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Lancashire 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

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

We are pleased with the progress that Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has made in effectiveness.

Since our first visit in 2018, the service has improved the way it consults internal and external interested parties and the public on its community risk management plan (CRMP), formerly known as an integrated risk management plan.

We were pleased to find that the service had agreed a new unwanted fire signal policy with the fire authority since our last inspection, but at the time of this inspection it hadn’t been implemented. We look forward to seeing the effect this has on false alarms.

The service has also made some progress in making sure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised, risk-based inspection programme. However, at the time of this inspection, it hadn’t yet recruited staff for all of the roles, so it was too early to see how effective this structure will be.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Lancashire 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.

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 worked with the local community to build a comprehensive profile of risk

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 and data sets, including incident data and demographic data.

The service has consulted and undertaken constructive discussions with communities and others, such as local flood action groups, the pan-Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board, and community safety partnerships, to both understand the risk and explain how it intends to mitigate it.

The service has improved the way it communicates with the public and internal and external interested parties about its CRMP. The service uses the In the Know email network to consult with its communities. This is a free service that members of the community can sign up to. Through this, the service, the local authorities and other organisations, including the police, can tell them about events and incidents in their area. It received over 1,700 responses to the consultation.

The service has an effective CRMP

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood CRMP. 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 CRMP for 2022–27 sets out how it aims to:

  • prevent fires and other emergencies from happening;
  • protect people and property when emergencies do happen;
  • respond to fires and other emergencies quickly and competently;
  • support its staff so they can focus on making Lancashire safer; and
  • get value for money from its resources.

Lancashire Fire Authority monitors the service’s performance and progress. It measures these against the priorities outlined in the service’s CRMP.

The service gathers, maintains and shares a good range of 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.

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;
  • working with organisations and businesses to identify short-term risks in the county, for example at sporting events and festivals; and
  • recording risk information about vulnerable members of the community, including hoarders, to support its response in the event of an incident.

This information is readily available for the service’s prevention, protection and response staff, which helps it to identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively. Staff can access the information in a range of ways, including through mobile data terminals on fire engines, by email, and through the online learning system.

Where appropriate, the service exchanges risk information with other fire and rescue services and organisations such as the police, healthcare providers and local authorities.

Feedback from operational activity informs the service’s 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.

Since our last inspection, the service has created a new hot debrief app that can be used on tablets. This has increased the number of debriefs being completed. It has also improved operational learning. The service uses its debriefing process to identify learning that may contribute to national operational learning. For example, it worked with a local housing authority to understand the risks of composite fence panels and how a fire could spread from them. This information was then shared nationally.

The service has responded positively to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

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 Inquiry.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. At the time of this inspections, the service was on track to assess 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 that have cladding similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower.

2

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

Good

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

Lancashire 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, 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 evaluate its prevention activity, so it understands what works.

Innovative practice

The service has developed a preferred partners list of organisations, which it reviews to make sure that people most at risk have been identified.

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 plan aligns with its CRMP

The service’s prevention plan is clearly linked to the risks identified in its CRMP.

It identifies four important areas of work based on risk within the community:

  • start safe, which teaches children fire safety;
  • live safe, which focuses on home safety advice such as electrical devices and cooking;
  • age safe, which promotes dementia awareness and supports vulnerable older people; and
  • road safety.

The service shares information internally and works well with relevant organisations on prevention. 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 teams.

Since our last inspection, the service has introduced a post-incident log, which collates incident information from the response, prevention and protection teams.

The service has adapted its prevention approach because of the pandemic

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID‑19-specific inspection between 28 September and 8 October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately. Since then, we are encouraged to find that the service has learned from this, and has listened to feedback. As a result, it now offers in-person and virtual presentations, making them more accessible.

The service targets its home safety visits at the people at most risk

Prevention activity is clearly prioritised using a risk-based approach towards people most at risk from fire and other emergencies. The service’s contact centre assesses the need for a home fire safety check (HFSC) by eligibility criteria, such as age, smoking habits, mental health and any vulnerabilities the person may have.

The service takes account of a broad range of information and data to target its prevention activity at vulnerable individuals and groups. The service has developed a preferred partners list of organisations. These organisations refer individuals who would benefit from HFSCs to the fire service. The service reviews these referrals to make sure that people most at risk have been identified. It gives each organisation a score based on how accurate the referrals are. If the organisations are referring low‑risk people, the service either gives them training to improve the quality of their referrals or removes them from the list.

Staff have the appropriate training to carry out prevention activities

Staff told us they had the right skills and confidence to carry out HFSCs. These checks cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies.

All staff are given training on fire prevention. New staff have one week of prevention training during their recruitment course. This training is supported with online learning packages. Staff also have access to their local prevention team, which can advise on, or complete follow-up visits to, more complex cases.

The service is good at safeguarding vulnerable individuals

Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. We found that safeguarding training was mandatory, and staff told us they felt confident and were trained to act appropriately and promptly. They were able to tell us the signs of vulnerability. They were also able to tell us what actions they would take to respond to a safeguarding concern, including the referral process.

The service works well with other organisations to prevent fires and other emergencies

The service works with a wide range of other organisations such as Lancashire Police, local authorities, and the Lancashire Road Safety Partnership to prevent fires and other emergencies. A fire officer from the service also led the work nationally on road safety.

We found good evidence that it routinely referred people at greatest risk to other organisations that may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include the NHS and other social care providers. Arrangements are also in place to receive referrals from others.

If necessary, the service offers a safe and well component to HFSCs. This can identify additional risk factors and vulnerabilities, such as social isolation, mental health and dementia, which not only increase the risk of fire, but may also affect an individual’s health and wellbeing. Referrals can then be made to NHS and social care providers.

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 is proactively involved in joint campaigns with the adult and children’s safeguarding board partners. It is currently working with Trauma Informed, a government-funded project which aims to reduce violence.

As we noted in the 2020 COVID-19 inspection, the service is now working more closely with other members of the Lancashire local resilience forum (LRF). Organisations in the LRF have told us that, as a result of the pandemic, the fire service is seen as a more active and trusted partner.

The service has effective procedures for tackling 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 school visits, a Prince’s Trust programme and working with the community safety partnerships.

When appropriate, it routinely shares information with other organisations to support the prosecution of arsonists. The service works with other organisations, including the police, to share information and support a multi-agency approach.

The service should evaluate all its prevention activities

We saw some evidence that the service evaluated how effective its activity was in making sure all its communities have equal access to prevention activity that meets their needs, such as road safety activities and Bright Sparks, a fire safety package for young children that is presented in schools. However, not all prevention activities had been evaluated. As a result, the service is missing opportunities to improve how it helps the public.

3

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

Good

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

Lancashire 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.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised and risk-based inspection programme.
  • The service should make sure it allocates enough resources to respond effectively and in time to statutory building control consultations.

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

The protection plan outlines the service’s main risks

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

Staff across the service are involved in this activity, with information effectively exchanged as needed. For example, the service is trialling having wholetime operational staff carry out fire safety checks at lower-risk premises. Protection issues are gathered and shared through the post-incident log. 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 service adapted its protection activities positively during COVID

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19-specific inspection in September and October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. Since then, we are encouraged to find that the service’s protection activity has continued, and some wholetime operational staff and specialist protection staff are continuing to carry out face-to-face visits.

Protection activity is focused on the highest-risk buildings

Since our last inspection, the service has reviewed its risk-based inspection programme, which is focused on the service’s highest risk buildings. The service told us it has identified 7,440 premises as high risk. These include buildings with overnight accommodation. Specialist fire safety staff will inspect these over a three-year cycle.

The service isn’t currently on track to inspect these premises in line with its risk-based inspection programme. It plans to put in a new staffing structure to meet the demand. The structure has been approved by the fire authority, but at the time of inspection the department still had several vacancies.

Safety audits of high-rise buildings are on track

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

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

The service carries out fire safety audits to a high standard

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 a high standard in a consistent, systematic way, and in line with the service’s policies. Relevant information from the audits is made available to operational teams and control room operators.

Limited quality assurance is carried out

We found that there was no quality assurance of the service’s protection activity taking place. The service recognises this. The new staffing structure will introduce six new posts and a new process. This will increase capacity to assure the quality of the fire safety checks and audits that take place.

Some protection activities are evaluated

The service has some evaluation tools in place to measure its effectiveness or to make sure all sections of its communities get appropriate access to protection services that meet their needs. For example, it carries out business owner surveys, and, where joint action has taken place, it evaluates its results with the other organisations that were involved.

The service is good at using its full range of enforcement powers

The service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers and, when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service:

  • issued 2 alteration notices;
  • issued 243 informal notifications;
  • issued 38 enforcement notices;
  • issued 3 prohibition notices; and
  • undertook one prosecution.

It completed 16 prosecutions in the past 5 years, from 2016/17 to 2020/21.

The service has recently increased its protection resources

Our 2018 inspection included an area for improvement for the service to make sure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised risk-based inspection programme. The service has made some progress on this. It has reviewed its structure within the protection team but, although there has been a recent increase in protection staff and funding, it is too early to see how effective this will be. At the time of this inspection, the protection department restructure had yet to be completed. As a result, this is still an area of improvement for the service.

The new structure ensures that staff get the right training and work to appropriate accreditation. The service aligns staff training with nationally recognised standards. The service has three fire engineers available in-house. Out-of-hours protection advice is available through a fire safety officer who is either on duty or can be re-called to duty.

We look forward to seeing the full effect of the new structure when it is fully in place.

The service works closely with other organisations

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. For example, the service worked with local authority housing and the Care Quality Commission to carry out enforcement activity at a care home.

The service doesn’t respond to building consultations on time

The service doesn’t always respond to building consultations on time, so doesn’t consistently meet its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. Since our last inspection, the percentage of responses completed within the timeframe has fallen from 94.1 percent in 2018/19 to 76.3 percent in 2020/21. The service is aware of this, and the new protection structure includes a new building consultation team. This should help it improve performance.

The service works well with businesses

The service proactively engages with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. The service has a business support plan to make sure it supports the right areas. Its website gives businesses access to fire safety advice. The service also has business fire safety advisors who work with the Chamber of Commerce and businesses.

The service has been slow to reduce the number of false alarms it attends

Since our last inspection, the service has been slow to implement an unwanted fire signal policy. This means that engines may be unavailable to respond to genuine incidents because they are attending false alarms. It also creates a risk to the public if more fire engines travel at high speed on roads to respond to these incidents.

In 2020/21 the service was still responding to a large percentage of false alarms. The service has now agreed a policy that will be in place from April 2022. The new policy should mean greater consistency with its neighbouring fire services in responding to false alarms.

4

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

Good

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

Lancashire 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 in their area.

Areas for improvement

The service should make sure 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 links its response resources to identified risks

The service has reviewed its response plan. The plan is linked to the risks identified in its new CRMP. Its fire engines and response staff, as well as its working patterns, are designed and located to help the service to respond flexibly to fires and other emergencies with the appropriate resources. The service is about to complete an emergency fire cover review, which may align resources further.

The service uses software that helps it to make sure there are always enough fire engines available to respond to incidents. When fire engines respond to an incident, the software suggests which fire engines should be moved from their base locations to maintain cover throughout the service’s area.

The service meets its targets for the time taken to respond to incidents

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in its CRMP. This says that a critical fire should be attended by a fire engine based on risk, with the first engine arriving in 6, 8, 10 or 12 minutes, depending on the type of incident.

The service consistently meets its standards. Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s response time to primary fires was 7 minutes and 42 seconds. This is slower than the average time for predominantly urban services.

The service hasn’t met its availability targets

In 2020/21, the service didn’t meet its availability targets for wholetime day-crewed fire engines (99.3 percent availability compared to its target of 99.5 percent) or on-call fire engines (90.4 percent availability compared to its target of 95 percent). But the service recognises that its targets are aspirational and are above the national average.

The new CRMP will evaluate the service’s crewing arrangements as part of its emergency fire cover review in 2022.

Staff have a good understanding of how to command incidents safely

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed regularly and properly. Each commander has an assessment every two years. This helps the service 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.

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

Control staff are involved with the service’s debrief activity

We are pleased to see the service’s fire control staff integrated into the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. For example, the control room manager is invited to debriefs. The use of virtual team meeting software has helped control staff to attend more often as they can maintain cover in the control room.

Fire control can give fire survival guidance to multiple callers

The 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. Fire control has arrangements in place to communicate with other control rooms and for calls to be diverted, if the need arises.

Fire control also has good systems in place to exchange real-time risk information with incident commanders, other responding organisations, and other supporting fire and rescue services. Maintaining good situational awareness helps the service to communicate effectively with the public, providing them with accurate and tailored advice.

Staff can easily access risk information

We sampled a range of risk information, including what is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings and what information is held by fire control.

The information we reviewed was up to date and detailed. It could be easily accessed and understood by staff. Encouragingly, it had been completed with input from the service’s prevention, protection and response functions when appropriate.

We saw examples of temporary risk information being given to staff. For example, for a rally car race that will travel through the moorland in 2022, risk assessments have been completed by the wildfire team. All short-term risk information is available via mobile data terminals on the fire engines.

But the service could improve the way it shares risk information with other organisations, particularly with North West Fire Control, which is the central fire control for four fire services.

Effective operational debriefs are carried out

As part of the inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events. These included domestic and commercial fires, and rescues.

We are pleased to see the service routinely follows its policies to assure itself that staff command incidents in line with operational guidance. Internal risk information is updated with the information received.

Since our last inspection, the service has developed an app to complete debriefs. The app is available via a tablet on fire engines. It has significantly increased the number of debriefs being completed.

We saw evidence of useful information being shared throughout the service through bulletins. The bulletins are based on the operational debriefs for incidents attended by the service’s staff. Staff must confirm that they have read these bulletins. They do this through the ‘maintenance of competence’ IT system.

We are encouraged to see the service is contributing towards, and acting on, learning from other fire and rescue services or operational learning gathered from other emergency service partners.

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

The service has good systems in place to inform the public about continuing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. These include using social media and its own website. The communications team has a rota to make sure that these platforms can be updated at any time of the day and night. The service also has processes to share information with the public in place with the LRF.

5

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

Good

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

Lancashire 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. For example, it has made plans to deal with large-scale flooding and wildfire 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. The North West Fire Regional Working Group collaborates to share information and prepare exercises. For example, exercises have been planned for marauding terrorist attacks (MTAs) and high-rise incidents in Greater Manchester.

Firefighters have access to risk information from neighbouring services. And operational staff have access to risk information for areas up to 10 kilometres into neighbouring FRSs.

The service has conducted limited multi-agency exercises

The pandemic has affected the number of multi-agency exercises the service has been involved in. But even with the pandemic taken into consideration, the service has completed fewer exercises than the national average.

The service can effectively respond to major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service had in place to respond to different major incidents, including MTAs.

The service has good arrangements, which are well understood by staff. For example, fire control staff are familiar with what to do when a major incident is declared. They also know how to request national resilience assets. In the event of a major incident, a tactical advisor will be assigned to support fire control and to liaise between fire control and the scene of the incident.

The incident commanders we spoke to were confident in their ability to manage multi‑agency incidents and work with other emergency organisations.

The service works well with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. For example, it has a drone that was used to help at an incident at Heathrow Airport. 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 the service’s urban search and rescue team, which supported Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service to rescue someone stuck at height on an industrial chimney. Learning from this incident included working with helicopters and extended reach capabilities.

Cross-border exercising takes place

The service has a cross-border exercise plan with neighbouring fire and rescue services so that they can work together effectively to keep the public safe. These exercises are generally organised either by staff at fire stations located near the county’s border or by the regional training working group. But completion of this plan has been affected by the pandemic.

The plan includes the risks of major events at which the service could foreseeably give support or request assistance from neighbouring services. We were encouraged to see that feedback from these exercises was used to inform risk information and service plans.

Incident commanders have a good understanding of JESIP

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in, and were familiar with, JESIP. Commanders were familiar with, and had access to, aids to explain the joint decision-making model. JESIP training also forms part of the commanders’ twice-yearly command assessment.

The service works well with other organisations

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other partner organisations that make up the LRF. These arrangements include working with other organisations to prepare multi-agency response plans for high-risk sites.

The service is a valued partner and is represented in the LRF’s strategic and tactical co-ordinating groups and sub-groups. Its response to the pandemic has strengthened its relationship and reputation within the LRF. During the initial stages of the pandemic, the service co-ordinated PPE, and it has vaccinated more people than any other fire and rescue service.

The service keeps up to date with national learning

The service keeps itself up to date with national operational learning updates from other fire services and joint 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 organisations.

The service’s commitment to national operational learning is further shown by its chief fire officer’s role as one of the vice-chairs of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC). Other Lancashire fire officers also lead on NFCC programmes of work, such as road safety, and working patterns.

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