The following is an extract of Fife's Iain Vincent report on matching operational response to risk and the available training capacity within the Retained Duty System from the June edition of FIRE Magazine - to read the article in full,subscribe here   

Fife Fire and Rescue Service has introduced an operational response strategy within the Retained Duty System (RDS) sector that ensures operational crews receive equitable training for any operational situation that they are mobilised to.

As a result of an accident investigation into a serious fire that resulted in injuries to two RDS firefighters, Fife Fire and Rescue Service carried out a major review into operational response and training within the RDS sector. The review was a response to one of the recommendations contained within the accident investigation, namely that the service should carry out a capacity analysis to determine: 'The most effective Operational Response strategy in relation to the time available to develop and maintain the skills, knowledge and understanding required by RDS firefighters'.

At the heart of the review was a simple but traditionally difficult concept to implement: 'For the same operational task a firefighter should receive the same training'.

Practical Response Options

The service was fortunate that a considerable amount of work had been carried out within Scotland by the Service Delivery Advisory Forum (SDAF). The group had analysed the issue of training capacity in considerable detail and arrived at four potential options for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service:

Option 1

A three-yearly programme that provides full development against a limited number of Operational Development modules: Core Skill Activities; Supporting Activity Modules: and Miscellaneous Development Activities.

Option 2

A programme which follows the 'firefighter is a firefighter' scenario and ensures the retained and volunteer trainee/competent firefighter completes all 45 Firefighter Development Modules.

Option 3

A three-yearly programme that provides development against a limited number of Operational Development modules; some of this development allows retained firefighters to be developed in a defensive/holding role in some operational areas but developed fully in others determined by IRMPs. Development is also provided against: Core Skill Activities; Supporting Activity Modules; and Miscellaneous Development Activities.

Option 4

That status quo prevails and development is delivered as it is at present.

Fife Solution

A project team led by myself was established to take the issue forward and develop solutions for the Service.

The first stage of the project focussed on detailed risk profiling of the RDS station areas, this was done as an analysis of incident activity over the previous five years against a range of 'nominated incident types' where activity and risk were perceived to be low.

The analysis demonstrated that the service had not responded to 11 of the 15 nominated incident types in the preceding five years. It also demonstrated that the vast majority of incidents in the 'nominated incident types' were flooding type incidents. Team member SM Steven Michie explained: "When the information was analysed it became clear that there was a real possibility to reduce the number of incidents that RDS crews responded to in a full capacity."

This gave an impetus to the project team to look for an appropriate operational response methodology that would provide the maximum amount of fire cover in RDS areas, as well as reducing the amount of training capacity that would be required to effectively train RDS firefighters for the remaining risks.

After considerable discussion and analysis of risk information, the project team decided to develop a three category response model:

GREEN - Full operational response. RDS firefighters receive equitable training in the relevant risk. Examples being domestic, commercial, RTC, secondary fires etc.

AMBER - Partial operational response (based on station specific risks or limited operational capability). Examples such as Tayport Fire Station staff trained to deal with initial actions at the local RAF base; RVP set up, info gathering, liaise with site fire service, request foam stocks, establish forward control point, establish water supplies etc (this assumes that the actual incident is out with the competence portfolio of the station eg, explosives).

RED - Holding role. Focus on firefighter and public safety, scene safety, information gathering and sharing, defensive rescue and firefighting activities, incident command set up (eg radiation incident).

The service presented the proposals to the fire authority's Police, Fire and Safety Committee which both welcomed and endorsed the approach.

Future developments

The responsibility for implementing the RDS response model was allocated to GM Calum Bruce. Whilst this article has given a brief insight into the system that Fife has implemented, Calum explains that the system is underpinned by a wide range of guidance and training materials. "Prior to implementing the system we put in place a policy and procedure, liaised closely with fire control on the mobilising issues, updated operational documentation and put in place the appropriate learning and development materials which collectively ensured a smooth transition over to the new operational response arrangements."

The journey that the service has been on over the last few years has posed us many searching questions and we have had to overcome a wide range of issues. We will, as expected, continue to review and improve the system to ensure that RDS firefighters are fully prepared and trained for the operational deployments they are expected to attend. I continue to value the enormous contribution that RDS firefighters make to the safety of our communities in Fife and across the UK.

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