North Yorkshire 2018/19
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
An effective fire and rescue service will identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue risks its community faces. It will target its fire prevention and protection activities to those who are at greatest risk from fire. It will make sure businesses comply with fire safety legislation. When the public calls for help, the fire and rescue service should respond promptly with the right skills and equipment to deal with the incident effectively. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
However, the service’s use of data to profile risk is very limited – it relies mainly on historical incident data to identify and model future demand and response requirements.
Not all site-specific risk sites are visited within the service’s own time limits. There is also a lack of standardisation in the way staff identify, categorise and record risk information. This leads to inconsistency between the information stored centrally and the information available on fire engines.
The service has a sensible prevention strategy to reduce the likelihood of emergency incidents, death and injuries. Prevention activity is organised at local level. It is based on local knowledge, partner input and incident monitoring (rather than data analysis). However, the service doesn’t prioritise prevention work in areas with significantly longer attendance times.
The service works well with several organisations (including the police, health organisations and the county council) to deliver its prevention and protection activity. It records interactions but doesn’t evaluate the effectiveness of its work.
The service has a good system to ensure that its fire protection risk-based audit programme is aligned with its enforcement plan. However, the information in the system (which is used to determine the inspection process) is inconsistent. This is a concern because it generates reinspection frequencies and is used for an audit trail.
The service has a high rate of fire safety audits. Although the volume of audits is high, the number of high-risk premises being audited is low.
The service has a balanced approach to fire safety enforcement that intends to ensure public safety while minimising the burden on businesses.
The service does not publish a standard response time, so the public doesn’t know what level of service to expect. Response times have increased since 2010.
The service has good risk and response plans. It is well prepared to attend incidents at heritage and high-risk premises. The service also has effective systems to gather learning from larger incidents.
There are effective processes in place to make sure that staff are aware of any risk-critical information, such as changes to procedures or safety alerts.
The service works and trains regularly with neighbouring services, but training and exercise plans are on an ad hoc informal basis.
How well does the FRS understand the risk of fire and other emergencies?
Areas for improvement
- The service should ensure its integrated risk management plan is informed by a comprehensive understanding of current and future risk. It should use a wide range of data to build the risk profile and use operational data to test that it is up-to-date.
- The service should ensure its firefighters have good access to relevant and
up-to-date risk information, including risk information about temporary events.
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’s use of data is limited. It does not use a sufficiently wide range (of data) to produce an accurate, clear risk profile.
The service reviewed its fire cover in 2015. It produced its integrated risk management plan (IRMP) 2016/17–2020/21 from the review, which is known locally as its ‘community safety plan’.
The review used five years of incident data, which included approximately 35,000 incidents, to inform its fire modelling. It also considered other information such as housing estate plans, census information and national statistics. It didn’t include indices or deprivation data. In our view, it focused on the impact of removing resources rather than accurately profiling risk and effectively allocating resources to response, prevention and protection.
The service ran a staff and public consultation as part of the review. It generated 1,125 responses and 70 attendees at events. Several meetings were held with local MPs, council leaders and other key stakeholders. Representative bodies submitted feedback following meetings with officers and visits to every fire station.
The service revised its response arrangements as a result of the consultation, implementing a smaller vehicle – a tactical response vehicle (TRV) – at six fire stations. TRVs are crewed by three firefighters (rather than the usual four).
The TRVs were withdrawn from service for rigorous safety testing in April 2018 and replaced by a standard fire engine (with four firefighters). They are now being reintroduced, although none were being used at the time of our inspection.
On 15 November 2018, governance of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service passed from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority to the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC). The PFCC requested a review of the previous IRMP when they took over. The review was underway at the time of our inspection.
Having an effective risk management plan
We found that the service has an effective risk management plan with regard to response arrangements. The 2015 fire cover review influenced its operational response levels and crewing, replacing some larger fire engines with TRVs and fewer firefighters in line with its risk assessment. However, we were unable to identify how the review determined other risk reduction activities – for example, prevention and protection work – particularly in areas that will have a longer response time, such as rural parts of the county.
The service produces and publishes an annual document on its website that gives each station area a risk score. The risk score is calculated by:
- giving every incident type a weighting; and
- multiplying the incident’s score by the number of incidents that have occurred over the previous rolling five-year period.
Weightings are based on the type of incident. For example, road traffic collisions and building fires or rescues are given the highest weighting while incidents such as chimney fires or false alarm calls are given much lower scores.
The final risk scores correlate with the service’s fire station and engine locations, and the crewing systems in use at those locations. For example, areas like York that have the highest number of incidents have full-time fire crews; those with a lower number of incidents have other crewing systems, such as day-crewed or
Maintaining risk information
The service has a planned programme of work to make sure that wholetime crews regularly visit and inspect premises that pose the greatest risk to firefighters and the public. The service has five categories of risk site that specify review frequency:
|Very high||Every 1 year|
|High||Every 2 years|
|Medium||Every 3 years|
|Low||Every 5 years|
|Very low||Every 10 years|
Risk site visits are part of district and station plans. Local managers allocate visits to each shift, depending on the risk level and visit frequency. These sites are also used for realistic training scenarios. (Sites that aren’t visited are familiarised by a file review and table top exercise.)
This format ensures that every risk site in a station area gets an annual visit. Each shift visits all sites on a four-year rolling programme. Fire crews visit them to familiarise themselves with the site’s risks and check that the information the service holds is accurate.
The service stores risk site information centrally. During an incident, firefighters can retrieve all the details about a site’s risk via a computer terminal (on each engine). Fire crews told us they hadn’t had any training on how to identify and categorise risk level and that it was subjective. This could lead to inconsistency in the risk classification. The process needs to be standardised across the service to ensure consistency.
Crews from wholetime stations also carry out visits to newly identified risk sites. The initial information they gather is quality assured by the local station manager before being added to the central database. The database generates a risk score that determines a site’s risk level and revisit frequency. We found that some staff then alter the risk score to increase the frequency of visits. Altering risk scores could have an adverse effect on any operational tactics in the event of an incident. It also means that the two databases storing risk information have conflicting risk scores. (The service saves information on its risk database and then duplicates the risk rating onto CFRMIS, a computer software system, which is where staff can alter the risk score and visit frequency.)
We found that the local interpretation of when to visit sites can also lead to risk sites not being visited in the service’s own prescribed time limits. For example, we found a site that had not been reviewed for nearly two years even though it was down for an annual review.
The service’s risk information is comprehensive and easy to understand. However, when we conducted sampling of the information on fire engines and in the central database, we found various sites that did not have up-to-date risk information. This is a risk to firefighter safety. Data supplied by the service during fieldwork indicated that approximately 20 percent of sites are out of review date on a rolling basis.
Due to time constraints, the staff at on-call stations are only expected to carry out four site visits per year. Most but not all stations met this target. Some staff at on-call stations told us they hadn’t visited a risk site for some years. We expect such a fundamental part of operational firefighting to have more stringent oversight, standardisation and monitoring of compliance.
The service also generates short-term risk information for crews to cover risks identified by partner agencies such as the local police force and from its protection, prevention and response activity. Fire control staff update the mobilising system and place tags on addresses where there could be or are known vulnerability issues, such as oxygen (O2) use, hoarding and referrals to social services.
The service makes response plans to support temporary events – for example, the Tour de Yorkshire cycling race – which they communicate to staff by physical handover from the relevant manager or via email. The quality of the plans we saw was good. However, the way crews access them is not standardised.
The service has effective means to ensure that staff are aware of any new risk-critical information. It has several systems to inform its staff about risk information including:
- face-to-face handovers between watches;
- briefings at the start of shifts and drill sessions; and
- handover sheets.
The service also circulates risk information via a safety bulletin. All operational staff must confirm that they have received and understood any new risk information, and sign to confirm their understanding. We inspected some recording sheets that are kept at each fire station and they were all up to date.
How effective is the FRS at preventing fires and other risks?
Areas for improvement
- The service should ensure it allocates enough resources to target prevention work at people most at risk.
- The service should better evaluate its prevention work, so it understands all the benefits more clearly.
- The service should ensure staff understand how to safeguard vulnerable people and how to correctly make safeguarding referrals.
We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.
We found that the service has a sensible prevention strategy.
The strategy aims to reduce:
- the likelihood of emergency incidents; and
- the number of deaths and injuries caused by fires, road traffic collisions and other emergency situations.
The service organises its prevention activity at local level. Activity is based on local risk, incident trends and other local factors such as demographics. Data doesn’t direct activity but is used to support local decisions about risk. It helps determine the type and frequency of activity undertaken by local crews and community safety staff.
The service’s strategy covers statutory and non-statutory areas under three headings. They are:
- home fire safety
- road safety
- other risks.
Each district has its own prevention and protection work plan – a district action plan – that is created in line with local risk and priorities. The district action plan informs bespoke fire station action plans that say what prevention, protection and response-based work needs to be done by each station to reduce the local risks. This work is not based on robust data analysis – local knowledge, partner input and incident monitoring formulate the local plans.
We saw how the district action plans direct local activity and link to national and seasonal campaigns. The plans provide a degree of corporate direction while allowing for local flexibility, engagement and risk-based activity. For example, the city of York has a high number of water-related fatalities compared with other districts. Local flexibility allows the staff in York to prioritise this risk as part of its prevention activity.
We found that the service undertakes a mix of home fire safety checks and ‘safe and well’ visits. Fire safety checks are focused on reducing harm from fire and checking a property has working smoke alarms. This is referred to as ‘Part A’. Safe and well visits cover the same topics as home fire safety checks but are expanded to look at wider issues such as slip and trip risks, health factors, loneliness and winter warmth. This is referred to as ‘Part B’.
Most safe and well visits are conducted by specialist prevention staff, although the service is trialling whether some trained station-based staff could also do them. Station staff told us they didn’t feel confident asking wider health-related questions and preferred giving fire-related safety advice. This situation means that on occasion operational staff complete Part A of the visit and then pass Part B (covering wider health issues) to specialist prevention staff.
We were also told that the reluctance to complete Part B by all staff is due to ongoing industrial disputes, as well as a lack of training and confidence.
The service offers its home fire safety checks to all members of the community. It uses a risk assessment at the point of referral to determine the urgency and timescales for completion. Partners can make direct referrals for home visits using the same risk assessment.
Until recently, the service had ambitious timescales for very high and high-risk people being referred. These timescales were not being monitored for completion and the oversight of performance (in relation to visit completion) was not effectively managed. The service is unable to tell if a visit has been completed within time and does not have oversight on the number of outstanding referrals.
If the service is committed to meeting the expectations it sets out to the public for initial visits and follow-up work, it must manage the process and produce performance information to ensure that it meets its own targets.
In the year to 31 March 2018, the service carried out 2,956 safe and well checks/home fire safety checks. This equates to 3.6 safe and well checks per 1,000 population, which is below the England rate of 10.4.
During this period, the service targeted 64.4 percent of these checks at households occupied by an elderly person. This is higher than the England rate of 54.1 percent.
Promoting community safety
The service works with several organisations on prevention. Partners at a strategic level include North Yorkshire Police, health organisations, North Yorkshire County Council and the City of York Council. We found good examples of local partnership working within a multi-agency problem-solving hub. The hub is an open forum for fire service staff and other organisations to identify vulnerable people or groups and develop interventions to help them stay safe.
The service works to reduce fire-setting behaviour through the community safety hubs partnership work. It engages with schoolchildren at key stages 1 and 2, and works with young people individually through its ‘fire setters’ programme. This programme allows young people who have been identified as being at risk of fire-setting behaviours to be referred for educational intervention by a trained member of staff. According to data supplied by the service after fieldwork, they currently deal with approximately 40–50 referrals per year through this programme. However, this work is not evaluated to see if it is effective.
The service also runs short-term youth engagement courses – also known as ‘local intervention fire education (LIFE)’ – and fire cadet schemes.
There are areas of North Yorkshire that have significantly longer attendance times than others, for example, in rural villages. The service does not carry out any enhanced levels of activity to mitigate the longer response times with increased prevention work. Most prevention work is done by wholetime crews (typically based in urban stations) – so by default they are more focused on urban than rural communities. Community safety staff carry out visits to rural locations, but this is not prioritised. Staff at on-call stations do home fire safety check visits after incidents have occurred but do not have a well-managed programme of work in this area.
The service carries out local engagement, attending public and community events.
The service is not doing any work to evaluate the impact of its prevention work. However, partners told us they appreciated the fire service’s input into wider community safety initiatives such as the one to prevent drowning.
Although it was clear to us that staff are willing to identify safeguarding issues and make appropriate referrals, the lack of consistent training and in-depth understanding in this area is a concern. We heard many staff saying they would refer people directly to the police. In some circumstances, a lack of understanding and confidence leads to staff being overly cautious and unable to identify the difference between safeguarding and vulnerability.
The service has a safeguarding officer in place to filter and refer staff concerns, but this facility is only available during office hours. The service’s duty manager is theout-of-hours safeguarding contact, but duty managers do not receive any enhanced level of training in this area.
The service is an integral member of the York and North Yorkshire Road Safety Partnership. It supports activities to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the county’s roads. This is primarily through the ‘95 Alive’ campaign, which started in 2004, aimed at reducing casualties and collisions year on year. Its safety work includes education, speed traps and traffic monitoring.
Each district produces an effective road safety action plan. Plans are based on local risks and trends. They pull together incident data from the 95 Alive group, national police road safety campaigns, and national fire service road safety campaigns. The data is used to help plan the campaigns each district will deliver to reduce road deaths and injuries. For example, in Richmond, the road safety focus was on ageing drivers, seat belts and motorcyclists.
Each district has quarterly meetings to consider and evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns. While this is positive, it is limited to monitoring statistical reductions rather than assessing behavioural changes and the impact of activity.
Community safety officers produce briefing packs for operational crews to use. These include road safety messages, presentations, information and guides to social media messages.
How effective is the FRS at protecting the public through the regulation of fire safety?
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:
Areas for improvement
- The service needs to review its current IT systems to be able to manage its fire protection data more effectively.
- The service should ensure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised and risk-based inspection programme.
- The service should ensure it addresses effectively the burden of false alarms.
All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in buildings and, when 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.
The service has a good system to ensure that it carries out its audit programme in line with its enforcement plan. (Audits look for compliance – when they find poor compliance, the service’s enforcement plans either make sure that work is done or there is a prosecution.) The service has aligned protection resources to each of its four districts. Each district has a station manager who co-ordinates protection activity within the local area.
Specialist staff concentrate on higher-risk audits. They are supported by operational crews who audit lower-risk premises as part of each station’s action plan.
Operational watch managers conduct short audits following a three-year thematic audit strategy. The service specifies a premises type – for example, the theme during our inspection was ‘premises with sleeping risks’. Every six months, the theme changes to cover six identified themes over the three years.
The themes are based on the national picture and local incidents, as well as the analysis of:
- Home Office fire and casualty statistics;
- enforcement notices;
- complaints; and
- fires by incident type.
These include houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), hotels and licensed premises. Vulnerable people who may pose a sleeping risk is a big target area for the service.
Audits are quality assured through the district station manager. They observe audits and review case files for each watch manager (who is conducting the audit).
The service uses a computer software system called ‘CFRMIS’ (community fire risk information management system) to determine its inspection process. We found inconsistency in the information held on the system. This is concerning. Because the system is used to generate re-inspection frequencies and workloads, inaccurate, delayed or missing information could adversely affect the risk profiling for future audits and re-inspections. The system also provides an audit trail. The service should ensure that the information held on the system is complete and accurate.
Previously, the service conducted a range of audits to cover low, medium and high-risk premises. However, earlier this year, the strategy changed to focus audits on very high and high-risk premises.
Business safety station managers determine the local action plan in each district. They work alongside the group and station managers to determine the number of audits that can be completed in line with local capacity.
We found that the service has a higher national rate of inspections: four audits per 100 known premises compared with the England rate of three. This may be explained by operational crews conducting audits, which is not common across services. That said, while the volume of inspections is high, the number of high-risk premises being audited is low. The service told us this was due to operational crews targeting low and medium-risk premises, which equated to 90 percent of completed audits. The introduction of the three-year thematic audit programme will address the balance between low and high-risk premises being audited.
As at 1 April 2018, the service has identified 5,359 high-risk premises. However, it only audited 4.7 percent of these premises between 1 April 2018 and 31 December 2018.
The service is not meeting its own targets for response to building consultations. The service received 694 building regulation consultations in the 9 months to 31 December 2018. Of these, 71.3 percent were responded to within the required time frame. Although this is an improvement on the previous year, recent data that was not available at the time of inspection shows that there has been a slight improvement with the service responding to 76.8 percent of building regulation consultations within the required time frame in the year to 31 March 2019.
The service told us the reason it didn’t meet the targets was due to using a different method for calculating when the consultation should have been responded to. The service deemed it to be 15 calendar days from receipt rather than 15 working days, which is the required standard.
Because operational staff receive training in fire protection, they can deal with any lower-level fire safety concerns or questions. We found that the service does not always have a competent senior manager available on duty to offer advice or deal with higher-level protection issues outside normal office hours. The service should consider whether its current arrangements provide effective protection for people where dangerous conditions are found outside office hours.
When a prosecution is considered, the service conducts the public interest test with a senior manager to determine whether it should be sought. The service has access to specialist legal advice through North Yorkshire County Council.
The service is prepared and willing to take enforcement action. Protection staff meet every three months to discuss best practice and share knowledge. They receive tailored training, including by external experts.
The service’s approach strikes a balance between ensuring public safety and minimising the burden on businesses. We were given an example of how the service worked with a premises in the county where fire safety deficiencies were found following a fire. The service worked with the responsible person to take corrective action and create a case study, rather than taking formal action. This resulted in the service attending several forums to talk about fire safety management in sheltered housing schemes.
In the year to 31 March 2018, the service issued:
- 563 informal notifications;
- 20 enforcement notices;
- 4 prohibition notices; and
- carried out 5 prosecutions.
It did not issue any alteration notices.
Working with others
The service’s protection team works with North Yorkshire Police and shares information following audits to help identify and address properties that are being used for modern-day slavery or are involved in serious and organised crime. We found that the service also works with the Environment Agency, local authorities’ environmental health teams and building control to share information and promote fire protection.
Protection activity includes raising awareness with businesses locally of fire risk, as well as working with partners to identify vulnerable premises to ensure that they are regulated to the correct standards. Events are held with York City Council where the service gives advice to businesses and building owners. The service also works with landlords and attends events to give education and support. The service’s website provides information on business safety. It shows contact details should further advice be needed, or if someone wishes to make a fire safety complaint.
The service has also held workshops with environmental health officers to raise their awareness of fire safety issues and help them identify concerns and make a referral (should they identify concerns while on their inspections).
While there is activity to reduce the burden of false fire alarm activations and subsequent fire engine response, more is needed. The number of false alarms has been steadily decreasing, in part thanks to the service’s current approach (to identify repeat offenders and highlight them for follow-up work). We are pleased to see this progress. However, the system doesn’t seem to be applied consistently across all the teams able to address false alarms. This is an area that can still be improved.
How effective is the FRS at responding to fires and other emergencies?
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:
Areas for improvement
- The service should ensure it has an effective system for staff to use learning and debriefs to improve operational response and incident command.
- The service should publish its expected response standards to enable the public to compare expected performance against actual performance.
Managing assets and resources
One of the biggest challenges facing the service is managing its operational response across a large yet diversely populated area. The service has some large towns and the city of York, as well as very lightly populated areas.
When we conducted the inspection, the service had 46 fire engines spread across 38 fire stations.
In the year to 31 December 2018, the service attended 8.7 incidents per 1,000 population. This compares with the England rate of 10.4 over the same period.
The service does not have a published response standard that it has agreed with the public through consultation. Therefore, the public do not know what level of service to expect.
The service has set out its requirements for the number of fire engines it needs to have available. It has a maximum (46 fire engines), optimum (38–45), minimum (32–37) and critical (>32) fire cover model. Fire control and managers making the cover moves (to best maintain the cover) use these bandings when they allocate resources each day. Any predicted shortfalls are mitigated by using the operational staffing reserve or on-call firefighters working a variable hours’ contract. Short-term cover comes from moving full-time or day crew staff who are at stations above the minimum staffing level for that shift.
In the 9 months to 31 December 2018, the average monthly fire engine availability ranged from 86.1 percent to 91.7 percent. More recent data that was not available at the time of inspection shows that, for the year ending 31 March 2019, the service had an average fire engine availability rate of 91.7 percent.
We found the service regularly suffers from staff shortages at some on-call fire stations, resulting in fire engines being unavailable to respond to incidents. To reduce this, fire control and the on-duty group manager will move staff between stations to achieve the best level of fire engine availability. Priority is given to the stations it considers most important (because of their location in relation to other stations being unavailable, the risk profile or other operational factors). Staff are regularly taken from full-time stations and moved to other stations to cover. Although this maximises the number of fire engines available, it is not an efficient system.
The computer system for recording on-call staff availability does not link to the mobilising system. This means that any short-term crewing changes are managed by fire control staff, who are required to make the crewing change, update a spreadsheet, and then manually alter the mobilising system.
The service must ensure that its availability systems are more user friendly and accurately link to the fire control mobilising system.
As mentioned previously, the service does not have a published response standard. However, the Home Office collects and publishes data on response times by measuring the time between a call being made and the first fire engine arriving at the scene. This provides consistent data across all 45 services. In the year to 31 March 2018, the service’s average response time to primary fires was 11 minutes and 13 seconds. This is an increase from 10 minutes and 10 seconds in the year ending 31 March 2010. The service’s average response time is higher than the average for other predominantly rural services.
North Yorkshire is in the process of adopting the new national operational guidance (NOG). It has completed a strategic gap analysis to identify necessary changes to its current policy and procedures.
The service is part of a regional NOG implementation group that helps fire services in the region work together to produce documents, divide tasks and reduce their individual workloads.
Incident command training is based on the updated NOG, but the relevant procedures and policy have not been updated to include the new guidance. Despite the service temporarily allocating a manager to oversee the NOG process, progress is slow and there are no clear timescales or priority for full adoption.
The fire control mobilising system automatically calculates the quickest fire engine. It also tells the control operator how many fire engines are required for each incident type. Control staff are confident to use their discretion and mobilise extra or alternative fire engines if they feel it is required. They also have a fall-back arrangement with Cornwall FRS to take any calls if the control function is busy or out of action for any reason.
All fire engines have a computer onboard – a mobile data terminal (MDT) – that enables staff at incidents to access information on buildings, maps, operational procedures, hazardous materials and vehicle safety. Staff we sampled during our inspection were able to use the MDTs effectively and show us the information we requested. However, we found that some MDTs were faulty and had not been working properly. The service is aware of this issue and is in the process or replacing all the old terminals for newer models.
Operational commanders must be assessed every two years with a skill update every 12 months. Although staff are assessed regularly, we found a number had not completed the annual incident command refresher training.
We found supervisory managers were confident to command incidents, but some were not clear on recent changes to procedures aligned to NOG – for example, how to use decision control processes or apply operational discretion and tactical modes.
Middle managers were confident and knowledgeable in the command requirements at more complex incidents. They were assessed within set time frames and undertook a comprehensive skills maintenance training programme (in relation to incident command).
Senior managers undertake multi-agency gold incident command (MAGIC) training but do not have any formal fire service incident command qualification for their level.
Keeping the public informed
Control staff send social media messages daily and when incidents occur.The service’s website provides incident details, also updated daily.
The service encourages all middle managers to have social media accounts to engage with the public. During larger incidents, the service works with the local resilience forum (LRF) to co-ordinate any public communication.
Control staff have sound processes to be able to deal with a non-English speaking caller. They are confident and practised to be able to give a range of fire survival guidance to callers where required.
It is clear that control staff – similar to operational staff – are willing to identify people whom they feel may have a safeguarding issue. However, the lack of consistent training in this area may lead to inconsistency in the referral approach.
Evaluating operational performance
We found the service has an effective formal debriefing system in place for larger incidents.
Every incident of three or more fire engines is debriefed. Findings are recorded and shared. Every incident that requires six or more fire engines triggers a formal incident debrief.
All learning and good practice are recorded on an action plan and presented to the risk management subgroup after a structured debrief. The subgroup then allocates and oversees any actions. While fire control staff are aware of the process, they aren’t routinely included as debrief participants.
Hot debriefs capture lower-level learning from smaller, more routine incidents and training events. They aren’t formally recorded unless the commander instigates the electronic debrief process. The service has an assurance team responsible for ensuring that lower-level learning is captured and monitored for trends that need to be more widely communicated. Staff told us they didn’t feel that the assurance function was capturing learning as effectively as it could.
Although staff were not able to recite changes following debriefs, we saw evidence that showed how formal debriefs can highlight development needs – identifying what action needs to be taken, who will be responsible and when it has to be done. For example, a recent incident highlighted the need to refresh the crews in cylinder procedures. The action was allocated to the district station managers and signed off as completed, creating an audit trail of identified development being actioned.
The service uses learning from national incidents such as the Manchester Arena attack and Grenfell Tower fire. Staff view them as case studies as part of their e-learning training programme. However, the service has not shared any of its own learning nationally.
How effective is the FRS at responding to national risks?
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to national risks. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:
Areas for improvement
- The service should arrange a programme of over-the-border exercises, sharing the learning from these exercises.
- The service should ensure its firefighters have good access to relevant and
up-to-date risk information. This should include site-specific and cross-border risk information.
- The service should ensure it is well-prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to a community risk identified by the local resilience forum, including a marauding terrorist attack, and that its procedures for responding to terrorist-related incidents are understood by all staff and are well tested.
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).
Control staff and senior commanders are confident to request and mobilise national assets for large-scale emergencies. The service has mutual aid agreements so that it can call on the resources of neighbouring fire and rescue services in times of need.
Senior managers attend MAGIC training. They maintain their competency by taking part in regular exercises based on high-risk incident types and venues as part of the LRF. The service also has a range of staff with specialist skills – for example, national incident liaison officers who work with police and ambulance commanders at complex and high-risk incidents.
The service has specialist equipment to provide a local and national response to more serious incidents, including a mass decontamination unit, two high-volume pumps and a boat team.
The service has supported other fire services to deal with major incidents – for example, the summer wildfires of 2018. It has also used national assets to deal with its own large-scale incidents such as the 2015 Boxing Day floods.
We found that the service has good risk and response plans. It is well prepared to attend incidents that occur at heritage and high-risk premises.
Working with other services
North Yorkshire FRS staff take part in training exercises with neighbouring services at risk sites. However, we found they are ad hoc and informally organised, rather than part of a co-ordinated programme.
As part of our inspection, we carried out a survey of service staff to get their views of their service (please see Annex A for more details). Of the 56 firefighters or specialist support staff to respond to our staff survey, 55.4 percent stated that the service has not regularly trained or exercised with neighbouring fire and rescue services in the last 12 months.
Fire crews are confident to access the MDTs to view other fire services’ risk information (which is available to a maximum of 10 km outside the North Yorkshire border). However, we found that this information is not always up to date. The service needs to work with neighbouring services to ensure that all available information is current. We also became aware of some incompatibility issues with equipment. For example, handheld radios do not work when crews go into West Yorkshire. The service is aware of this issue and is purchasing compatible new radios.
Working with other agencies
The service is a principal member of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum. This means that it participates in exercises based on local risks and learning from national incidents. For example, a multi-agency exercise simulating a terror attack was held recently in Scarborough.
The service is not funded to have its own team of firefighters trained to deal with terrorist-related attacks, although it has an arrangement that a neighbouring service will provide this support if required. We found that control staff did not fully understand the correct process to follow (in the event of a terrorist-related attack). The service must ensure that staff can request this resource quickly and effectively if required.
Staff within the service did not have a clear understanding of what to do at a terrorist-related incident. Some have had training. Others have not and didn’t feel prepared to attend an incident of this type. This included staff within the control room.
Understanding of the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles was good at middle and senior-manager level. However, supervisory commanders did not have such a clear understanding of the requirements or procedures for working as part of a multi-agency response to an incident. Each station plan includes a requirement for the crews to participate in multi-agency exercises as part of its training regime.