ‘FIRE for All’ offer, instead he asked, ‘why wouldn’t you?’

“I think that’s a brilliant question!”

To find out more about the ‘FIRE for All’ subscription package for fire and rescue services, contact Editor & Publisher Andrew Lynch at andrew.lynch@fireknowledge.co.uk or Subscriptions at beverley.rees@fireknowledge.co.uk.

 

[1] FIRE magazine is only available through subscription to a print or digital edition and has no free circulation.


New national firefighters cancer and disease registry

Alongside researchers at the University of Central Lancashire, the Fire Brigades Union report on launching a new nationwide database to assess the potential link between exposure to fire toxicants and the increased occurrence of cancers and other diseases among firefighters

The Fire Brigades Union is calling on every current and former UK firefighter suffering from a serious or chronic illness to add their name to the registry, to help save firefighters’ lives in the future.

Known as the UK Firefighters Cancer and Disease Registry (FCDR), the database will collect information on firefighters’ work routines, exposure to fire effluents, lifestyle and health. This will enable scientists to identify and recognise most common cancers and diseases related to firefighters’ work, and, in the future, offer preventative health screening, education and support that is specifically designed to protect firefighters’ health.

The project, initiated and co-sponsored by the FBU and clinicians working at the Royal Preston Hospital, will allow UCLan researchers to analyse data on a long-term basis. As part of this, they will track the number of cancer cases amongst firefighters over time, investigate possible causes of cancer and other diseases – such as exposure to fire toxicants – and evaluate the risk of different cancers among firefighters compared with the rest of the population.

This research will allow scientists to fully understand the link between the exposure to fire effluents that firefighters face at work and the prevalence of cancers or other diseases. All firefighters, both serving and retired, as well as those that have or have not been previously diagnosed with an illness, will be invited to register.

This research follows an independent UCLan report commissioned by the FBU that provides guidance for fire brigades on how to minimise exposure to fire effluents, as well as highlighting the high levels of carcinogens present in the working environment of firefighters.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters take on huge risks when tackling an emergency, but the hazard to their health does not stop when a fire is extinguished. Every current and former firefighter who has suffered a serious or chronic illness needs to add their name to this register so we can further expose the shocking numbers of firefighters suffering from cancer and other diseases.

“In Canada and parts of the US, the link between firefighting and deadly diseases has been recognised in legislation, allowing firefighters and their families to receive compensation where health has been affected or where firefighters have died as a result. We need to be doing far more to avoid contamination in the first place but also, as the body of evidence continues to grow here, politicians in the UK must be willing to step up and protect their own firefighters.”

Professor Anna Stec, Professor in fire chemistry and toxicity at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), said: “The UK’s National Cancer Registry and Analysis Service is currently not able to provide any reliable data on cancer incidence or mortality amongst firefighters. Setting up the UK Firefighters Cancer and Disease Registry will enable us to identify and keep track of all firefighters who have been diagnosed with the diseases and cancers, as well as identify any association between firefighter’s occupation and exposure to fire carcinogens.

“We are calling on all firefighters, including those new to the career and those that have moved on, to register with the UK FCDR. Filling in this registry will help us to track the rates of cancer and disease case over time, as well as helping us to recognise most common diseases and cancers related to firefighters work and exposure to fire toxins.”

See pg 66 for FIRE’s special report on the findings.


Ensuring residents feel safe in their homes

National Fire Chiefs Council Chair Roy Wilsher welcomes the government’s announcement to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding in high-rise buildings but says there is more to be done to protect residents

Earlier this month, the government announced a new funding package to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding in high-rise buildings (see pg 29). In addition, lower-rise buildings will be able to access a new government funding arrangement and there is to be a new levy and tax on developers.

This new funding is an important step forward, but what is vital now is that the funding is distributed as quickly as possible to ensure that more people can be made safe in their homes. The decision to introduce a new tax and levy on developers to help finance this work is also a positive move. It is right that those that built these buildings in the first place help to pay for the problems to be fixed.

We do, however, fully acknowledge that this announcement alone will not address all the safety issues in the built environment. We are continuing our work with government and partners to address these to ensure all residents can feel safe in their homes and are protected from the financial impact of these building failures.

As we have been saying for many years, it is only by ensuring that new builds are designed and constructed safely from the outset that government, regulators and the wider industry can ensure that unsafe buildings are no longer built. With so much focus on the remediation of existing housing, arguably not enough has been done in the period since the Grenfell Tower disaster to stop more buildings with possible inherent safety issues being built in what has been seen to be a broken building safety regime. It is with that in mind that we look forward to the introduction of the Building Safety Bill and continue to support the development of the operating model for the Building Safety Regulator so that the proposed new ‘Gateways’ regime of building controls can be introduced.

In addition to the funding, there have been other key announcements linked to the building safety programme. Many of us have watched the disturbing revelations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, much of it focusing on the types of products that were used on the building, which is why the announcement to introduce a new regulator for construction products is important. Although our continued stance is those products did not conform with building regulations at the time. The regulator will sit within in the Office for Product Safety and Standards and will have powers to remove products from the market that present a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety.

It has also been announced that Peter Baker, former Director of Building Safety and Construction at the HSE, has been appointed as the new Chief Inspector of Buildings. He will lead the Building Safety Regulator (see pg 32) which will deliver the new regime for high-risk buildings, oversee work to increase competence of all professionals working on buildings and ensure effective oversight of the entire building safety environment. Congratulations to Peter on his appointment, we continue to work with him on this important work in the weeks and months ahead.

At the time of writing the Fire Safety Bill continues its progress through parliament, with Lords amendments being debated in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. By way of background, the Fire Safety Bill will clarify that external wall systems (EWS) fall within scope of the Fire Safety Order. The NFCC has actively engaged in the legislative process throughout and we were pleased that the recommendation that the Bill be bought into force to apply to all regulated premises at once was accepted by ministers and an amendment was brought forward.

The NFCC will continue to support fire and rescue services in this area, and to ensure this new legislation is enforced in a proportionate way to give owners and businesses reasonable time to comply, while balancing the demand for people who are competent to assess EWS in the market, a priority assessment approach is being developed, which will be supported by a prioritisation tool and accompanying statutory guidance.