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Essex 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

We are encouraged by the work the service has done since our last inspection to identify and better understand the risks it faces, including the tools it is using to do this. It must continue working to make sure that all risk information is up to date and available to staff who need it, particularly the information gathered from its protection activity.

It now has clear prevention and protection strategies based on its integrated risk management plan (IRMP), but there has been very little improvement in allocating resources to carry out the work it has identified as needing to be done. The cause of concern from our last inspection remains, as the service still doesn’t have enough trained specialist staff to carry out fire safety audits of its highest-risk premises and it isn’t meeting its own targets.

The service is still not meeting its own response standards. It must better align its resources to risk. The service is implementing a new response strategy and it must make sure it has the right resources in the right place at the right time.

Only staff at a few locations are trained and able to respond to marauding terrorist attack-type incidents, but all emergency responders could be required to attend this type of incident and if firefighters aren’t following the same procedures as other responders then public safety could be compromised.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

How effective is the FRS at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies?

Good

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service required improvement 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 it gathers and records 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 knows the risks it faces

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough IRMP process. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and data sets.

The service makes good use of a risk modelling tool to identify current hazards and risks. This tool is available to managers. They can use it to see overall risk scores through a county-wide map, and can focus on command area, district or station. It contains links to guidance on the reason for each risk and the relevant data sources.

But the service could do more to identify and understand future risks, such as how new and proposed developments will impact its plans.

The service has consulted local communities and started a constructive dialogue. It has used various consultation methods to understand risks and explains how it intends to mitigate them. For example, it created a British Sign Language video to explain the consultation.

But it didn’t:

  • share the outcomes of the consultation by the same methods;
  • show the consultation’s overall effectiveness; or
  • assess how effective the activities were.

The service has an effective IRMP

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood IRMP for 2020 to 2024. The IRMP corresponds well to the service’s planning framework, as well as to plans at departmental level. It describes how the service should effectively resource prevention, protection and response activity, so it can mitigate or reduce the risks and threats the community faces now. We are encouraged that the service has addressed this area for improvement, which we established in our last inspection.

The service gathers and communicates information about the highest risks well

The service routinely collects and records risk information about people, places and threats it has identified as involving the highest risk. It has established processes and systems to gather site-specific risk information, which it makes readily available to response staff, although not all records are up to date. This lets them identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively.

The service continues to communicate urgent risk critical information effectively to fire stations.

Where appropriate, the service passes risk information to other organisations such as police, health and social services, and local authorities.

The service must keep risk information up to date

We are concerned that during our review, not all site-specific risk information records were up to date. Some of the out-of-date records are classed as high or very high risk.

During our last inspection, we established gathering and recording relevant and up-to-date risk information as an area for improvement. The service has not fully addressed this. It is vital that firefighters attending emergency incidents have current and reliable risk information to resolve incidents safely and effectively.

The service should improve the way it records and shares information gathered by protection teams

We are disappointed to find that the risk information collected by protection teams isn’t always shared throughout the service. And risk information from protection work isn’t always updated. This means not all staff can access it and understand it, so the service can’t effectively identify, reduce and mitigate risk. More work is needed so staff in response roles can access all the information they need.

The service uses feedback from operational activity to help it better understand risk

The service routinely updates risk assessments and uses feedback from local and national operational activity to inform its planning.

Our review of incident debriefs found the service has incorporated recommendations for learning into development and training for staff.

The service continually updates the data it uses to determine risk. This allows it to focus its activities where they will make the most impact. It also means the service can regularly review its emergency response options.

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 1 of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. At the time of our inspection, the service was 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 of buildings it has identified as high risk and all high-rise buildings that have cladding similar to the type installed on Grenfell Tower. It has also collected and passed relevant risk information to its prevention, protection and response teams.

2

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

Requires improvement

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

Essex County 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 provide intelligence and risk information with these other organisations when they identify vulnerability or exploitation.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure it allocates enough resources to meet its prevention strategy.
  • The service should make sure staff understand how to identify vulnerability and safeguard vulnerable people.
  • The service should evaluate its prevention activity so it understands what works.

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

The service’s prevention strategy isn’t achieving the stated risk reduction

The service’s prevention strategy is clearly linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. But this doesn’t yet translate into the reduction in risk the service has stated it will achieve.

We are, however, encouraged to see that the service is developing a clear prevention strategy to guide its work. It now needs to effectively use its resources to achieve its aims.

The service’s focus on those most at risk is improving

The service is improving the way it focuses its activity on those most at risk. It is moving towards a more risk-based approach, prioritising people and targeting its response. It is continuing its work on embedding a person-centred approach.

Of the 5,109 home fire safety checks (HFSCs) carried out by the service in 2020/21, 2,954 (58 percent) were targeted at households with a person over the age of 65 and/or a person with disabilities. This is similar to the proportion across all services in England (57 percent).

The service isn’t carrying out enough prevention activity in local communities

Firefighters could do more to contribute towards prevention activity. The service has committed to more HFSCs by firefighters, but it hasn’t yet achieved its aims. We found only limited examples of station-based staff carrying out other activities – such as road and water safety work – in their local communities. These activities are identified in the service’s strategy. As a result, vulnerable people and others may not be getting the support they need.

The service is completing fewer HFSCs per 1,000 people in the service area than the rate across all services in England. It carried out 5,109 HFSCs in 2020/21. This is 2.8 per 1,000 people in the service area, compared to 4.5 per 1,000 people throughout all services in England. The service has committed to increasing the number of person-centred HFSCs by firefighters and developing a more inclusive approach.

Firefighters show little awareness or understanding of station or district prevention planning. We did find some examples of good local prevention initiatives, but they were infrequent. These initiatives were mainly driven by the enthusiasm and commitment of individual staff members, rather than being part of a structured service approach.

Not all on-call stations are contributing to prevention work. The service allows some stations to opt out for reasons of availability and capacity.

Partnership working helps the service understand risk and plan prevention activity

The service receives data and intelligence from organisations it works with. This allows it to base HFSCs on risk and vulnerability.

It is a member of the Safer Essex Roads Partnership, leading the FireBike and Community Speed Watch initiatives. The service uses data from its partner organisations to inform its plans. Safer Essex Roads Partnership has recently launched Vision Zero – a programme that aims to reduce the number of road deaths in Essex to zero.

The service has increased prevention work since the easing of pandemic restrictions

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID-19 specific inspection from 28 September to 13 October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work well. Over the period of the pandemic that we reviewed, the service conducted fewer HFSCs and safe and well visits than it would normally carry out.

Since then, we are encouraged to find that the number of in-person safe and well visits and HFSCs has risen. The service’s reporting shows station staff completed 151 HFSCs in the first quarter of 2021, compared with just 2 in the first quarter of 2020. Officers in the central prevention team have increased the number of safe and well visits they have carried out in the first quarter of 2021 by 41 percent, compared with the same period in 2020.

The service tackles fire-setting behaviour

The service works closely with the police and other local partners to share information and support a multi-agency approach to fire-setting behaviour. It has a dedicated arson reduction manager. In Maldon and Dengie, a tri-service officer (fire and rescue, police, and ambulance) works as part of a pilot scheme to reduce arson on farms and in rural communities.

The service targets and educates people who show signs of fire-setting behaviour, using a range of suitable and effective interventions. This includes visiting schools as part of its education programme and running the Juvenile Fire-Setters intervention scheme. Its website includes information on arson prevention.

Staff in the central prevention team are skilled and confident in carrying out safe and well visits

Well-trained officers in the central prevention team have the right skills and confidence to make safe and well visits. These visits cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies. But we are disappointed to find that station-based staff aren’t carrying out safe and well visits.

Not all staff understand vulnerability or have the confidence to respond to safeguarding concerns

The service must make sure all staff know how to identify vulnerability and safeguard vulnerable people. We found an inconsistent level of understanding about vulnerability. Many staff we interviewed told us they have been trained to act appropriately and promptly in response to safeguarding concerns. They said they feel confident, know how to identify safeguarding concerns and are aware of the processes to follow. But some staff are less confident; they said they are not aware of the processes and don’t feel adequately trained to raise concerns.

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

The service works with a wide range of organisations to prevent fires and other emergencies. These include local authority teams, the NHS, police, BOC Home Oxygen Service and other members of the Safer Essex Roads Partnership.

Despite a strong relationship with adult social care, the service doesn’t make a significant number of referrals. In 2019/20, it made referrals from 4 percent (329 of 7,694) of visits.

Other organisations make referrals to the service so it can give home safety advice to reduce the risk of fire. The number of referrals from and into the service has increased since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Closer working with the NHS and police has also resulted in a recent increase in referrals from those partners. The service acts appropriately on the referrals it receives.

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. It has contributed to specific interventions in vulnerable communities and helped a resettlement project for refugees.

As part of its response to COVID-19, the service co-chaired the Essex Resilience Forum (ERF), along with the Essex Strategic Coordination Group and the multi-agency information cell. The service is an active member of the ERF, and leaders told us this helps the service to be fully engaged in multi-agency responses.

The service needs to keep improving the way it evaluates its prevention strategy

In 2019 we recommended that the service should evaluate its prevention work so it:

  • understands the benefits; and
  • makes sure it is reducing risk in local communities.

We have seen progress. Some prevention activities take account of feedback from the public, other organisations and other parts of the service (for example, the service’s education programmes). But the service needs to do more work to understand the overall impact of its prevention strategy.

The service hasn’t formally reviewed its prevention partnerships. Without this evaluation, it can’t demonstrate the partnerships’ effectiveness.

3

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

Requires improvement

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

Essex County 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.

Cause of concern

The service has insufficient resources to meet its risk-based inspection programme. It is currently not meeting its targets. As a result, partially skilled operational staff are carrying out high-risk visits, although the service acknowledges that these are not audits. There is an absence of quality assurance of audits and visits. There is a low amount of enforcement activity. There is limited proactive engagement with businesses to promote fire safety.

Recommendations

By 30 November 2022, the service should develop and implement a clear strategy for how it will effectively meet its obligations in relation to ensuring compliance with fire safety. This should include ensuring it has appropriately trained resources, a consistent use of enforcement powers; and a mechanism to assure itself on the quality of its inspections.

Areas for improvement

The service should ensure it works with local businesses and large organisations to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations.

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 IRMP

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

Staff from all parts of the service are involved in protection activities, and when needed, they feed back information effectively. For example, operational crews carry out fire safety visits at lower-risk premises and refer them to specialist fire safety officers when they need to. The service then uses information from these visits to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity.

The service aligns activity to risk, but it can’t resource it well enough

The service’s risk-based inspection programme focuses on the highest-risk buildings. The service collects data and uses it to establish which buildings are highest risk and should be included in the inspection programme. It also actively manages its Building Risk Review programme and has identified more premises to add to it.

In 2020/21 the service carried out 2,612 protection audits, equating to 5.3 per 100 known premises. This is higher than the average across services in England of 1.7 per 100. But worryingly, we found that the service doesn’t have enough trained specialist staff to carry out protection activities at its highest-risk premises. At 31 March 2021, the service had recruited an additional 11 fire protection staff; although due to training requirements only 19 staff were competent to undertake high-risk inspections compared to 31 in 2016.

The service isn’t consistently auditing the highest-risk buildings it has identified in the timescales it has set. The service told us it only inspects 18 percent of very high-risk premises as often as it should, according to its set timescales. For high-risk premises, the proportion is only 33 percent. From April to August 2021, the service was 541 audits behind its target, with the situation becoming worse each month. As a result, the cause of concern from our last inspection remains.

The service has adapted its protection activities since the easing of pandemic restrictions

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19 specific inspection from 28 September to 13 October 2021. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. Since then, we are encouraged to find audits have continued and the service identifies the changing risk profile as restrictions ease. It is working to mitigate those changing risks, for example, in relation to fires in food and drinks venues.

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

The service has carried out audits at all high-rise buildings it has identified as having cladding similar to the type installed on Grenfell Tower. It makes information gathered during these audits available to response teams and control operators, so they can respond more effectively in an emergency.

At the time of our inspection, the service was on track to have visited all the high-rise, high-risk buildings it had identified in its service area by the end of 2021.

The fire safety audits we sampled were completed to a high standard

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

  • which were part of the service’s risk-based inspection programme;
  • which were carried out 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 a high standard in a consistent, systematic way. They were in line with the service’s policies. The service should ensure it makes all relevant information from the audits available to operational teams and control room operators.

There is not enough quality assurance or evaluation of protection activity

The service carries out limited quality assurance of its protection activity. There is no formal quality assurance of inspecting officers’ work or that of other staff. And it doesn’t routinely collect equality data as part of its inspection programme.

It doesn’t have good evaluation tools in place to:

  • measure its effectiveness; or
  • make sure all sections of its communities get equal access to the protection services that meet their needs.

Enforcement activity has increased, but it still needs work

During our last inspection in 2019, we were disappointed to find staff were reluctant to act when premises repeatedly breached fire safety. There is now a growing appetite within the service for enforcement, but there is still work to do.

In the year ending 31 March 2021, the service issued 313 informal notifications and 11 enforcement notices. It didn’t issue any alteration notices or prohibition notices, and it didn’t undertake any prosecutions.

The service responds promptly to building consultations

The service responds to most building consultations on time. This supports its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. The service responded to 95 percent (1,060 of 1,110) of all building consultations received in 2020/21 within the 15-day time frame.

The service works with other organisations to regulate fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety, and it routinely exchanges risk information with them. It works with local authority partners when responding to building consultations and through its Building Risk Review programme.

We found the service communicates effectively with the relevant people during the enforcement process. It also engages with those who have an interest in public safety through safety advisory group meetings.

The service isn’t proactively engaging with businesses to promote fire safety compliance

In our last inspection, we recommended the service improves the way it works with local businesses and large organisations to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations. It does engage with businesses through its primary authority scheme but still needs to do more. Therefore, the area for improvement remains.

The service isn’t doing enough to reduce unwanted fire signals

The service takes limited action to reduce the number of unwanted fire signals (any fire alarm signal other than a genuine fire or test signal). There is a process for staff to follow, and the service supports and advises businesses. But in the year ending 31 March 2021 it attended 99 percent (1,472 of 1,485) of automatic fire alarm calls and the total number of fire-related false alarms remains steady.

This means engines may not be available to respond to genuine incidents because they are attending false alarms. It also creates a risk to the public, with more fire engines travelling at high speed on the roads.

The service has effective out-of-hours support for technical fire safety advice

In our last inspection, we recommended the service improves its arrangements for giving specialist protection advice out of hours. We are encouraged to see it has addressed this. The service now has arrangements in place.

4

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

Requires improvement

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at responding to fires and other emergencies.

Essex County 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 its response strategy provides the most appropriate response for the public in line with its integrated risk management plan.
  • The service should make sure its operational staff have good access to relevant and up-to-date cross-border 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 needs to make sure resources are well aligned to risk

The service recognises its response strategy isn’t clearly linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. Leaders couldn’t always explain the rationale for the location of all the service’s fire engines and response staff, or their working patterns.

But we are encouraged to see the service is implementing a new response strategy to make sure resources are better aligned with risk. For example, it has identified core stations to help manage its resources. This should help the service have staff and engines in the right place at the right time.

The service is converting four of its day-crewed stations to an on-call duty system. This is ongoing. It based this decision on data and risk analysis from the IRMP process.

The service isn’t meeting its own response standards

There are no national response standards of fire and rescue services’ performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in its IRMP.

Its current response standards are:

  • to attend 90 percent of all operational incidents within 15 minutes; and
  • to attend all potentially life-threatening calls in an average of 10 minutes or less.

The service doesn’t meet its standards.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s average response time to potentially life-threatening calls was 10 minutes and 23 seconds. This has improved since our last inspection, when it was an average of 10 minutes and 48 seconds (between 1 April 2018 and 31 December 2018).

In 2020/21, the service attended 86 percent of all operational incidents within 15 minutes. This is the same percentage as in 2018.

Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s average response time to all primary fires was 9 minutes and 44 seconds. This is in line with the average for significantly rural services in England (9 minutes and 45 seconds).

To support its response strategy, the service aims to have 66 engines available at 5.00pm, 6.00pm and 7.00pm each day. The service didn’t meet this target for any months in the 2020/21 period.

During the 2020/21 period, on average, 85 percent of engines were available across the service. This figure was 98.6 percent for wholetime engines and 79.2 percent for on-call engines.

The service’s crewing model isn’t helping it meet the fire standards it has set. In our last inspection, we reported that staff can book leave at short notice, meaning the service had to find cover. This is still a problem.

We are also concerned that in 2020/21, there were 27 instances where there was a failure to mobilise a fire engine due to problems with the mobilising system. This can result in resource being drawn from elsewhere to cover and delays in attending incidents.

Staff understand how to command incidents safely

There are trained incident commanders in the service, and it assesses them regularly and properly. At 31 March 2021, there were more accredited incident commanders (439) in the service than the number required (314). This lets the service safely, assertively and effectively manage the whole range of incidents it could face, from the small and routine to complex multi-agency incidents.

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

Fire control isn’t involved enough in all the service’s activities

Fire control staff aren’t consistently involved in the service’s debrief and assurance activity. For example, the service asks control staff to give written feedback following incidents, but it doesn’t often invite them to attend debriefs. And it doesn’t consistently pass information from debriefs to control staff.

The service doesn’t often involve control staff in exercises and there is no control‑specific exercise schedule. Control management wants to increase the team’s involvement.

The service needs to be able to handle simultaneous fire survival guidance calls

The service hasn’t sufficiently reviewed its ability to give fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously, as we would have expected it to. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire. The service has provided some fire survival guidance training, but not all control staff are confident they could give fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously. The service plans to address this with more training.

Fire control has systems to exchange real-time risk information with incident commanders, other responding partners and supporting fire and rescue services. Maintaining a good awareness of emergency incidents as they are happening helps the service give the public accurate and tailored advice.

Staff can easily access risk information

We sampled a range of risk information, including:

  • permanent long-term records;
  • temporary short-term records;
  • what is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings; and
  • what information fire control holds.

All the records we checked were detailed. Staff could easily access and understand them.

Firefighters can access risk information through mobile data terminals and control staff have access to the same risk information as firefighters responding to incidents.

Not all cross-border risk information is available to crews

Firefighters need risk information so they can respond safely and effectively to incidents. The service’s crews can’t access cross-border risk information from neighbouring services in London and Kent. When we visited fire stations in Essex, we found cross-border information for other services wasn’t always available on mobile data terminals.

The service is good at evaluating operational performance

As part of the inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events.

In response to our last inspection, the service introduced a new debrief policy. It now has an effective system for staff to use so they can learn better from operations.

We are pleased to see the service routinely follows its policies to make sure staff command incidents in line with operational guidance. Staff update internal risk information with the information the service receives. Formal and informal debriefing after operational incidents is embedded in the service. And leaders tell staff what the service has learned from operational incidents. It holds debrief reports centrally and makes them available to all staff via the intranet.

We are encouraged to see the service is contributing towards, and acting on, learning from other fire and rescue services and operational learning gathered from other emergency service partners. For example, after a fire in a silo at an Essex grain terminal, the service shared its learning with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, as there is a similar facility in that area.

The service hasn’t yet implemented national operational guidance

It is disappointing to see there has been a delay in the service adopting national operational guidance, which has not yet been implemented. It plans to implement it fully by 2023.

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

The service has good systems in place to tell the public about ongoing incidents, and to help keep them safe during and after incidents. It uses a range of social media platforms, as well as traditional press releases. It has improved the accessibility of its website.

It has good communication arrangements with partner organisations across the county. For example, it is part of the warn and inform group in the local resilience forum.

5

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

Requires improvement

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at responding to major and multi‑agency incidents.

Essex County 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).

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure that its procedures for responding to terrorist‑related incidents are understood by all staff and are well tested.
  • The service should make sure it participates in a programme of cross-border exercises, sharing the learning from these exercises.

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 IRMP.

There is a wide range of significant risks in the county, including Control of Major Accident Hazards sites. In our inspection, we found the service has established policies, plans and procedures for declaring and responding to major incidents, including a multi-agency response.

It is also familiar with the significant risks neighbouring fire and rescue services might face, and that it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. Firefighters in Essex have access to some risk information from neighbouring services up to 10 kilometres over the border. It can’t access risk information from neighbouring fire and rescue services in London and Kent.

A lack of staff training has the potential to negatively affect how the service can respond to some major and multi-agency incidents

We inspected the service’s arrangements for responding to different major incidents, including marauding terrorist attacks. It hasn’t trained all firefighters to respond to marauding terrorist attack-type incidents and currently relies on a limited number of staff.

Only specialist officers, and firefighters considered part of the exclusive response team, are trained and able to respond to these incidents. This could affect how firefighters work alongside other blue light responders. If they aren’t following the same procedures, public safety could be compromised.

The service works well with other fire and rescue services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. It has procedures in place and it manages them through its emergency planning team. 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 resilience assets. For example, it provided a high-volume pump for wide-scale flooding incidents and it has mobilised tactical advisors.

Incident commanders have been trained on JESIP

Incident commanders are trained in and are familiar with the JESIP. In our inspection, we found crew and watch managers were less confident with JESIP than more senior officers.

The service gave us strong evidence that it consistently follows these principles.

It also showed it had participated effectively in the local resilience forum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some, but not all, staff take part in cross-border exercises

The service participates in cross-border exercises with neighbouring fire and rescue services. This means they can work together effectively to keep the public safe. They consider risks presented by major events, where the service could give support or ask for help from neighbouring services. We are encouraged to see the service uses feedback from these exercises to inform risk information and service plans.

But the service isn’t doing enough to make sure all staff, including those in fire control, have opportunities to take part in cross-border exercises. It isn’t making sure all staff are confident enough to respond to cross-border incidents. We established this as an area for improvement in our last inspection, and the service still needs to address it.

The service is an active member of the ERF

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other organisations in the ERF. These arrangements include comprehensive plans for Control of Major Accident Hazards sites, as well as specific risk information for sites that pose additional risks.

The service is a valued partner in the forum. It has representatives on the forum’s management board, strategic and tactical co-ordinating groups and subgroups. It also takes part in regular training events, and it uses the learning to develop planning assumptions for responding to major and multi-agency incidents.

The service uses national learning

The service keeps itself up to date with national operational learning from other fire services and joint organisational learning from other blue light partners, such as the police service and ambulance trust. It uses this learning to inform planning assumptions that it makes with its partners.

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