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Cheshire 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

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

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

The service has developed an effective integrated risk management plan. It uses data and intelligence to identify a range of risks and describes how it intends to respond and reduce them. Additionally, it has good processes for gathering and sharing risk information with staff, although it could improve the processes for sharing risk information with its fire control.

Prevention activities, such as safe and well visits, initially focus on those most at risk. However, the service doesn’t always effectively target activity at some high-risk groups, such as people with a disability. We also believe it could make better use of information from such visits to identify where additional support is needed.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the service has continued to visit high-risk individuals. It has been part of a wider response to the pandemic – for example, supporting other organisations it works with and providing staff volunteers to support the vaccination programme.

The service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. It has assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area and continues its campaign (acknowledged in our 2018 inspection) to fit them with sprinkler systems. It has also acted on protection-related improvements identified in our 2018 inspection to increase the resource and capability of its protection team. A full restructure of the protection team nears completion.

We are pleased to see that the service routinely reviews its policies to assure itself that staff command incidents in line with operational guidance. Additionally, incident commanders have been given more guidance and training on operational discretion (this allows them to use their professional judgment to make decisions in an unforeseen situation at an incident).

Operational staff routinely carry out local or ‘hot’ debriefs following incidents. However, we found that formal debriefs aren’t always being carried out in line with service policy as we would expect.

The service is prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents. Since our last inspection, it has extended the risk information it holds for neighbouring services.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Cheshire 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 should ensure that fire control has direct access to relevant and up‑to‑date risk information.

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 good at identifying risk in the communities it serves

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough integrated risk management planning process. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources, including incident and societal data. For example, health care partners were able to share data concerning clinically extremely vulnerable individuals during the pandemic.

The service has had its incident response data externally scrutinised to ensure it supports the proposals set out in the integrated risk management plan (IRMP). Its consultation process has been independently assessed for good practice.

When appropriate, the service has consulted and undertaken constructive dialogue with communities and others including:

  • Cheshire, Halton & Warrington Race & Equality Centre;
  • Proud Trust LGBT+ Youth Group;
  • Chester FC Community Trust; and
  • the Learning Disability and Mental Health Commissioning Team at Cheshire East Council.

The service also consults with staff and representative bodies on its IRMP, and how to understand and mitigate risk.

The service has an effective integrated risk management plan

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood IRMP. This plan describes how prevention, protection and response activity is to be effectively resourced to mitigate or reduce the risks and threats the community faces, both now and in the future.

The service’s plan for 2020–24 includes:

  • extending its safe and well programme to include lone adults and single parents;
  • continuing its sprinkler campaign and work at high-rise buildings; and
  • introducing rapid-response rescue units to help on call staff availability, as well as provide specialist provision for incidents such as wildfire and flooding.

Stations within Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service include and support actions from the service’s plan in their local community action plans. The service’s quarterly report to Cheshire Fire Authority details performance and progress against important indicators, which are aligned to the priorities in its IRMP.

The service communicates risk information well within its organisation, but could improve the way it shares such information with fire control

The service routinely collects and updates the information it has about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk. It has established robust processes and systems to gather, record and make site-specific risk information readily available to prevention, protection and response staff. This helps them to identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively.

The service’s processes and systems include:

  • gathering information during familiarisation visits to high-risk premises;
  • working with building owners to put measures in place to reduce fire risks during familiarisation visits to high-risk premises;
  • working with organisations and businesses to identify short-term risk within the county, for example at sporting events and festivals; and
  • recording risk information relating to vulnerable members of the community, including hoarders, to support its response in the event of an incident.

Information is communicated to staff via a range of media including mobile data terminals on fire engines, information broadcasts and email.

However, the service could improve the way it shares information outside its organisation, particularly with North West Fire Control (fire control). Fire control mobilises resources – that is, sends staff and equipment to respond to emergencies and incidents – for Cheshire and three other fire and rescue services in the region. It only has access to site-specific risk information when there is a station manager (from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service) in the control room.

Where appropriate, the service exchanges risk information with other organisations such as the police, health partners and local authorities.

The service uses feedback from 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.

In 2019, it analysed national reports relating to major incidents, to help identify necessary changes and improvements to its plans and processes. One output was an action plan based on its review of the response to the Manchester Arena attack. The plan is designed to ensure that processes to share information with other organisations work effectively in the event of an incident.

Every quarter, the service refreshes the data it uses to model risk. This allows it to focus its activities where they will make the most impact. It also ensures that emergency response options are regularly reviewed.

The service has used learning from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to reduce risk

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

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. The service has:

  • assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area;
  • carried out fire safety audits, as well as safe and well visits; 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 developed an action plan, derived from a gap analysis of the inquiry recommendations, to update emergency response plans and work more closely with building owners.

2

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

Good

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at preventing fires and other risks.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service was good 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, as well as with the police and ambulance services. They should provide intelligence and risk information with these other organisations when they identify vulnerability or exploitation.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should improve how safe and well visits are targeted to individuals that are most at risk or are harder-to-reach and how information gathered during visits is used.
  • The service should ensure it quality assures its prevention activity, so staff carry out safe and well visits to an appropriate standard.

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 linked its prevention strategy and integrated risk management plan

The service’s prevention strategy is clearly linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. The prevention strategy is based on societal and incident data, as well as intelligence from local authorities. It also includes input from other organisations, including health, to ensure that activities are aligned with risk/groups most at risk.

The service works well with its teams and other relevant organisations on prevention, and it passes on relevant information when needed. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. The service has a process in place to ensure that operational risk information is shared between different departments so that any risks identified are managed and responded to appropriately.

COVID-19 has made an impact on, and become part of, prevention work

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID-19 specific inspection between 21 September and 2 October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately. Since then, we are encouraged to find that high-risk individuals are still being visited following an initial assessment, despite an overall reduction in safe and well visits. (The pandemic restricted the number of visits that could be done.)

The service is currently reviewing its targets and objectives for 2022. There are seven vacancies within the prevention team (at time of writing) due to difficulties recruiting during the pandemic. Short term workarounds are in place to address this.

We are pleased to see that the service has trained over 100 volunteers to administer vaccines and is supporting the mass vaccination centre at Chester Racecourse. It is also working with primary care trusts to include a vaccine check in safe and well visits. (These are targeted at vulnerable members of the community who have yet to receive a vaccination.)

The service has also temporarily re-engaged 15 firefighters to help provide resilience, respond to incidents, and assist the response to the pandemic. They are now supporting the vaccination programme.

The service should improve the way it targets some high-risk groups through safe and well visits

The service has a clear, risk-based approach to prevention activity. It takes account of a range of information and data to target vulnerable individuals and groups, such as those over 65 years of age. This has been extended to include single adults and lone parents. Individuals are assigned a risk rating based on this data, which is refreshed every five years.

However, the service should improve the targeting of safe and well visits for some high-risk groups, such as people registered as disabled. It should also consider how to make better use of the information gathered during these visits to inform future visits, as well as improve the vulnerable person process. (This process helps identify where individuals need additional support.)

Staff are confident in carrying out safe and well visits and home fire risk checks

Staff told us that they carry out safe and well visits and home fire risk checks. These checks cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies.

During our inspection, some staff expressed concern over the quality of prevention training. The service responded with a review, the results of which were used to improve induction and initial training. We were told that further training was planned to give staff more confidence when dealing with members of the community. However, the success of this activity will be difficult to measure as the service doesn’t record its quality assurance of prevention work.

Staff understand vulnerability and have the confidence to respond to safeguarding concerns

Staff we interviewed told us that they feel confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly in response to safeguarding concerns. They were familiar with how to identify safeguarding issues and aware of the processes to follow.

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

The service works with a range of other organisations including Cheshire Constabulary, NHS partners, British Red Cross and local authorities to prevent fires and other emergencies.

We found evidence that it routinely refers people at greatest risk to other organisations which may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include those working with refugees and individuals affected by isolation and loneliness, as well as adult social care.

The service has a dedicated resource to deal with referrals from a mental health trust and the local authority family intervention team, who provide targeted support in relation to smoking, hoarding and anti-social behaviour. It has also made arrangements to receive referrals from other organisations such as oxygen providers, primary care trusts and the police.

Cheshire East Council has commissioned the service to provide road safety education activity on its behalf. There is resource to support this, that will work more closely with the Cheshire road safety group. We are keen to understand if this activity is successful in reducing the number of individuals killed or seriously injured on the roads in Cheshire.

The service routinely exchanges information with other public sector organisations about people and groups at greatest risk. For example, it shares data with local authority community teams to:

  • inform local action plans; and
  • target safe and well visits to promote COVID-19 vaccinations.

The service acts 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. Its station action plans focus on arson reduction and its website includes information relating to arson prevention. The service also uses social media to target prevention and awareness messages where trends of arson have been identified.

The service works with other organisations including the police to share information and support a multi-agency approach.

The service evaluates its prevention activity to identify what works and how it could be improved

The service has good evaluation tools in place. These tools measure how effective its work is so that it knows what works, and that its communities get prevention activity that meets their needs. It has used/uses activities and methods including:

  • evaluating data sets to better target prevention activity;
  • commissioning research into the impact of safe and well visits, including atrial fibrillation screening;
  • evaluating the work of the mental health and troubled families advocate with other organisations including the local authority; and
  • consultation with the public, other organisations and parts of the service.

Evaluation is ongoing. So far, the results are positive:

  • improved data sets are being used in three pilot station areas;
  • the service’s Safe and well evaluation: effect and impact of atrial fibrillation and affordable warmth screening report found that the screening had been “a worthwhile use of existing Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service resources”;
  • the mental health and troubled families advocate’s contract has been renewed so that they can continue their valuable work with children and young people involved in fire setting; and
  • the integrated risk management plan consultation report highlights where feedback will be used to identify improvements to the safe and well programme.

The mental health advocate role was adapted during the pandemic to provide basic life support training.

3

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

Good

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service was good 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.

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 linked to its integrated risk management plan

The service’s protection strategy is clearly linked to the risk it has identified in its integrated risk management plan.

Staff across the service are involved in protection activities, with information effectively exchanged as needed. For example, firefighters and protection staff engage with local businesses to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations. Information is in turn used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s protection, prevention and response functions. This means resources are properly aligned to risk.

The effect of the pandemic on protection

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19 specific inspection, which took place from 21 September to 2 October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. Since then, we are encouraged to find that audits have continued, the majority of them remotely.

The service told us that progression of its risk-based inspection programme had slowed due to the pandemic. It has plans to address this, and will prioritise physical visits once it is safe to do so.

It continues to work with other organisations to ensure fire safety compliance. For example, with Trading Standards in relation to licenced premises storing explosives and fireworks.

The service aligns protection activity to risk

The service’s risk-based inspection programme is focused on the service’s highest‑risk and medium-risk buildings. It is currently (at time of writing) reviewing its risk-based inspection programme to ensure that risk is prioritised appropriately. We found that fire safety audits were recorded in line with the policy and timescales the service has set itself.

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

The service has completed audits at all its high-rise buildings as part of the initial response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Information gathered during these audits is made available to response teams and control operators, enabling them to respond more effectively in an emergency.

The service has continued its campaign, highlighted in our 2018 inspection report, to retrofit sprinkler systems in high-rise properties.

The service quality assures its fire safety audits

We reviewed a range of audits of different premises across the service. This included audits:

  • as part of the service’s risk-based inspection programme;
  • after fires at premises where fire safety legislation applies;
  • where enforcement action had been taken; and
  • at high-rise, high-risk buildings.

The audits we reviewed were completed to the required standard, in a consistent, systematic way, and in line with the service’s policies.

The service quality assures its protection activity in a proportionate way. Staff activities are reviewed to ensure they meet the required standard.

The service measures the effectiveness of its protection activities

The service has good evaluation tools in place to measure the effectiveness of its activity and to make sure all sections of its communities get appropriate access to the protection services that meet their needs. For example:

  • a scrutiny group and solicitor oversee prosecutions (enforcement and prosecution are protection activities);
  • a heritage group reviews the service’s work (with other organisations) to reduce fire risk at heritage properties; and
  • managers regularly review team performance against the service’s objectives
    and targets.

The service carries out enforcement activities

The service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers, and when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations. The service offers 24/7 cover to its staff and other organisations for enforcement or prohibition activity.

In the year to 31 March 2020, the service issued 1 alteration notice; 46 enforcement notices and 33 prohibition notices. It undertook one prosecution. It has completed 15 prosecutions since 2016/17.

The service has increased its protection resources

Our 2018 inspection included an area for improvement for the service to ensure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised, risk-based inspection programme.

The service has made good progress, with increased staff numbers and competency levels. However, the protection departmental restructure has yet to be completed. We look forward to understanding the impact of the team once the new structure is fully in place.

The service works closely with other organisations to regulate fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. Effective partnerships include:

  • working with local authority housing teams to reduce fire risk in houses of multiple occupation and licensed premises such as takeaways;
  • a dedicated inspector works with the Health and Safety Executive to audit sites that house dangerous substances such as chemicals (these are Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) sites); and
  • the service is a lead partner on the Heritage Fire Protection Board and works with building control to ensure plans are in place to reduce fire risks (in heritage properties).

The service response to building consultations is timely and supports its statutory responsibility

The service responds to the majority of building consultations on time, which supports its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings.

The service works with businesses to promote compliance with fire safety legislation

The service proactively engages with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. For example:

  • firefighters and protection staff have visited takeaways and sports grounds to share information and expectations; and
  • the service is a member of the Safety Advisory Group that works with event organisers to ensure fire safety compliance.

The service acts to reduce unwanted fire signals

An effective, risk-based approach is in place to manage the number of unwanted fire signals (false alarms). Fire control operators challenge calls associated with automatic fire alarms. The service will only attend when a call is received from a person at the building and it reasonably believes a fire has broken out, and/or when there is a risk to life.

Staff work with alarm-receiving centres and building owners to identify the causes of false alarms and what can be done to reduce further activations. The service gets fewer calls because of this work. Fewer unwanted calls mean that fire engines are available to respond to a genuine incident 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.

Up to 31 March 2020, Cheshire attended 3 false alarms per 1,000 people, compared to the national average in England of 4 per 1,000 people.

4

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

Good

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

Cheshire 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 ensure it has a more effective system for learning from operational incidents.

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

The service aligns resources to the risks identified in its integrated risk management plan

The service’s response strategy is linked to the risks identified in its integrated risk management plan (IRMP). It reviews where its stations, fire engines and response staff are located as part of an annual review cycle. This helps it to anticipate and direct resources where they are needed, and respond quickly to fires and other emergencies.

The service consistently achieves its target for the time taken to respond to life risk incidents

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standard in its IRMP. The service aims to attend life risk incidents – for example, dwelling fires and road traffic collisions – within 10 minutes on 80 percent of occasions. The service consistently meets its standards.

Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2020, the service’s average response time to primary fires was 9 minutes 54 seconds. This is in line with the average for other predominantly rural services.

The service targets prevention activities, such as safe and well visits, in areas where response times are longer, to reduce the risk of fire. It is also expanding its use of rapid response rescue units (small fire engines). They can improve response times in these areas, as they are smaller, lighter and more agile vehicles than a typical fire engine.

The overall availability of fire engines supports the service’s response standard

The service sets thresholds for the number of fire engines needed to meet its response standard. Overall, availability for the year to 31 March 2020 was 85.5 percent, an improvement on 82.1 percent in the previous year.

Staff have a good understanding of how to command incidents safely

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

Our 2018 inspection noted that staff would benefit from more guidance relating to operational discretion. It was encouraging to hear staff speak positively of the guidance and training provided in this area.

As part of our inspection, we interviewed incident commanders from across the service. Those 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 has some involvement with the service’s command, exercise, debrief and assurance activity

There is evidence that North West Fire Control (fire control) staff are involved in the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. The service may wish to increase the scope of this activity.

Fire control also has its own staff training programme. It is aligned to national competencies.

Fire control is able to provide fire survival guidance to multiple callers

The fire control room staff we interviewed were confident they could provide fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire. We also learnt that fire control has arrangements in place to communicate with other control rooms and for calls to be overflowed if the need arises.

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. 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 a small number of properties involving long and short-term risks, including what 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 it could be easily accessed and understood. Encouragingly, it had been completed with input from the service’s prevention, protection and response functions when appropriate.

There are opportunities for the service to improve the way it shares risk information with fire control, as previously highlighted.

The service should improve the way it evaluates operational performance

The service has taken some learning from incidents to improve its service to the public. For example, it has:

  • increased the number of fire engines that attend house fires; and
  • increased the risk rating and amended site-specific risk information following a wildfire incident.

We reviewed the records for a range of emergency incidents that should have resulted in a structured debrief. We found that they aren’t always being carried out in line with service policy as we would expect. However, staff told us that local or ‘hot’ debriefs (which are carried out immediately after an incident) work well.

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 in line with operational guidance. The service is currently (at time of writing) carrying out an annual review of national operational guidance together with a training gap analysis.

The service is good at communicating incident-related information to the public

The service has good systems, including its website and social media, to inform the public about ongoing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. Members of the public can register to receive alert messages about incidents in their area.

The service also has processes in place with the local resilience forum, local authority housing and emergency planning to share information with the public about ongoing incidents.

5

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

Good

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to major and multi-agency incidents.

Cheshire 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

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 integrated risk management planning. Examples include flooding, severe weather and industrial incidents.

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. For Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, these include incidents at high-rise buildings in Manchester and at Manchester International Airport.

Firefighters have access to risk information from neighbouring services. The radius has been extended to cover up to 10 kilometres, an increase on the 3 kilometres reported in our 2018 inspection. The service seeks to update this information annually. However, at the time of our inspection, the last review had taken place in January 2020. The service should consider how it can review the information it exchanges with neighbouring services more frequently.

The service has the ability to 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, wide area flooding and a marauding terrorist attack. The service has good arrangements in place, which are well understood by staff.

Staff gave positive feedback on the service’s preparedness to respond to a major incident. It has a well-tested exercise programme for sites where hazardous substances and materials are used and/or stored.

North West Fire Control can mobilise additional and/or specialist resources if required, regionally and nationally.

The service works well with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. It has arrangements with six neighbouring services to provide mutual support. 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. Recent incidents include:

  • assisting Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service to tackle large moorland fires; and
  • helping to prevent a dam collapse in Derbyshire.

The service would benefit from a more structured cross-border exercise programme

The service carries out exercises with neighbouring (that is, cross border) fire and rescue services. This helps them to work more effectively together to keep the public safe. However, we found that exercises are locally led – there is no formal oversight or plan.

Data provided by the service shows that there was a reduction in joint training/ exercises in 2019/20 (pre-pandemic), when compared to 2018/19.

There is evidence that learning from exercises is used to inform risk information and service plans. For example, a North West regional group shares learning in meetings. In addition, exercises with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have led to changes in how the services plan to respond to incidents at high-rise buildings.

The service is an active member of the Cheshire Resilience Forum and its staff can work with other emergency services

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in and were familiar with the JESIP. These are national principles that support all emergency services in working together at incidents.

The service could provide us with evidence that it consistently follows these principles. Staff demonstrated a good understanding of them. The service is also an active member of Cheshire Emergency Responders, which focuses on national risk assessments, joint operational learning and JESIP updates.

It has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with partners from the Cheshire Resilience Forum. These arrangements include comprehensive plans for COMAH sites. There is also a generic major incident plan, as well as site-specific risk information for sites that pose additional risks.

The deputy chief fire officer chairs the Cheshire Resilience Forum, of which the service is an active member. It provides representation at the forum’s management board, strategic and tactical co-ordinating groups and subgroups. It also takes part in regular training events and uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents. For example, a multi-agency marauding terrorist attack exercise gave the service a better understanding of national resource levels.

The service shares national learning

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 and ambulance trusts. This learning is used to inform planning assumptions that have been made with other partners.

The service has shared some learning at a national level. For example, it shared advice regarding the danger of using water to respond to a dust explosion. However, the service should ensure all opportunities to share learning are acted upon.