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Lincolnshire 2018/19

Effectiveness

How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

Last updated 20/12/2018
Good

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

The service has a good understanding of the risk of fire and is good also at preventing fires and responding to fires. This is enhanced by a number of communication systems and tools. These include using a risk matrix to assess and prioritise community risks, and a rigorous system for capturing and learning lessons from past incidents. This has helped the service to develop a comprehensive integrated risk management plan. The plan seeks to make sure it has the right resources in the right place to manage the risks.

The service’s understanding of the risk of fire and other emergencies would be improved further if it engaged more with communities, to improve its understanding of local risk. The service is good at preventing fires. But it could further improve its positive effect in this field by looking more closely at whether it uses its resources to target prevention activity at the people who are at greatest risk from fires.

The service’s response to national risks is good, it understands national and cross-border risks well and is well prepared to meet them. Its work on protecting the public through fire regulation does need improvement. The service needs to look especially at whether it is making the right use of its enforcement powers. In the year ending 31 March 2018, the service audited one percent of known premises, which is lower than the England rate.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How well does the FRS understand the risk of fire and other emergencies?

Good

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies. But we found the following area in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The service needs to improve how it engages with the local community to build up a comprehensive profile of risk in the service area.

All fire and rescue services should identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue-related risks. They should also prevent and mitigate these risks.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Understanding local and community risk

The service uses the fire risk assessment model (FRAM) to identify and measure community risk. It does this by cross-referencing a range of local risk factors with previous incident data. The FRAM gives the service suitable risk information, so it can make the best use of its operational resources. We note that the service intends to develop the FRAM system further to incorporate relevant demographic information.

The service makes full use of the county council’s comprehensive socio-demographic data which classifies people and households according to a wide range of available information. It can use person-specific risk information from this system, to which 39 separate partner organisations have contributed.

The service divides risk into community and corporate risks and uses the risk register to record assessments of both. These are linked to the local resilience forum (LRF) community risk register. The service management board reviews the risk registers monthly.

The service is in danger of depending on too few partner organisations as its main sources of local community risk information. It relies heavily on the county council, for example, with which it shares data regularly. Over-reliance on a limited number of partners without better direct engagement with local communities may distort the service’s understanding of local risks. This could result in vulnerable groups that are hidden and harder to reach, such as the migrant community, remaining invisible.

There is good evidence that the service liaises regularly with relevant bodies to obtain a common understanding of risk. The road safety partnership and the arson task force have undertaken noteworthy work using data shared with Lincolnshire Police. 

The service has developed a ‘circulars and learning outcomes from events’ (CLOE) system to obtain relevant information about risk. This means the service can assess emerging or future changes in risk, and take early action to address them.

Having an effective risk management plan

The current integrated risk management plan (IRMP) is valid until 2020. Containing strategies for prevention, protection and response, it is refreshed every three years. In developing the plan, the service considers important elements, such as its statutory obligations. It then identifies and analyses risks before developing strategies to mitigate them.

From the IRMP the service develops an annual service plan. This outlines the main objectives, outputs and priorities that year for addressing the risks that the IRMP has identified. The plan identifies how the service will measure its success and provides the service’s strategic direction.

Drawing on the LRF community risk register, the service has identified community risks that pose a threat to life, property or the environment. It has also identified corporate risks that may prevent the service from operating. It uses a wide range of data to analyse the identified risks. These include census data, historical incident data, socio-demographic data and intervention activities that have been undertaken already. The service has compiled local station area profiles. These help it to identify and respond to the highest risks at a local level.

Maintaining risk information

A simple process enables staff to gather risk information on domestic and commercial premises. A single form is used across the service to record any risk information that has been identified. This is submitted to a central risk team to manage, which then disseminates it to relevant parties.

Site-specific risk information (SSRI) is used to record more detailed information at higher-risk premises throughout the county. The risk manager reviews all the submitted forms and decides whether an SSRI is needed for particular premises. Only wholetime firefighters with a good understanding of operational risk management can complete an SSRI. On-call firefighters may review an existing SSRI but not create a new one.

Well-designed processes communicate risk information throughout the organisation. Staff in fire control have a suitable method for recording this information. This is passed to operational crews as they respond to an incident via messages on the turnout information, or alternatively they are directed to the SSRI. Fire control can record immediate risks on to the mobilisation system to make sure information is disseminated swiftly. 

2

How effective is the FRS at preventing fires and other risks?

Good

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at preventing fires and other risks. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The service should evaluate its prevention work, so it understands the benefits better.
  • The service should ensure it targets its prevention work at people most at risk, including those from hard-to-reach groups.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Prevention strategy

The service’s prevention strategy is informed by risk, but limited in its effectiveness by its reliance on referrals from partner agencies. Home fire safety checks are driven largely by partner organisation referrals. The service uses external socio-demographic data sources to proactively identify persons whose circumstances potentially put them at greater risk of fire. The service maintains that its targeted response to risk, using partner referrals, relies on more information than just data sets. However, while the service identifies and responds to known risks within the community, it may be failing to identify some unknown risks. Where hard-to-reach groups, such as the migrant community or seasonal workers, have not engaged with partner agencies, they may be missed by the service as well.

However, the service does prioritise referrals received from partner organisations appropriately. Its prioritises using a risk matrix which reflects the potential likelihood, severity and outcome of a fire if it occurs. This risk matrix tool enables the service to allocate an appropriate response time (within five days for a critical risk) and a sufficiently trained person to respond. Those identified as being at greatest risk from a fire are prioritised above people at lower risk. The service directs those at lowest risk to the information contained in the prevention pages of the its website.

Anyone can refer an individual to the service for consideration for a home fire safety check. Prevention staff are trained to understand how to identify vulnerability and how to safeguard vulnerable people. 

However, it is unclear who is responsible for evaluating prevention activity. The service does not analyse data proactively to best understand the risk profile within its community. It cannot be sure, therefore, that it is targeting the right groups, to have the biggest effect on reducing risks. The service acknowledges that it has limited capacity to undertake any meaningful review of the information relating to prevention activities.

Promoting community safety

The service communicates information about fire prevention and promotes community safety well. The community fire safety campaign plan identifies cooking, smoking, heating and electrical fires as a priority. The service’s website provides clear and concise information on preventing fires.

Wholetime stations must carry out eight prevention campaigns a year, based on the four priority areas as well as on other identified concerns, such as water safety. The approach taken to the promotion of community safety at on-call stations is inconsistent, however. It was not clear what tasks they are being given.

The service works well with a range of partner organisations to reduce the number of fires and other risks. The service is fully committed to medical co-responding, which it carries out in partnership with the East Midlands Ambulance Service and Lincolnshire Integrated Voluntary Emergency Service.

The service has an innovative partnership with a local company that provides and delivers ready-meals to people’s homes. This company has trained its delivery staff to identify potential vulnerability in its customers’ homes. They can then submit a referral to the service to complete a home fire safety check, although the firm only submits a referral if the customer has given his or her consent.

The service seeks to reduce deliberate fires through its fire setter intervention scheme and its arson task force, a constructive partnership with Lincolnshire Police.

We found that all the staff who undertake prevention activity have received suitable training on identifying and safeguarding vulnerable persons. They liaise well with other agencies and share intelligence to protect those identified as vulnerable. The service has appointed an operational safeguarding champion who attends the county council safeguarding board.

Road safety

The service actively promotes road safety to cut the number of people who are seriously injured or killed on the roads. It is an active member of the Lincolnshire road safety partnership, which was set up in 2000. The service has identified very young drivers, the elderly and motorcyclists as especially at risk. It concentrates its partnership work on those groups. 

The partnership provides all primary schools with road safety awareness lessons and offers an annual theatre production to all secondary schools. The partnership also offers a wide range of courses, tailored to the specific risk groups of young drivers, the elderly and motorcyclists. A fee is a charged for these. The service supports the innovative ‘2 fast 2 soon’ programme. This engages with young drivers at rallies and festivals. Several community events held at fire stations focus on road safety. Station-based teams regularly support the promotion and hosting of these events. The service’s website covers road safety thoroughly and provides clear and concise information to the community.

3

How effective is the FRS at protecting the public through the regulation of fire safety?

Requires improvement

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised and risk-based inspection programme.
  • The service should assure itself that its enforcement plan prioritises the highest risks and includes proportionate activity to reduce risk. It should also include appropriate monitoring and evaluation.

All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in buildings and, where necessary, require building owners to comply with fire safety legislation. Each service decides how many assessments it does each year. But it must have a locally determined, risk-based inspection programme for enforcing the legislation.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Risk-based approach

Recently, the service improved its risk-based inspection plan (RBIP) to take a more systematic approach to the regulation of fire safety. The new RBIP is seen as an improvement on the older version. Based on a range of quantitative data that the service analyses, it makes sure the highest risks are given priority. This programme is informed by an understanding of local risk and it complies with statutory requirements. The service operates a four-stage process to identify risk premises. Suitable consideration is given to potential operational risk at each stage.

The prevention, protection and operational risk (PPOR) manager gathers and analyses a range of data, such as premises type and incident history. The PPOR manager uses this data to assign each premises a risk level. This defines the required qualification of the inspecting officer, and how often the premises will be inspected. Each premises is assigned to suitable member of staff to complete an inspection.

The methodology used to identify risk premises ensures that all relevant information is considered, and that staff with the appropriate qualifications carry out each inspection.

At the time of inspection, the service has identified 567 high-risk premises that require an annual inspection by a protection officer who is trained to at least a level 4 diploma in fire safety. As at 31 March 2018, only nine staff in the service are trained to this level. In the 12 months to the 31 March 2018, the service completed only 299 inspections of the 567 premises identified as high risk. A shortage of suitably trained protection staff has left the service unable to inspect all high-risk premises once a year, as its community safety framework advises. . Although not a substitute for checks that properly trained or qualified staff undertake, we note that some staff do hazard-spotting tasks. However, this means there could be a potential risk to the safety of the public who have access to these uninspected premises.

The service is fulfilling its statutory obligations to respond to consultations from other agencies and to concerns raised by members of the public.

Enforcement

The service’s enforcement policy outlines the methodology for considering enforcement action. However, it is unclear what parameters the service takes into account before considering a prosecution. Potential prosecution cases are presented to the service’s senior protection manager to consider, but protection staff say they are not given reasons for rejection of enforcement activities.

The service’s approach is to work in partnership with local businesses, if possible, before moving to formal enforcement in accordance with the Regulators’ Code. The service issued six Article 30 enforcement notices, three Article 31 prohibition notices and one Article 29 alterations notice in the 12 months to the 31 March 2018. In the 12 months to 31 March 2018, the service audited one percent of the known premises, which is lower than the England rate.

The service can show that it has trained its protection staff to a suitable level. These staff members have been conducting consistent fire safety audits that comply with the service’s policies and procedures.

But there is little evidence that the service is undertaking meaningful, detailed evaluation of the work that protection staff have done, to understand better how the service is reducing the risk to the public.

Working with others

The service recognises and demonstrates the intent of the Regulators’ Code to support businesses to comply with fire regulations. It shares information with partner agencies and takes appropriate joint enforcement action. One example is the joint work done with the local authority to reduce risk within houses of multiple occupation. The service is a member of the Lincolnshire multi-agency intelligence network and routinely shares relevant information with other public enforcement bodies. The service also works well with business to promote fire safety. Business owners can make direct contact with fire protection specialists through a dedicated website. The service conducts an annual business engagement campaign to help business owners keep their organisations safe from fire.

The service is also part of the Lincolnshire event safety partnership, which provides consistent advice to event organisers on public safety. The service has appointed community fire protection liaison officers to strengthen its relationship with the Care Quality Commission.

The service has a coherent plan to reduce unwanted fire signals. It trains control staff to challenge calls to attend fire alarms, where appropriate, to check as far as possible they are not false alarms and make sure resources are not mobilised for no reason. The service is committed to making use of enforcement powers against companies for consistent poor management of false alarms and where persistent activations occur.

We recognise the service’s commitment to reducing the number of unwanted fire signals. The service has recently implemented a new programme to manage unwanted fire signals. Premises that have a small number of unwanted fire signals receive suitable advice and guidance from the service to identify the cause of the alarm. If unwanted fire signals continue to be activated from a single premises, despite advice and guidance, the service will seek to charge the owner of the premises with the cost of sending a fire engine. The service has provided evidence of a small reduction in the number of unwanted fire signals reported in 2017/18 compared with the previous year.

4

How effective is the FRS at responding to fires and other emergencies?

Good

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies. But we found the following area in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The service has a plan in place to adopt national operational guidance, including joint and national learning, but needs to clearly communicate this throughout the organisation.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Managing assets and resources

The service has developed a comprehensive response availability strategy to enable it to provide maximum coverage of crews and appliances throughout the county at all times. The plan seeks to make the most efficient use of limited resources, and to guide the development of personnel, the recruitment of new firefighters and the provision of effective communication links. The strategy commits the service to providing enough capacity to respond to one major incident, one medium incident and four smaller incidents at any time.

The response time is the time taken from receiving a call for help until a fire appliance is on scene. The service sets four response targets according to the risks involved. These set the maximum response time at 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes. Most dwellings fall within the highest risk band; this means the first fire appliance must be on the scene within ten minutes.

In the 12 months to the 31 March 2018, service data showed that the first fire appliance arrived on scene within the expected timeframes 89 percent of the time. The second appliance, if required, arrived on scene within the expected timeframes on 99 percent of occasions. The average response time across all bands was seven minutes and 51 seconds in the 12 months to the 31 March 2018. The service provided data that showed that it has reduced response times between the 12 months to 31 March 2013 and the same timeframe in 2018.

The service requires each wholetime and on-call station to complete a weekly projection of staff availability. This is to make sure that sufficient resources are available for deployment. Managers must take remedial action at a local level if gaps are identified. If this does not solve the problem, wholetime firefighters can be moved to fill the gaps at on-call stations. Suitable structures are in place to make sure the service can respond in real time to changes in availability. The divisional group manager oversees this process at all times.

Response

The service is part of a regional implementation team to embed national operational guidance with five other fire and rescue services. The team has formed a working group to put this guidance into practice. This involves an analysis of the gaps in each service, adopting the guidance and then providing suitable training to relevant staff.

The service has clear procedures on responding to high-risk premises. It has developed around 640 SSRIs and 54 tactical information plans setting out premises’ risks. Most of these are available on the mobile data terminals (MDTs), carried on fire engines which operational crews can access at an incident. Crews can access this information easily. But the service acknowledges that the system still needs to improve. It is now reviewing the process to ensure that all risk information is made available to operational crews via the MDT.

The service has also developed a form to record actions taken at incidents. Available on all fire appliances, it contains prompts for messages and a record of decisions and events. A recent revision to the form provides a template for hot debriefs. The form is sent to the audit department, which identifies trends and publicises these via safety flashes. Operational staff understand the form well and use it widely. It has ensured a better understanding of incident information.

The service supplies each fire appliance with a folder containing a range of risk cards. This contains practical information on standard operating procedures for a variety of incidents, including road traffic collisions and other major incidents. Operational staff said they felt confident in using the information contained in the folder to support their decision making at an incident. 

The service provides a medical co-responder facility from 26 stations. In the 12 months to the 31 March 2018, the service attended 7,303 co-responder incidents, which accounts for 83 percent of all non-fire incidents. Partner organisations fund this fully, at no extra cost to the service.

Command

The service has decided to adopt the national operational guidance relating to incident command, and has supplied all the relevant staff with training. However, we found that incident commanders’ understanding of some elements of the guidance – such as the decision-control process, the joint decision-making model and operational discretion – varied. More work needs to be done before national guidance on incident command is fully understood across the service.

Keeping the public informed

All incidents are initially reported by fire control on the service’s twitter account and updated regularly. Incident commanders give interviews to local media as required. For more serious fire-related incidents additional media support is provided through the county council, although this is not a 24-hour service. This could cause some communications delay. For major emergencies, 24-hour communications are provided through the LRF.

Evaluating operational performance

The service conducts appropriate debriefs of operational incidents, using independent personnel. It makes sure that all personnel involved in an incident also take part in the debrief. If remedial actions are identified, they are assigned to a relevant person to resolve. Main findings are published quarterly. The audit officer disseminates them to all staff.

There is a consistently rigorous process for reviewing an incident and ensuring the lessons learned are used to improve future operations. Following an incident, crews complete a standard form, which they submit to fire control. Control staff add their own experiences during the incident and comment on communications, equipment and mobilising. A full performance review is then undertaken to identify any opportunities for learning.

The service maintains a live log of national operational learning and local incidents to develop emerging risk. The CLOE system is used to record national resilience information, learning from other fire and rescue services and other relevant information. The CLOE is reviewed monthly. Actions are agreed and responsibility for individual tasks is assigned to named staff members.

The service’s training centre produces a quarterly case study to promote a culture of learning and improvement. Based on an incident of note, these studies use a mixture of photos, videos and written information. These explain what worked well during the incident and what could be done better. The case studies are used to encourage crews to discuss how they would have approached the incident and provide operational learning in an interesting format. 

5

How effective is the FRS at responding to national risks?

Good

All fire and rescue services must be able to respond effectively to multi-agency and cross-border incidents. This means working with other fire and rescue services (known as intraoperability) and emergency services (known as interoperability).

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Preparedness

The service’s local agreements comply with – and support – the requirements of the national co-ordination and advisory framework. The control room updates the national resilience reporting tool daily, including the availability of national assets, such as high-volume pumps and water rescue teams. Control operators monitor this system regularly and highlight changes immediately. We found good examples of this work, such as the recent preparation for a tidal surge, and the service’s response to heavy snowfall at the start of 2018.

Working with other services

The service understands national and cross-border risks well and is well prepared to meet them. The control room can deploy fire and rescue service resources to cross-border incidents effectively. Control staff have clear guidance on how to deploy the nearest and most effective resources; the control system indicates what resources should be deployed. Control operators can use their discretion and override the system if they need to, to achieve the most suitable response.

The service responds well to cross-border incidents in adjoining counties. Cross-border SSRI is available to control as well as on the MDTs for crews to access. Some crew managers were unable to access this information, however.

Working with other agencies

The service undertakes a joint exercise programme to test the arrangements for cross-border incidents, and uses the learning it obtains to improve capabilities. The service runs an annual multi-agency exercise programme. Live events are held as part of this, which include the LRF.

Each of the three divisions completes a large operational exercise every quarter. These involve other agencies. The ‘training exercise without crews’ – an incident command table-top training exercise – is held several times throughout the year. It involves level 3 and 4 incident commanders (the most senior incident commanders). There is good evidence that learning is obtained consistently from such multi-agency events. 

The service works with neighbouring services and forms part of a multi-agency response. This is in line with the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles.

Fire control staff have comprehensive, detailed guidance on how to deal with a marauding terrorist attack and active shooter threats. Guidance includes information that should be communicated to the public, pre-determined attendance, officer and specialist mobilisation and police directives regarding attendance. The service held a multi-agency training exercise recently to test its plans and embed training.

The service currently shares two stations (Sleaford and Louth) with East Midlands Ambulance Service; a third joint station (Lincoln South) is due to open in July 2019. These shared stations enable firefighters and ambulance staff to interact daily, which should improve working between the two organisations. However, we heard that joint working has been limited up to now because of the operational demands that the ambulance staff face.