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Bedfordshire 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 15/12/2021
Good

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

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has a clear and structured approach to managing site-specific risk information. Operational crews have access to the risk information they need to keep the public safe. The service could improve how quickly and robustly it gathers this information.

Regarding prevention, the service has improved its referral routes. It has also introduced an online system for people to self-refer for fire prevention support. The service has improved how it rates risk, based on the information it receives on a referral. (This involves looking at people’s information and risk, whether they live remotely, and the speed of response time to their property.)

The service needs to have the systems and processes in place to make sure its activity is focused on mitigating the risk it has identified. We note that the service has kept some high priority prevention activity unactioned for long periods of time.

In relation to protection, the service has expanded its classification of high risks, and is taking steps to develop a better understanding of the risks its communities face. But the service has yet to update its risk-based inspection programme (RBIP) to reflect this. Also, there are deficiencies in the management information system that the service uses. This means that the service can’t assure itself of the quality and content of its RBIP.

The service has expanded its protection team and is working to conform to the national competency framework. However, seven of its fire safety officers have no clear route to gaining accreditation through recognised prior learning.

The service has a good process in place to make sure that staff are trained and competent to respond to incidents. It carries out local hot debriefs after incidents, and it has a clear learning process from operational incidents, based on written submissions. The service has agreed a new process for debriefs to broaden learning opportunities for operational staff. This new process is in place, but at the point of writing this report the service hasn’t yet responded to any incidents that will trigger this process.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Each fire and rescue service should identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue-related risks that could affect its communities. Arrangements should be put in place through the service’s prevention, protection and response capabilities to prevent or mitigate these risks for the public.

Areas for improvement

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

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

The service identifies the risks within the communities it serves

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough community planning process. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and data sets. The service uses social and societal data. It is an active participant in the Bedfordshire Local Resilience Forum (LRF), which gives it a broad overview of local risks. The service commissioned a comprehensive risk assessment to assess future demand. This assessment considers incident and comprehensive data sets.

When appropriate, the service has consulted and undertaken constructive dialogue with communities and others, such as using the Bedfordshire Fire Alert Community messaging system. This involves talking to members of the public while carrying out other activities such as delivering food through the pandemic and making good use of social media. The service also consults staff and representative bodies. While the service has made some progress with making contact with members of the community, the following area for improvement, identified in 2018, remains: more needs to be done to improve how the service engages with the local community to build a comprehensive risk profile. We found good examples of the service using new ways of getting messages to hard-to-reach groups. But there is a lack of central co-ordination to take this information about communities and use it to inform future activity.

The service has an effective community risk management plan

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood community risk management plan (CRMP). This plan describes how prevention, protection and response activity will mitigate or reduce the risks and threats the community faces, both now and in the future. The service is committed to improving its use of technology. One way in which it has already followed through on this commitment is by providing virtual learning material for use in schools.

The service has robust plans in place at a local level to support the execution of the CRMP. It has also introduced a live performance dashboard to support the plan. The service needs to develop the dashboard to enable senior leaders to assure themselves that risks in prevention and protection are being managed appropriately.

The service has a clear and structured approach to managing risk information

The service routinely collects and updates the information it has about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk. This includes having processes and systems in place to capture and record site-specific risk information. This information is readily available to all staff.

Staff carry out familiarisation visits to high-risk premises. They do this to gather information and work with building owners to put measures in place to reduce fire risks.

The service has a process to capture short-term risk within the county (for example, at sporting events and festivals). A procedure is also available to record risk to vulnerable members of the community (for example, known hoarders, and oxygen users).

This information is readily available for the service’s prevention, protection and response staff, which enables it to identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively. For example, information is stored on portable mobile data terminals aboard the fire engine. It is also available through safety broadcasts, meetings and staff emails. Where appropriate, risk information is passed on to other organisations such as the police, health organisations and local authorities.

The service uses local and national operational activity to inform its understanding of risk

The service records and communicates risk information effectively. It also routinely updates risk assessments and uses feedback from local and national operational activity to inform its planning assumptions. The service has a monitoring programme in place. Designated officers attend incidents covering a three-year rolling programme of topics (such as high-rise building fires). Once reviewed, the service shares these findings with the relevant teams and organisations.

The service monitors risk information from national incidents and acts where necessary. For example, a potential risk to firefighters was identified after Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service issued a national safety notice. In response, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service developed risk documentation, constructed an internal safety flash notice and recorded completion of a confirmation assessment.

The service has acted to reduce risk after the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

During this round of inspection, we sampled how each fire and rescue service has responded to the recommendations and learning from phase one of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has responded to learning from this tragedy. The service is on track to having assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area by the end of 2021.

It has carried out a fire safety audit and collected and passed relevant risk information to its prevention, protection and response teams about buildings identified as high risk and all high-rise buildings using cladding that is similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower. The service has also bought extra equipment to enhance its firefighting capabilities (such as equipment to help the control of smoke).

2

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

Requires improvement

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at preventing fires and other risks.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services must promote fire safety, including giving fire safety advice. To identify people at greatest risk from fire, services should work closely with other organisations in the public and voluntary sector, and with the police and ambulance services. They should share intelligence and risk information with these other organisations when they identify vulnerability or exploitation.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it targets its prevention work at people most at risk.
  • The service should ensure it quality assures its prevention activity, so staff carry out safe and well visits to the appropriate standards.

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 prevention strategy linked to its CRMP

The service’s prevention strategy is clearly linked to the risks identified in its CRMP. The prevention strategy is based on internal and external data and information, and regular communication with the service’s protection and response functions.

Prevention work doesn’t take place in isolation, with appropriate information sent to other relevant teams across the service. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. For example, the mobilising system is updated to reflect operational risks identified through prevention activity.

COVID-19 impact on prevention

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID-19 specific inspection carried out between 12 and 23 October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately, but it could do more to update its community risk profiles.

We are encouraged to find that since then, the service routinely looks for innovative ways of making sure that inter-agency referrals are made efficiently. For example, the service has started to use a QR-code keyring, which links to a quick reference guide for other organisations. The service has also invested in training other organisations to identify vulnerabilities when visiting a person’s home.

We are pleased that the service has taken the lead role in setting up and managing mass vaccination centres on behalf of the LRF. Staff have worked within local vaccination centres to identify vulnerable people who weren’t previously known to them.

The service should improve the management of its safe and well programme

After our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. We wanted it to make sure that its prevention work is aimed at those who are most at risk. Since then, the service has carried out significant activity to address this area for improvement. For instance, it has:

  • introduced an online safe and well referral portal on its website;
  • contacted members of the public at flu vaccination clinics held at fire stations; and
  • improved referral routes for other organisations.

However, the service needs to do more work to make sure it prioritises safe and well visits more effectively, so that it visits those most at risk in a timely manner.

Staff are confident in carrying out safe and well checks

During our inspection, staff told us that they are proud of the impact they make when carrying out safe and well visits. These checks cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies.

These checks also allow staff to identify where additional support may be needed.

Staff are trained and confident to address vulnerability and safeguarding issues

There is a clear path for staff to signpost a vulnerable person for additional support where the risk and need warrants it. The service also has a process in place to visit homes in areas where a fire has occurred.

The service has improved its safeguarding training for staff, and it has introduced an annual refresher programme. The service is an active partner on local adult and child safeguarding boards. Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. They told us they feel confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly.

The service works well with others to reduce the number of fires and other risks

The service works with a wide range of other organisations, such as Bedfordshire Police and East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust to prevent fires and other emergencies.

We found good evidence that it routinely refers people at greatest risk to other organisations which may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include social and healthcare providers, and those accessing the homes of people who are at higher risk. Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from others including local authority partners. The service acts appropriately on the referrals it receives. For example, it carries out safe and well visits to assess what further support is needed.

The service routinely exchanges information with other public sector organisations about people and groups at greatest risk. It uses the information to challenge planning assumptions and target prevention activity.

The service works closely with partners across prevention, protection and response. For example, the service has staff assigned to deal with referrals relating to dementia. It also exchanges data to help identify road accident hotspots.

The service works with partners to tackle fire-setting behaviour

The service has a range of suitable and effective interventions to target and educate people of different ages who show signs of fire-setting behaviour. This includes working with local authority community safety partnerships. In this context, the service directs its prevention activity at arson reduction.

When appropriate, it routinely exchanges information with other partners, including Bedfordshire Police, to support the prosecution of arsonists. The service gives additional support to those who are under the threat of arson (for example, by fitting external letter boxes and extra smoke-detection devices).

The service’s website provides information to members of the public about arson prevention. The service works with other organisations to educate children at schools, and it carries out interventions to support the rehabilitation of people who have been convicted of arson offences.

There is no formal quality assurance in place for prevention activities

The service has no formal arrangements in place to quality assure prevention activity, or information entered onto the system. These measures would make sure there is consistency in working practices.

We found some evidence of managers at fire stations monitoring safe and well activity. However, this was done locally and with no corporate oversight.

There is limited evaluation of prevention activities

Following our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. It highlighted that the service should evaluate its prevention work, so it understands the benefits better.

The service has introduced an evaluation toolkit, but this focuses on customer satisfaction rather than the activity’s effectiveness. This means that the service doesn’t know if the work it is doing is benefitting the public, and it is unable to make continuous improvements.

3

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

Requires improvement

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at protecting the public through fire regulation.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in certain 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.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should assure itself that it has effective systems and processes in place to manage its risk-based inspection programme.
  • The service should make sure it has an effective quality assurance process, so staff carry out audits to an appropriate standard.
  • 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.

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 protection strategy which forms part of its CRMP

The service’s protection strategy is clearly linked to risk and forms part of its CRMP.

Staff across the service are involved in this activity, with information effectively exchanged as needed. For example, firefighters carry out checks in communal areas of low-rise buildings. Information is, in turn, used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s protection, prevention and response functions.

COVID-19 impact on protection

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19 specific inspection of October 2020. At that time, we found it was slow to suitably adapt its protection work for the public. We also found that it didn’t carry out the full range of protection activities that were needed during the initial stages of the pandemic. Since then, the number of audits has increased.

The service has an RBIP in place

The service’s risk-based inspection programme (RBIP) is focused on the service’s high-risk buildings.

Since our last inspection, the service has improved the way it identifies high-risk premises. This has led to an increase in the number of high-risk premises it intends to audit. We are satisfied that the service has the capacity to complete this more ambitious programme.

The service has a system in place to manage its RBIP. But this system is overly reliant on manual inputs, and extracting information from it can be difficult. The system is administratively burdensome and doesn’t offer effective and timely management information.

The audits we reviewed were completed in the timescales the service has set itself.

The service has carried out fire safety audits at high-rise buildings

Audits have been carried out at all high-rise buildings the service has identified as using cladding that is similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower. Information gathered during these audits is used to update risk plans and made available to response teams, and control operators, enabling them to respond more effectively in an emergency.

The service is on track to visit all the high-rise and high-risk buildings it has identified in its service area by the end of 2021.

The service doesn’t assure the quality of its audits

We reviewed a range of audits of different premises across the service. This included audits as part of the service’s RBIP, after fires at premises where fire safety legislation applies, where enforcement action had been taken and at high-rise and high-risk buildings.

The audits we reviewed weren’t always completed in a consistent, systematic way. The service should have an effective quality assurance process in place to make sure it carries out audits to a consistent, appropriate standard.

We did find that the service uses relevant information from the audits to update site‑specific risks. It also makes this information available to operational teams and control room operators.

The service doesn’t routinely evaluate the effectiveness of its protection activities

The service does take steps to make sure that local communities get equal access to protection services. For example, it offers business safety advice on its website. This advice can be translated into many languages, and the website also offers various accessibility options.

However, the service doesn’t evaluate its protection activity to measure its effectiveness.

The service has made some progress on taking enforcement action

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued two alteration notices, three enforcement notices, nine prohibition notices and undertook no prosecutions.

After our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. This highlighted that it should assure itself that its enforcement plan includes proportionate activity to reduce risk. Since the last inspection, we are encouraged
to see that the service has increased its use of enforcement powers.

The service has taken no prosecutions since 2016. But at the time of our inspection, we found that it is increasingly willing to do so. This area for improvement remains to make sure the service develops a strong, consistent record for managing its enforcement activity.

The service has expanded its protection team and taken steps to meet the requirements of the competency framework

Following our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. This highlighted that it should ensure it makes better use of its specialist resources in implementing its RBIP.

The service has expanded its protection team to meet the requirements of its changing RBIP. The service has introduced fire safety advisers, a technical fire engineer and a data analyst. It has also improved the skills of 12 operational firefighters so that they can carry out protection activity. The service plans to carry out regular reviews of its staffing needs.

A further area for improvement highlighted that the service should assure itself that operational staff carry out audits competently. We found that operational firefighters were now carrying out protection activity appropriate to their training.

Most staff have completed, or are undergoing, training to meet the requirements of the protection competency framework.

The service works closely with other agencies to regulate fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. We found evidence of the service working effectively with other organisations. For example:

  • a dedicated inspector works with the local authority housing teams to reduce fire risk in houses of multiple occupancy;
  • the service works with the Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate to reduce the impact of fires in prisons; and
  • the service has an agreement with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service to share advice and guidance for fire engineers.

The service responds well to building consultations

The service responds to most building consultations on time, so meets its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings.

The service works with businesses to support compliance with fire safety regulation

The service proactively engages with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. Firefighters and protection staff talk to, and work with, local businesses to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations. For example, firefighters carry out COVID-19 compliance checks at business premises to support compliance with national guidance.
In addition, the protection team has annual targets to organise business engagement sessions. The service’s website also offers comprehensive information to support business safety.

The service takes action to reduce unwanted fire alarm signals

An effective risk-based approach is in place to manage the number of unwanted fire signals. Fire control operators challenge calls that are associated with automatic fire alarms based on risk.

The service will attend where there is a reasonable belief that a fire has broken out. Staff also work with alarm-receiving centres and building owners to identify the cause of an alarm and to see what can be done to reduce any further unwanted activations.

The service gets fewer calls because of this work. The service attended a little over half of all automatic fire alarm calls that it received up to 31 March 2020. This is similar to most other services. Fewer unwanted calls mean that fire engines are available to respond to a genuine incident should one occur rather than responding to a false one. It also reduces the risk to the public if fewer fire engines travel at high speed on the roads.

4

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

Good

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services must be able to respond to a range of incidents such as fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies within their areas.

Areas for improvement

The service should make sure it uses its on-call crews effectively to respond to incidents based on risk.

Innovative practice

Control staff make good use of technology to improve information gathering

Fire control staff use technology effectively to pinpoint accurate location of callers and access live imagery from incidents to inform assessment of risk and appropriate response. With permission but minimal interaction from the caller, the service is able to access a live video feed from their mobile device, which can be shared with incident commanders and emergency service partners.

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 measures in place to align its resources to the risks identified

The service’s response strategy is linked to the risks identified in its CRMP. Its fire engines and response staff are located to enable the service to respond flexibly to fires and other emergencies with the appropriate resources.

The service has carried out a comprehensive risk assessment to review where its fire stations and appliances should be located, as well as a review of its working patterns. This work will inform the next version of the service’s CRMP.

The addition of a technical response unit will mean the service can give specialist support to East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust at incidents involving complex patients.

The service is meeting its response targets

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in its CRMP. The service aims to attend life-risk incidents (such as house fires) within 10 minutes 80 percent of the time. The service’s average response time for this type of incident is 9 minutes and 15 seconds.

Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2020, the service’s average response time to primary fires was 10 minutes and 24 seconds. This is higher than the average for other significantly rural services.

Two factors contribute to how quickly the service can attend incidents: the availability and location of appliances. The service has reviewed its station locations, working practices and incident information to inform future changes. Prevention activity is rated a higher priority in rural areas, where response times are longer.

The availability of on-call fire appliances supports the response standard

The service hasn’t set itself targets of numbers of fire engines that need to be available to support its response strategy. Instead, the service seeks to improve the availability of all fire stations.

For the year to 31 March 2020, on-call availability was in line with the average for other predominantly rural services.

The service can effectively command incidents

After our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. This highlighted that the service should ensure staff know how to command emergency incidents assertively, effectively and safely. We are pleased to find effective monitoring and recording processes in place.

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed regularly and properly. This enables the service to safely, assertively and effectively manage the whole range of incidents that it could face, from small and routine incidents to complex multi-agency incidents.

As part of our inspection, we interviewed incident commanders from across the service. The incident commanders we interviewed are familiar with risk assessing, decision making and recording information at incidents in line with national best practice, as well as the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP).

Fire Control is involved with the service’s command, exercise, debrief and assurance activity

We are pleased to see the service’s control staff integrated into its command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. Control room supervisors complete incident command training. They also have to show ongoing upkeep of their skills. The service manages control exercises locally and details them in its control annual plan.

Fire control can provide fire survival guidance to multiple callers

The service has developed processes to manage multiple fire survival guidance calls, and to respond to incident changes in line with national guidance. The control room staff we interviewed are confident they had the training in place to manage many callers simultaneously. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Control has good systems in place to exchange real-time risk information with incident commanders, other responding partners and other supporting fire and rescue services. For example, the service sends fire officers to the control room to maintain a central view of incident information.

Where appropriate, the service uses technology to locate callers and access live video of an incident. Maintaining good situational awareness enables the service to communicate effectively with the public, providing them with accurate and tailored advice.

Risk information is easily accessible to staff

We sampled a range of risk information associated with several properties with both short and long-term risks. This included looking at what information is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings.

The information we reviewed was up to date and detailed. Staff told us that they could easily access and understand the information. Encouragingly, it had been completed with input from the service’s prevention, protection and response functions when appropriate.

The service has a system in place to evaluate its operational performance

After our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. This highlighted that it should ensure it has an effective system for staff to use learning and debriefs to improve operational response and incident command.

As part of the 2021 inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events. We found that the service routinely monitors incidents which trigger a debrief. There is a clear (but limited) learning cycle from operational incidents.
This is based on written submissions. The service has introduced a revised assurance structure and a new process for debriefs to broaden learning opportunities. We are keen to see the service build on this new process.

The service routinely carries out local hot debriefs after incidents. Staff told us they found these debriefs to be beneficial. Staff can share outcomes from these debriefs for further action.

The service uses national operational guidance to inform its policies

We are pleased to see the service routinely reviews its policies to assure itself that staff command incidents are in line with operational guidance. Internal risk information is updated with the information received. The service has done a gap analysis, monitoring its progress against adopting national operational guidance.

The service has committed staff time to make sure it is contributing to, and acting on, learning from other fire and rescue services or operational learning gathered from other emergency service partners.

The service is effective at keeping the public informed

The service has good systems in place to inform the public about ongoing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. This includes local information posted by station staff on social media. Members of the public can register to receive alerts about incidents in their area. The service also has arrangements in place with LRF partners to inform the community about ongoing incidents.

5

How effective is the FRS at responding to major and multi-agency incidents?

Good

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to major and multi‑agency incidents.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

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.

The service is prepared for major and multi-agency incidents

After our 2018 inspection, we gave the service the following two areas for improvement:

  • it should make sure it understands national and cross-border risks; and
  • operational staff should have good access to cross-border risk information.

During our 2021 inspection we found that firefighters have access to some basic information from neighbouring services through the fire engines’ mobile data terminal. In addition, the service shares information about cross-border special and major risks through a national database. The service sends a fire service officer and firefighters to any cross-border incident to access risk information.

The service has effectively anticipated and considered the reasonably foreseeable risks and threats it may face. These risks are listed in both local and national risk registers as part of its community risk management planning. They include flooding, industrial action and severe weather.

It is also familiar with the significant risks that could be faced by neighbouring fire and rescue services that it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. Such risks include high-rise buildings and special risks in Cambridgeshire.

The service can respond to major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service has in place to respond to different major incidents, such as high-risk buildings, widespread flooding and marauding terrorist attacks.

We found the service has good arrangements in place, which are well understood by staff. Staff gave positive feedback about the service’s preparedness to respond to marauding terrorist incidents. The service also has a comprehensive exercise programme that tests changes to marauding terrorist procedures.

The service has a clear process in place for requesting extra and specialist staff if needed. Incident commanders understand this process.

The service works well with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. It has an arrangement in place with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to provide mutual cover for incident command. It is intraoperable with these services and can form part of a multi-agency response.

The service has successfully deployed to other services and has used national assets such as sending firefighters and equipment to South Yorkshire to support the response to widespread flooding.

The service exercises with other services

Following our 2018 inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement. This highlighted that it should arrange a programme of over-the-border exercises, sharing the learning from these exercises. We found that the service undertakes cross-border exercises with neighbouring fire and rescue services so that they can work together effectively to keep the public safe. However, we found that although the exercises take place, they have been locally led with no central oversight or co‑ordination. Cross-border exercising is included in community fire station plans for 2021–2022 to give formal structure and oversight. We are keen to see that all staff understand and adopt this process.

Incident commanders understand JESIP

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in, and were familiar with, the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP). These are national principles which support all emergency services in working together at incidents.

The service could give us strong evidence that it consistently follows these principles. The service has given JESIP training to station commanders and those who rank above them. It has also included the training in development programmes for all operational managers. Staff showed a good understanding of the principles. The service uses operational debriefs to evaluate the use of JESIP principles.

The service has good arrangements in place to work with partners

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other partners that make up the Bedfordshire LRF. These arrangements include leading the command support group, and co-ordinating information in the event of a large-scale incident. The service has a clear process to prepare multi-agency site‑specific response plans where needed. The service enters risks that are classed as special or very high on to a national database.

The service is a valued partner and is represented at the LRF’s strategic and tactical co-ordinating groups and subgroups. The service takes part in regular training events with other members of the LRF and uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents. These include multi-agency strategic and tactical command exercises. Debriefs take place after large-scale multi-agency exercises. They include all partners.

The service uses national learning to inform planning

The service keeps itself up to date with joint operational learning updates from other fire services and national operational learning from other blue light partners, such as the police service and ambulance trusts. This learning is used to inform planning assumptions that have been made with other partners. The service has the meeting structures in place to support this.

The service chairs the LRF risk group and through this role, also monitors national risks.