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Norfolk 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

In our last inspection, Norfolk FRS’s effectiveness at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other emergencies required improvement. The service hasn’t made enough progress in this area.

The service has improved the way it understands the risk of fire and other emergencies. It works well with the public to improve understanding of risk. Crews visit high-risk sites and collect data that they can use if there are incidents there.

The service requires improvement to the way it prevents fires and other risks. Safeguarding needs to be improved. Staff knowledge of safeguarding continues to be patchy, and opportunities to refer vulnerable people to other organisations are being missed. The service also isn’t targeting its prevention activities effectively; during the pandemic it only responded to home fire risk check (HFRC) referrals. It doesn’t always carry out serious incident reviews after fatal fires.

The service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. It is targeting its fire safety audits effectively, but it does fewer than the national average. It isn’t responding quickly enough to requests for building control consultations, nor is it working with businesses effectively. This is because the service’s protection department doesn’t have enough capacity. The service approaches enforcement in a supportive way. The number of unwanted fire signals that the service is attending has been effectively reduced.

Norfolk FRS is good in the way it responds to fires and other emergencies. It has improved its on-call availability, but it isn’t always achieving its response targets. Fire control staff give fire survival guidance to callers effectively, but resourcing has affected call handling and fire appliance turnout times. The service’s debriefing of operational incidents to gather and share learning is inconsistent.

The service is good at responding to national risks and is well prepared for terrorist incidents. It has good exercise plans with other organisations and cross-border services to test different scenarios, but staff find it hard to access cross-border risk information.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Norfolk 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 the risk information it gathers and records is made readily available to all staff.

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 improved how it uses information to identify risk

In our previous inspection, we said that the service should improve how it uses information gathered from its work with the public to build up a comprehensive risk profile of the service area. The service has done this.

The service had constructive discussions with the public, including communities of older residents and people with disabilities. Where people were unable to attend public consultations at venues, and if reading and accessing the consultation independently online wasn’t possible, they were given tablets so that they could watch digital content.

The service also held sessions in local libraries. The service’s sessions were timed to coincide with library sessions being held for vulnerable people, including seldom‑heard communities (often referred to as hard-to-reach or under-represented people).

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough IRMP planning process. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and data sets. This includes incident data from its mobilising system, the national incident reporting system, ward profiling, and socio-demographic data from third-party sources.

The service uses modelling software to help it understand risks. It plans to use this data to target its future prevention activities at the most vulnerable people.

The service gathers a good range of information to manage risk

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure its IRMP is informed by a comprehensive understanding of current and future risk. There has been progress in this area, but more could be done.

We are pleased to see the service has gathered a range of information about the risk through the IRMP equality impact assessment process. It is good at identifying and assessing the effect of equality on its services. After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood IRMP.

However, the plan doesn’t fully identify how the service will mitigate the risks. It contains limited information on what steps the service might take in response to any anticipated change to risk levels. For example, it isn’t clear how the service plans to target those most at risk from fire, or how it will reduce the volume of, effects of, and harm from, emergency incidents.

The service isn’t effectively sharing the risk information it gathers

The service is gathering a broad range of information about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk.

This information is readily available for use by the service’s prevention, protection and response staff, so that it can identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively. For example, the service frequently sends out safety flashes to fire stations to update them on risk information.

However, some of the temporary events files we reviewed had limited content. We also found that not all staff knew where to find the risk information, and that it wasn’t available on the fire appliance mobile data terminals.

Additionally, we found the two risk information systems used by the service weren’t linked, and operational staff had received little training in hazard spotting. Therefore, the service can’t be sure that staff are being made aware of significant changes to risk information.

The service is good at learning from national incidents

The service has good processes in place to share lessons from national operational and joint organisational learning. The operational assurance team distributes any good ways of working or operational and organisational learning. It does this via health and safety bulletins, risk critical information, or safety critical changes to operational procedures. Information is available on the intranet as safety flashes and various bulletins, including operational bulletins and email.

The service has responded well 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 fire inquiry.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has responded 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.

The service has good systems in place to respond to high-rise fires. It has tested the management of a large number of simultaneous fire survival guidance calls in real time, successfully communicating them to the incident commander on the incident ground.

It has produced an action plan that details how it intends to implement the recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

2

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

Inadequate

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is inadequate at preventing fires and other risks.

Norfolk 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.

Cause of concern

The service hasn’t made prevention activity a high enough priority and it isn’t adequately identifying those most at risk from fire.

Recommendations

By 28 February 2022, the service should put in place plans that are designed to:

  • ensure that joint agency reviews take place after significant or fatal fires (reviews should take place at an appropriate strategic level in the service and with relevant organisations);
  • target the most vulnerable, who are at greatest risk from fire; and
  • ensure that all staff have a good understanding of how to identify vulnerability and safeguard vulnerable people.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it targets its prevention work at people most at risk. This should include proportionate and timely activity to reduce risk.
  • The service should better evaluate its prevention work, so it understands all the benefits more clearly.
  • The service should ensure that staff have a good understanding of how to identify vulnerability and safeguard vulnerable people.
  • The service should make sure it allocates enough resources to meet its prevention strategy.

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

The service prevention plan isn’t leading to good end results

The service has good fire prevention plans in place, but they aren’t leading to effective results for the public.

The service is clear about where the greatest risks are. It plans to use the English indices of deprivation to target future prevention activities towards the most vulnerable people. But this approach is in its early stages. We are interested to see how it develops.

Its prevention work generally happens in isolation, and we found little evidence of relevant information being provided across the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. As a result, vulnerable people and others may not be getting the support they need. The service is aware of this and has plans to improve shared learning through prevention and protection steering boards.

The service isn’t effectively targeting its prevention activity

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure it targets its prevention work at people most at risk. This should include proportionate and timely activity to reduce risk. There hasn’t been enough progress in this area.

The prevention plan states that the service should use early prevention to help those most at risk by:

  • identifying vulnerable people in the community;
  • reviewing call trends;
  • using relevant information collected from a range of internal and external sources, data sets and information shared between organisations;
  • building up a community risk profile; and
  • making sure resources target those most at risk.

But we found little evidence that the service was targeting those it had identified most at risk from fire. The service has identified those at most risk of fire as being ‘dependent greys’, ‘pocket pensioners’ and ‘streetwise singles’, as defined by the Mosaic consumer classification system.

During this inspection we reviewed prevention files and found cases that didn’t align to the service’s new triage information and risk flow chart. We also found that on-call firefighters didn’t carry out HFRCs or safe and well visits.

Firefighters often don’t have the right skills to make safe and well visits (which include Stop Smoking, Falls Prevention, Wellbeing, Crime/Scamming Prevention and Security, and Those Who Hoard). At the time of the inspection, the service told us it is adopting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s person-centred HFRCs, but we found no evidence that firefighters were recording personal, behaviour or home factors that would increase risk of fire.

The service is missing the opportunity to check a range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies.

We also believe the service could have done more to undertake face-to-face activity through the pandemic. Although telephone checks were made, we are concerned that firefighters haven’t carried out an in-person HFRC since the beginning of the pandemic, and that the service has completed the least number of HFRCs nationally. In 2020/21, it had recorded only 743 checks, which is fewer than 1 per 1,000 people.

The service doesn’t routinely carry out joint reviews after significant or fatal fire incidents

We were concerned to find the service didn’t always carry out serious incident reviews following fatal fires.

During this inspection, we reviewed two fatal fires and found that no formal reviews had taken place. This means the service doesn’t always learn from these experiences to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

The service is missing opportunities for safeguarding

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure staff have a good understanding of how to identify vulnerability and safeguard vulnerable people. There hasn’t been enough progress in this area.

It is disappointing to find that not all firefighters have a good understanding of how to identify vulnerability and how to safeguard vulnerable people. Safeguarding training is mandatory although some staff told us they thought safeguarding training online was optional.

We reviewed a range of HFRCs and safe and well visits. We were disappointed to find limited evidence of the service referring vulnerable people to other organisations if it couldn’t meet their needs. There were inconsistencies in the way firefighters had recorded information, and there were missed opportunities for safeguarding after service staff had identified vulnerabilities.

The service doesn’t routinely evaluate its prevention activity

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should more consistently evaluate its prevention work, so that it can understand the benefits of it more clearly. There hasn’t been enough progress in this area.

It is disappointing to find that there is still little evidence that the service evaluates the effectiveness of its prevention activity, or that it makes sure all its communities have equal access to prevention activity that meets their needs.

The service collaborates with others

The service works with its communities and with a range of organisations locally and nationally to prevent fires and keep people safe.

The service chairs the Norfolk Drowning Prevention Forum and is a partner in the Norfolk Road Safety Partnership. It has made joint inspections of poorly performing licensed waste and recycling sites with the Environment Agency, and has taken joint action against modern slavery with Norfolk Constabulary.

The service’s collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary also includes:

  • shared emergency control;
  • a joint approach to dealing with missing persons; and
  • jointly run public events to connect with local communities.

The service could do more to tackle fire-setting behaviour

The service has limited involvement in targeting and educating people who show signs of fire-setting behaviour. It works with other organisations to address fire-setting behaviour in children only. The service isn’t identifying and targeting adult individuals who display signs of fire-setting behaviour, and we found no evidence of firefighters working to reduce fire-setting and arson in their area.

The service has committed to recruiting and training four new staff as fire investigation protection officers. We are interested to see how this develops.

3

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

Good

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

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

All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in certain buildings and, when necessary, require building owners to comply with fire safety legislation. Each service decides how many assessments it does each year. But it must have a locally determined, risk-based inspection programme for enforcing the legislation.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised and risk-based inspection programme.
  • The service should ensure that staff work 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 aligns protection activity to risk

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

The service’s risk-based inspection programme focuses on the service’s highest-risk buildings. The audits we reviewed were completed in the timescales the service had set itself.

The number of unsatisfactory fire safety audits completed by the service is high. This suggests that it is targeting high-risk buildings effectively. Unsatisfactory audits are those where the service finds premises need intervention to improve fire safety compliance. The completion of these audits and the subsequent changes that need to be made to the premises should make the buildings safer for the people who use them.

The service doesn’t have enough resources allocated to protection

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure it allocates enough resources to a prioritised and risk-based inspection programme (RBIP). More progress in this area is required.

The service has experienced a high level of staff turnover in the protection department. In the financial year to 31 March 2017/18, the service had ten competent protection staff. This has dropped to eight, with no protection staff in development (in training) as of 31 March 2021.

This means the service doesn’t always have enough qualified protection staff to support all of its fire safety activities. This lack of capacity and capability is having a detrimental effect on its protection activities. Staff told us that in their opinion the service wouldn’t audit all the buildings it had targeted within the timescales it had set itself.

However, the service is changing its community fire protection provision. It has plans to recruit and train additional protection staff and firefighters in line with National Fire Chief Council’s Framework for Fire Safety Regulators. We are interested to see how this develops.

The service has audited all of its high-risk, high-rise buildings

The service has carried out audits of every high-rise building that it has identified as using cladding similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower. Information gathered during these audits is available to response teams and control operators, so that they can respond more effectively in an emergency.

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

The quality of fire safety audits is good

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

  • 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 good 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.

There is limited quality assurance of fire safety audits

The service has a formal process in place to quality check the work done by protection staff. However, staff told us formal quality assurance used to take place twice a year, but that this had been reduced to once a year.

We found limited and inconsistent quality assurance of compliance with the National Fire Chiefs Council’s protection activity framework.

The service doesn’t have good evaluation tools in place to measure its effectiveness, or to make sure all sections of its communities have equal access to protection services that meet their needs.

The service uses 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.

The community fire protection department plan is clearly linked to the IRMP and Norfolk County Council Enforcement Policy. The plan details how the service’s statutory duty is used to enforce fire safety law and to promote fire safety. The service targets premises where it believes, or has received information to suggest, that there is poor compliance with fire safety laws. For serious fire safety failings, the service takes enforcement action, including informal sanctions or formal court proceedings.

The service proactively works with other enforcement agencies to share information and take enforcement action.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued:

  • no alteration notices;
  • 18 informal notifications;
  • 5 enforcement notices;
  • 2 prohibition notices; and
  • undertook no prosecutions.

Between 2016/17 and 2020/21 inclusive, it completed three prosecutions.

The service has plans to improve the resilience of its 24/7 fire safety cover

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should improve its arrangements for providing specialist protection advice out of hours.

It is encouraging to see the service now has processes in place to give technical support to staff at all times of the day and night, and that it always responds. The service should make sure these arrangements are resilient.

The service works well with other enforcement agencies

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety, and routinely exchanges risk information with them. For instance, the service:

  • is an active and valued member of the Norfolk safety advisory groups, working to make sure members of the public are safe at sporting and community events;
  • carries out joint fire safety inspection and enforcement activity with local authority property enforcement officers; and
  • works as a main partner with a wide range of different enforcement agencies such as Norfolk Council Trading Standards and the Environment Agency, and has taken joint action against modern slavery with Norfolk Police.

The service should review arrangements to respond to building consultations

While the service is responding to all requests for statutory building consultations, we have concerns that it isn’t always doing this in a timely manner. The service should make every effort to meet the timescales in which feedback should be given to the local authority building control, to make sure it can be acted upon.

The service doesn’t do enough work with businesses

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure that staff work with local businesses and large organisations to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations. There hasn’t been enough progress in this area.

The service has had limited contact with local businesses and large organisations as it doesn’t have the staff capacity or capability to do this work. It relies on social media and online content to connect with businesses.

Although the service is recruiting a business engagement officer to prioritise this work and give support, it could do more to work with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation.

The service is effective at reducing unwanted fire signals

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should tackle the problem of false alarms. It is pleasing to see the service is effectively reducing unwanted fire signals. It has made good progress in this area.

The service has a good unwanted fire signal policy that mirrors the National Fire Chiefs Council’s guidance on call filtering. It gets fewer calls because of this work, and the number of attendances to Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) has reduced significantly compared to the 2017/18 financial year. In the year ending 31 March 2021, the service only responded to 52 percent of AFAs. This is lower than the national rate of 63 percent. This is reflected in the overall number of false alarms the service attends falling steadily over the past three years.

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.

4

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

Good

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

Norfolk 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 an effective system for staff to use learning and debriefs to improve operational response and incident command.
  • The service should make sure its mobile data terminals are reliable so that firefighters can readily access 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 could do more to align resources to identified risks

The service’s response plan isn’t clearly linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. It lacks information on crewing models, degradation of fire appliances, protracted incidents, over-the-border working, and the management of the effects of a major or national incident.

Because the plans aren’t linked, it is unclear whether the service will be able to direct resources to all the areas of high risk identified within the IRMP.

More could be done to improve response standards

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

The service’s response standard is for the first fire engine to arrive within 10 minutes at fires where life may be at risk, and for the second fire engine to arrive within 13 minutes, 80 percent of the time. The service doesn’t meet this first standard. It told us that it only achieved this standard 73 percent and 69 percent of the time in the financial years 2020/21 and 2019/20 respectively.

Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s response time to primary fires was 10 minutes and 30 seconds, which is only marginally slower than the average for predominantly rural services.

We were also concerned to find during this inspection that the low staffing levels in the control room were negatively affecting call handling and appliance turnout times. The service has plans to address this. We are interested to see how it develops.

The service is good at maintaining availability

To support its response plan, the service aims to have all of its wholetime fire engines available on all occasions, and all of its on-call fire engines available on 90 percent of occasions. The service consistently meets this standard by using a range of shift systems and on-call contracts.

Staff have a good understanding of how to command incidents safely

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed regularly and properly. 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 assessment, decision-making and recording information at incidents in line with National Fire Chiefs Council’s national operational guidance, and with the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP).

The service should make sure fire control staff are involved in command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity

We are disappointed to find that the service’s control staff aren’t always included in the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. Fire control staff gave examples of times they had been involved in debriefs following significant incidents, but they weren’t always involved in the major incident training exercises that were arranged by the service. This means that fire control staff don’t have the opportunity to learn from other departments and organisations, or to contribute to these major incident exercises.

The service’s call-handling software also has problems, which sometimes results in the system dropping emergency calls. There are plans to improve the call-handling systems. We are interested to see how this develops.

The service has good fire survival guidance call systems

Control has good fire survival call 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 well with the public, providing them with accurate and tailored advice.

The service should make sure that its systems give staff access to risk information all of the time

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure its mobile data terminals are reliable so that firefighters can readily access up-to-date risk information. There hasn’t been enough progress in this area.

The information we reviewed was up to date and detailed. Encouragingly, it had been completed with input from the service’s prevention, protection and response functions when appropriate.

However, firefighters told us the service’s mobile data terminals are unreliable. Sometimes they freeze, preventing operational staff from accessing site-specific risk information. The service has plans to address this problem. We are interested to see how this develops.

Evaluation of operational performance is inconsistent

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure it has an effective learning and debriefing system for staff to use to improve operational response and incident command. There hasn’t been enough progress in this area.

As part of the inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events. We found that the service had an excellent, detailed and clear organisational assurance governance policy, but the application of the policy was inconsistent. Most staff were unable to recall participating in a formal debrief, and opportunities to collect and share risk information and operational learning are being missed.

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. They include:

  • proactive use of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook;
  • the incident tab on the service’s website; and
  • media-trained incident commanders.

We saw evidence that the service gave incident updates using these systems.

5

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

Good

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

Norfolk 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 its firefighters have good access to relevant and up-to-date risk information. This should include 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 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. The service works well with other organisations on multi‑agency response plans. The plans are tested regularly. For example, at the time of inspection the service was testing high-risk site plans, such as Norwich Football Club.

The service is an active member of the Norfolk Strategic Flood Alliance. It recently tested the capability and capacity of the participating organisations dealing with differing flooding scenarios. This includes identifying high-risk areas and planning how to respond to an emerging risk of widespread inland flooding, including tidal surges, through warning and informing volunteers, and identifying safe sites for evacuation.

The service has effective plans in place if a major incident is declared. These include sharing warnings and information through the East Coast and Hertfordshire Control Room Consortium, and through neighbouring fire and rescue services.

However, Norfolk’s control staff aren’t always included in major incident training with the other organisations.

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

We reviewed the arrangements the service had in place to respond to different major incidents such as wide area flooding and marauding terrorist attacks (MTA).

It is pleasing to see, following our last inspection, that the service is well prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to a terrorist-related incident, and that its procedures for responding are understood by all staff and are well tested.

The service has specialist resources to respond to an MTA incident, including national inter-agency liaison officers, and specialist rescue teams (Lite) who give 24/7 cover to support its MTA response. It maintains and staffs a high-volume water pump that is also available to the National Resilience programme.

The service works with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. For example, the service has national deployable resources:

It is intraoperable with these services and can form part of a multi-agency response.

The service has cross-border exercise plans

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should arrange a programme of over-the-border exercises, sharing the learning from these exercises. It has made good progress in this area.

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.

The plan includes supporting the exercises for major events at which the service could foreseeably respond to requests for help from neighbouring services.

The plan also includes regular participation in local resilience forum desktop exercises.

The sharing of cross-border risk information is ineffective

In our previous inspection, one area for improvement was that the service should make sure its firefighters have good access to relevant and up-to-date risk information. This should include cross-border risk information. It hasn’t made enough progress in this area.

The service has shared some risk information with Suffolk FRS, but this is limited, and not a regular occurrence. Firefighters were unable to show us over-the-border risk information, and the service mobile data terminals, which give access to site-specific risk information, are unreliable. Firefighters told us that sometimes the terminals froze, preventing operational staff from accessing information.

Firefighters have a good understanding of JESIP

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in and were familiar with JESIP.

The service gave us strong evidence that it consistently followed these principles. This includes:

  • staff knowledge and use of the joint decision-making model; and
  • the use of the nationally recognised messaging (that is, messages that all emergency services and related organisations understand).

The service is an active member, and lead partner, of the Norfolk Resilience Forum

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other organisations that make up the Norfolk Resilience Forum (NRF). These arrangements include having staff available to respond to requests from organisations during the pandemic. Staff:

  • support East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust with ambulance driving;
  • help fit face masks for frontline NHS and clinical staff;
  • support the national mass vaccination programme with marshalling and logistics; and
  • chair the tactical co-ordinating groups.

The service is a valued NRF partner. The chief fire officer is the chair of the NRF. The service takes part in regular training events with other members and uses the learning to improve responses to major and multi-agency incidents.

The service keeps up to date with 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 organisations, such as the police service and ambulance trusts. The service has effective processes for sharing the learning through operational safety flashes, case studies and the What’s Hot news page via the intranet. It uses this learning to inform planning assumptions that have been made with other partners.

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