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Nottinghamshire 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

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

We are pleased with the progress that Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has made in terms of its effectiveness.

Although its current integrated risk management plan (IRMP) is limited in how it drives the activities that the service should carry out, we were pleased to see at the time of our inspection that the service was working to develop the new community risk management plan (CRMP) published in April. The CRMP clearly sets out how the service will carry out prevention, protection and response activities to make Nottinghamshire safer.

The service displays good levels of partnership working, especially around prevention and ensuring a common approach. This means that those most at risk from fire can be identified and given further support.

The service has revised its risk-based inspection programme to target the highest-risk buildings. This has been revised using data rather than assumption, to form a more accurate understanding.

In our round one inspection we gave the service an area for improvement to monitor incident commanders and provide feedback following an incident. We found that the service now had a process to record operational learning and share this throughout the organisation.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Nottinghamshire 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.

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

The service identifies risk effectively

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough integrated risk management planning process. When assessing risk, it considers relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and data sets. This includes information on health, social care and past incidents. Sources include the Office for National Statistics and organisations that provide data on public safety.

When appropriate, the service consults and communicates with the communities it serves. The service uses an external company to carry out consultations on its behalf. This involves providing members of the public with all the relevant information, including those who have pre-registered an interest in this area. A group representing people with hearing impairments has also been approached.

The service also consults with staff and representative bodies, such as trade unions.

The IRMP should better reflect the service’s activity

During our round one inspection, an area for improvement was that the service should use its IRMP to keep the public safe and secure from the risks identified. We found that the IRMP was limited in how it identified the risks to the public and carried out activity to mitigate these. However, we recognise that the service has addressed this with its new CRMP, which was due to be published shortly after our inspection.

The service should make sure that the departmental plans are driving prevention, protection and response activity effectively. And that they remain aligned with the integrated risk management planning process.

The service has robust methods to gather and share risk information

The service routinely collects and updates the information it holds about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk. It has processes in place to make sure that high-risk buildings are reviewed promptly. The information is then quality assured internally, before being added to the mobile data terminals on fire engines.

In our round one inspection, we gave an area for improvement that the service should make sure firefighters have access to relevant and up-to-date risk information. During our latest inspection, we were encouraged to find during visits to stations that risk information was accurate, complete and up to date. This information is readily available for the service’s prevention, protection and response staff to access, which helps the service identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively.

The service uses a single database for holding prevention, protection and risk information. When departments collect information, staff can highlight whether it should be shared with colleagues in other departments. This ensures a joined-up approach to public safety. The service also has a process in place to promptly share risk information with operational crews.

Where appropriate, risk information is passed on to other organisations and can be updated outside normal business hours. The service works well with other organisations, such as the local authority, to share relevant risk information. This means that there is a common approach to understanding local risks.

The service updates risk information effectively following operational activity

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. For example, the service issues an operational assurance bulletin when there is new risk information. This is sent to all staff, who must then confirm that they have read it.

The service has reacted proactively to learning following the Grenfell Tower tragedy

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.

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has reacted positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. The service was on track to have assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its area by the end of 2021.

It has carried out fire safety audits and collected and passed relevant risk information to its prevention, protection and response teams about buildings identified as high risk and high rise. This includes all high-rise buildings that have cladding similar to the type installed on Grenfell Tower.

2

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

Good

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

Nottinghamshire 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.

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

The service should make sure that its prevention plans align with the CRMP

We found the service had effective departmental plans, which were driving prevention activity. However, the service must make sure that these align with the CRMP it produces for the public.

The service works well with other relevant organisations on prevention, and it passes on relevant information when required. The service uses information to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between its prevention, protection and response functions. The service uses a variety of prevention activity methods between teams and with other organisations it works with. Following a serious fire, the service will carry out community reassurance and engagement activity using operational crews, and proactively carries out data and intelligence community engagement (DICE) activity for proactive, data-led communications with communities.

The service reacted proactively to the pandemic

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID‑19-specific inspection in October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately. Since then, we were encouraged to find that the service continued to work with other organisations to provide continuous training in using its internal risk assessment to establish those most at risk. Operational crews have also restarted prevention activity and are meeting their monthly targets.

The service is effective at targeting those most at risk

Prevention activity is clearly prioritised, using a risk-based approach towards people most at risk from fire and other emergencies. It has created a method for risk assessment to use during safe and well visits. This is referred to as CHARLIE and considers:

  • care and support needs/cooking;
  • hoarding and mental health issues;
  • alcohol and medication;
  • reduced mobility;
  • living alone;
  • inappropriate smoking;
  • elderly people, aged 65+; and
  • previous incidents.

Scores are then given, which helps the service understand people’s vulnerability and risk. To encourage a common approach, the service also trains other organisations it works with on using this method.

The service takes account of a broad range of information and data to target its prevention activity at vulnerable individuals and groups. The service, including fire station crews, carries out an appropriate mix of safe and well visits. These are referred by other organisations and those the service has identified using data-led intelligence.

The service provides a range of interventions that it adapts to the level of risk in its communities. Its district prevention officers work with the community, and a dedicated persons at risk team (within the prevention department) can provide a higher level of intervention if required. The service is proactive in using operational crews to provide further engagement with the community.

Staff are confident in making safe and well visits

During our inspection, staff including operational crews told us they had the right skills and confidence to make safe and well visits. These checks cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies. We found operational and prevention staff were confident and competent in carrying out safe and well visits, and escalating when further intervention was needed.

The service proactively safeguards vulnerable people

Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. They told us they felt confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly. Although we found that staff had limited knowledge of the types of safeguarding problems they may encounter, they were all confident in escalating or signposting when they felt a situation needed it.

The service works well with other organisations

The service works with a wide range of other organisations, such as the local NHS Trust and local authorities, to prevent fires and other emergencies. The service is also a member of other prevention-focused groups, including water safety and the safety advisory group. On the HMICFRS staff survey (278 respondents), we found 37 percent thought the service was extremely effective at multi-agency working and 43 percent thought the service was very effective.

We found good evidence that the service routinely referred people at greatest risk to other organisations that may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include the safeguarding adults board (the statutory forum for agreeing how services, other organisations and the community work together to safeguard adults at risk of harm and abuse), local authority falls team and social services. Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from other organisations, such as health, police and the local authority. 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.

The service has effective processes to tackle fire-setting behaviour

The service has a range of suitable and effective interventions to target and educate people of different ages who show signs of fire-setting behaviour.

The service has access to a fire-setting counsellor, to whom it refers individuals identified during post-fire checks or safe and well visits. We were encouraged to see the service was proactive in targeting schools, when appropriate, following spikes in deliberate fires.

The service evaluates its prevention activity effectively

In our round one inspection, we gave the service an area for improvement to evaluate prevention work. In early 2021, the service commissioned Nottingham Trent University to carry out a full evaluation of safe and well visits. The university reviewed the costs and benefits of safe and well visits, and the value of using an internal risk assessment in identifying those most at risk of death or serious injury from fire.

The university outlined recommendations for improvement. One of these was that the service should quality assure CHARLIE assessments carried out by organisations it works with. The service has done this by comparing each partner risk assessment score with its own and investigating large variations.

The service should also consider evaluating its relationships with other organisations to fully understand the benefits to the public and the service.

3

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

Good

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

Nottinghamshire 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 assure itself that its risk-based inspection programme prioritises the highest risks and includes proportionate activity to reduce risk.

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

The current IRMP doesn’t drive the protection plans

We found the service had effective departmental plans that were driving protection activity. However, the service must ensure these align to the CRMP it produces for the public.

Staff throughout the service are involved in protection activity. We found that operational crews were included in assessing risks around new buildings in their area, which improved their understanding of that risk. They are also trained to spot hazards during their day-to-day duties.

Information is then 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. In our round one inspection, we gave an area for improvement that the service should use its specialist resources better to implement its risk-based inspection programme. We found the protection team was adequately resourced. And the service has adopted national guidance to help use its risk-based inspection programme to align resources with risk.

The service effectively aligns activity with risk

The service’s risk-based inspection programme is focused on the service’s highest‑risk buildings. Since our round one inspection, the service has updated its risk-based inspection programme. Previously, it was focused on the risks relating to a fire happening when people are sleeping and unfamiliar with the layout of the building, such as the location of fire escapes. It now uses more relevant data to better understand which buildings are the highest risk and target them more effectively.

The audits we reviewed were completed in the timescales the service had set itself. Service leaders decided to train operational watch and crew managers to carry out appropriate level audits to allow more premises to be inspected. We recognise that the service is aware this means it will not meet its audit target. But in the longer term, it will be able to carry out more activity. The service should ensure that normal activity resumes when the training is complete.

The service has effectively identified and audited cladded buildings

The service has identified and completed audits at all high-rise buildings using cladding similar to that installed on Grenfell Tower. Information gathered during these audits is made available to response teams and control operators. This helps them react more effectively in an emergency.

During our inspection, the service 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 consistent and robust audits

We reviewed a range of audits of different premises throughout 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.

The service is effective at quality assurance

Quality assurance of protection activity is proportionate. The service has adopted national best practice for quality assurance.

The service has good evaluation tools in place to measure the effectiveness of its activity. The service should collect equality data during protection activity to ensure all groups in its communities get appropriate access to the protection services that meet their needs.

The service isn’t always consistent with enforcement activity

We were disappointed to find that the service didn’t consistently use its full range of enforcement powers. It also has a limited appetite to prosecute those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations.

We found protection staff were adequately trained. But the lack of enforcement activity means they haven’t been able to build the confidence needed to carry out prosecutions.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued 1 alteration notice, 54 informal notifications, 6 enforcement notices and 3 prohibition notices, and carried out no prosecutions.

The service’s protection team is adequately resourced

The service currently has enough qualified protection staff to meet the requirements of its risk-based inspection programme. All staff in the protection team are trained to an appropriate level, including legal training. The service is also training operational managers, and three members of staff are completing fire engineer training. This helps Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue provide the range of audit and enforcement activity needed, both now and in the future.

Staff get the right training and work to appropriate accreditation.

The service works well with other organisations to share information on risk

The service works closely with other enforcement organisations to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. The service has dedicated staff that are part of a joint audit inspection team. The team’s purpose is to work alongside the local authority to carry out joint audits of high-rise premises. This ensures a joint understanding of risk. Other examples we saw included sharing information on standards of care and working with police to establish concerns – such as modern slavery.

The service has good completion rates for building consultations

The service reacts to the majority of building consultations on time, so consistently meets its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. The service works to national guidance, which is 15 working days to react to building consultations. This information is reported to the service delivery, evaluation and assurance group to ensure the deadline is met.

The service works well with local businesses

The service communicates well with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. It has a dedicated business engagement team. During our inspection, we saw examples of the service routinely contacting premises with targeted fire safety information. This included schools and care homes.

The service is proactive in monitoring and reducing unwanted fire signals

The service employs a business engagement team. It works with local businesses and educates them to reduce the numbers of unwanted fire signals. We recognise that the service is proactive in tackling unwanted fire signals. The service should continue to monitor these to ensure they continue to reduce, and if the numbers do increase, investigate any cause to understand the reasons for this and take appropriate action.

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.

4

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

Good

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

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement  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 ensure that, when responding to a 999 call, mobile data terminals are reliable to allow staff to access risk information.

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

Response standards and availability

We found the service had effective departmental plans that were driving response activity. However, the service must ensure these align with its CRMP.

The service consistently meets its response standard

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in its CRMP. Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue aims to respond to all incidents within an average of eight minutes, from mobilising a fire engine to attending an incident. The service consistently meets its standards.

However, Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s average response time to primary fires was 9 minutes and 38 seconds. This is slower than the average England response time for predominantly urban services, at 7 minutes and 26 seconds.

The service has good availability for wholetime and on call

To support its response plans, the service aimed to have 85 percent on-call availability of fire engines and 99 percent of wholetime availability in 2020/21. The service consistently meets this standard and the actual availability for on call is 88.8 percent.

Incident commanders are trained to the appropriate level

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed regularly and properly. During our inspection, we found all incident commanders were trained to the appropriate level, including some that were upskilled to the level above. This helps the service safely and effectively manage the full range of incidents that it could face, from small and routine to complex multi-agency incidents.

As part of our inspection, we interviewed incident commanders from throughout the service. The ones we spoke to were familiar with risk assessing, decision making and recording information at incidents in line with national best practice, as well as the joint emergency services interoperability principles (JESIP).

Control room staff should be included in Nottinghamshire activities

After our last inspection, the service merged its control room with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service. We found that service-applicable training was provided, and control room staff were included in training events. But they often weren’t involved in the planning stages of exercises or in-service procedures such as debriefing or support following a traumatic incident in Nottinghamshire’s service area.

Control room staff are well prepared to provide fire survival guidance

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.

The service has a tri-service arrangement with Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. This means that if either service has large volumes of calls, the other can take any overflow. Leicestershire can also view the service mobilising system and act on Nottinghamshire’s behalf if required.

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

The service has accurate up-to-date risk information, but this isn’t always available to firefighters

We sampled a range of risk information at wholetime and on-call stations. We viewed high-risk and high-rise premises information, as well other risks according to that station area. We consistently found information was complete, relevant and up to date.

However, staff told us that mobile data terminals were sometimes unreliable, so it wasn’t always possible to access risk information. The service is providing secondary devices to address this. But these must be available at all stations, with staff properly trained to use them.

The risk information includes what is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings, and what information the fire control room holds.

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

The service is good at monitoring and sharing operational learning

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.

The service has established a culture of continual learning and improvement. During incidents, learning is included on a debrief form and considered at the operational learning board. If relevant, this information is then shared via operational assurance bulletins. We saw evidence of this learning shared throughout the organisation. Staff must confirm on the training system that they have read the bulletin.

We were encouraged to see the service was contributing towards, and acting on, learning from other fire and rescue services or operational learning gathered from other emergency service organisations.

The service has a process in place to track receipt and actions relating to national operational learning and joint operational learning. This information is reported to the operational learning board before being circulated. We saw examples of this on service operational assurance bulletins at stations.

The service is good at keeping the public informed about incidents

The service has good systems in place to inform the public about continuing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. The service uses social media platforms well, providing frequent updates and safety advice. It also uses its website to keep the public informed about large-scale incidents and safety campaigns.

5

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

Good

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

Nottinghamshire 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 has effective plans in place for major or multi-agency incidents

The service has 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, COVID-19 and environmental impacts are both considered as potential risks to the service.

It is also familiar with the significant risks that neighbouring fire and rescue services could face, that it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. During our inspection, we found that firefighters had full access to risk information from the tri-service areas (Derbyshire and Leicestershire) and up to 10 kilometres into neighbouring service areas bordering Nottinghamshire.

The service is well prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service had in place to respond to different major incidents, including high-rise incidents and large-scale incidents caused by severe weather.

The service has good plans in place, which staff understand. For example, the service has a clear exercise plan which includes high-rise, marauding terrorist attack (MTA) and other large-scale incidents. The service has committed to make sure that at least a quarter of all training exercises are over-border or multi-agency. Staff we spoke to felt they were adequately trained and prepared to respond to these incidents. The service also has its own specialist MTA team in place.

The service works well with other fire and rescue services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. For example, it is in a tri-service agreement with Derbyshire and Leicestershire, as well as working together with the control rooms. We saw other areas of interoperability, such as buying the same type of breathing apparatus. Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service 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. We heard about examples of the service accessing tactical advisers and all members of staff we spoke to understood the arrangements for requesting national assets.

The service has an adequate exercise plan in 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. The plan includes the risks of major events at which the service could provide support or request help from neighbouring services. We were encouraged to see that feedback from these exercises informed risk information and service plans. The staff survey results showed that 30 percent of respondents thought the service was extremely effective at cross-border working, and 42 percent thought it was very effective.

As with routine incidents, any learning from exercises is gathered and sent to staff via operational assurance bulletins. We saw examples of this including a shopping centre multi-storey car park exercise.

The service is familiar with JESIP

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

The service could provide us with strong evidence that it consistently follows these principles. This includes staff training led by the lead national inter-agency liaison officer. JESIP also forms part of incident monitoring so the service can ensure staff are working in line with it.

The service is a valued member of the local resilience forum

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other organisations that make up the Nottinghamshire local resilience forum. These arrangements include positively contributing at a strategic and tactical level. The service is a member of the finance, communications, partner assistance and recovery group cells.

The service takes part in regular training events with other members of the local resilience forum. And it uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the service has shared its actions with other local resilience forum members. This included the results of high-rise exercises.

The service is proactive in keeping up to date with learning from other services and organisations

The service keeps itself up to date with national operational learning updates from other fire and rescue services and joint operational learning from other blue light organisations, such as the police service and ambulance trusts. This learning is used to inform planning assumptions that have been made with other organisations.

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