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Staffordshire 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Good

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

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

We found Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service to be good at how it identifies risks in its communities and puts appropriate measures in place to mitigate those risks. For example, it quickly identified all of its high-risk, high-rise buildings and carried out audits on them.

We also found the service to be good at how it identifies those people in its communities who are most at risk from fire and works with its partners to good effect to reduce this risk. Although the number of safe and well visits it carried out during the pandemic reduced, it still carries out more than the rate for services in England and makes sure that these are better targeted at those who need them most.

We were disappointed to find that, since our last inspection, the service can’t be sure that it has identified all of its high-risk premises or that it is carrying out enough audits compared to its own annual target. But it has improved its use of enforcement powers against those businesses that don’t comply with fire safety regulations.

We were also disappointed to see a deterioration since our last inspection in the service’s performance against its own response standards and the number of fire engines it has available. But we did find that the service is well prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

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

Each fire and rescue service should identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue-related risks that could affect its communities. Arrangements should be put in place through the service’s prevention, protection and response capabilities to prevent or mitigate these risks for the public.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure that firefighters are confident and suitably trained in gathering risk information.
  • The service needs to improve how it engages with seldom-heard people and groups in its local community to build a comprehensive profile of risk in its service area.

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

The service is good at identifying risk

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. It gathers information from other emergency services, the Staffordshire local resilience forum (LRF), local authorities, the NHS, and several other public and business sector partners.

It uses this information to identify and focus on the most vulnerable people and local premises to help them with fire safety procedures. It has a close working relationship with the Environment Agency. Together, they help prevent organised crime groups creating fuel from residual waste, which poses a significant fire risk.

The service uses Staffordshire County Council’s data observatory along with other data sources such as Experian and Exeter data to build its risk profile. It also looks at socio-economic factors and quality assures data to make sure it is accurate. The service uses a case management system that allows it to exchange information on risk and vulnerability with partners through a data-sharing agreement.

When appropriate, the service has consulted and undertaken constructive dialogue with communities and others such as local authorities and other partner agencies to both understand the risk and explain how it intends to mitigate it. It received 1,400 responses to its IRMP consultation. Because of the restrictions that were in place due to the pandemic, the consultation exercise with the public took place mainly through the service’s website and social media channels, although copies of the consultation document were put in GP surgeries. The service also carried out a consultation exercise with staff which included focus groups and a staff survey. The service should consider how it communicates with members of the community who don’t use social media.

The service has taken action to mitigate the risks identified

The service has recorded its findings on risk in an easily understood IRMP. This plan describes how prevention, protection and response activity is to be effectively resourced to mitigate or reduce the risks and threats the community faces, both now and in the future. For example, the service has identified changes to the future risk profile in the county with the development of HS2, the high-speed rail network. This will affect operational capability with the need for heavy lifting equipment, and training for working at height and in rail tunnels. It has also identified waste and wildfires as a growing area of risk and has developed specially trained waste and wildfire tactical advisors. It has bought high-volume pumping fire engines and enhanced logistical support vehicles to deal with wide-scale flooding and has put physical and cyber security measures in place to mitigate the risk of terrorist attacks.

The service should make sure that risk information is always readily available to crews

The service routinely collects and updates the information it has about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk. This includes new and updated risk information as well as urgent and temporary risks. For example, it holds mass evacuation plans for sites such as Alton Towers and holds information where there has been a temporary change to premises, such as somewhere becoming a COVID-19 testing centre.

This information is readily available for the service’s prevention, protection and response staff, which enables it to identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively. For example, the service frequently sends out newsflashes to stations to update them on risk information.

We were told that the quality of risk information has improved but that mobile data terminals on fire engines, which is how crews access risk information on their way to incidents, aren’t always reliable. This means that staff may not always have access to risk information when they need it. Not all staff were confident in assessing and recording risk information. Where appropriate, risk information is shared with other organisations, for example the service works with Trading Standards to identify premises that house fireworks.

The service builds its understanding of risk from operational activity and shares information appropriately with partners

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, after a significant waste fire, the service recognised that this type of incident needs a multi-agency response, so the service now includes this incident type in its work with the Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU).

The service has completed a review of high-risk, high-rise buildings

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.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. The service has completed its building risk review and assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area ahead of schedule.

The service identified 53 buildings as high risk, high rise. It has carried out a fire safety audit and collected and passed relevant risk information to its prevention, protection and response teams. This work was completed by the end of 2020. It identified that it doesn’t have any high-rise buildings with cladding similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower.

2

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

Good

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

Staffordshire 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 make sure it puts in place measures to catch up on the backlog of safe and well visits.

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

The service has a prevention strategy that is targeted at its highest risks

The service’s prevention strategy is clearly linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. The prevention strategy identifies those people who are most at risk from fire and the service targets its resources at these risks. The service has recently reviewed its prevention strategy to make sure that people who are identified as most at risk are prioritised for a physical safe and well visit. It offers others who are less at risk a range of options such as telephone advice or information on the service’s website. The service is developing an online tool to enable members of the public to self‑assess their home for risk. A high-risk score will automatically be picked up by the contact centre to arrange a visit.

The service works well with its teams and other organisations on prevention and it passes on relevant information when needed. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. For example, the service uses incident data to review its prevention strategy. It works with a wide range of partner agencies, like the Canal and River Trust to promote water safety and Western Power to identify people who may be vulnerable. We also saw good examples of the service communicating information on vulnerable people with other teams in the service and with its partners after a safe and well check.

Since the start of the pandemic the service has reduced its physical prevention activity but is introducing different intervention methods

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID-19 specific inspection in October 2019. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately. It had continued to visit those people who are most at risk from fire and had continued its school education programme virtually.

Since then, we were pleased to find that, although the service makes fewer safe and well visits it remains above the England rate. In the year ending 31 March 2021, the service carried out 5,717 safe and well visits, a reduction from 26,908 that it carried out in the previous year. In the year ending 31 March 2021 the rate of safe and well visits it carried out was 5.02 per 1,000 of the population compared to the England rate of 2.79 per 1,000 of the population. The review of the prevention strategy will mean that the service still engages with the same number of people but in different ways. But we found that the service had a backlog of 600 prevention visits at 31 March 2021. The service should assure itself, with the reduction in safe and well visits and this backlog, that it is engaging with those people who are most vulnerable and at risk of fire.

Since the start of the pandemic the service mostly stopped using its operational staff to support prevention work. It intends to restart this when it puts in place the revised prevention strategy, but at the time of our visit this hadn’t restarted.

The service is effective at targeting its prevention activity

Prevention activity is clearly prioritised using a risk-based approach towards people most at risk from fire and other emergencies. For example, the service has identified that people older than 80 or older than 45 and living alone, and have other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol or mobility problems, are most at risk from fires. The service uses a questionnaire that helps to determine if a safe and well visit is needed.

The service takes account of a broad range of information and data to target its prevention activity at vulnerable individuals and groups. It uses Experian and Exeter data and information from incidents to produce risk maps. It also uses information provided by partners through referrals.

It provides a range of interventions that it adapts to the level of risk in its communities. In the year ending 31 March 2020 it made nearly 27,000 safe and well visits, equivalent to a rate of 23.7 visits per 1,000 population, more than 4 times the England rate of 6.13. But it found that some of these visits weren’t targeted at those people who were most at risk. So, following a review the service has improved how it prioritises people for a range of prevention interventions. These include smoke alarm replacement, a standard safe and well visit and an enhanced safe and well visit. We saw that the service consistently made an enhanced visit when it identified extra vulnerabilities, such as hoarding.

The service also aligns its campaign activity with its prevention strategy. For example, having identified that people living alone are at greater risk from fire it is focusing a campaign on those people.

The service works well with Staffordshire Police to give joint safety information to university students in their first week, as some of the student accommodation is high rise. The service doesn’t routinely do prevention work in high-rise premises. But the service uses its prioritisation approach, so would visit vulnerable people living in high-rise premises who may be more at risk if a fire occurred.

Staff are competent at carrying out safe and well checks

The service uses specially trained technicians to make safe and well visits at high-risk premises. Operational staff told us they have the right skills and confidence to make safe and well visits and that they used to carry out many visits before the pandemic. We saw how staff regularly recognise extra vulnerabilities and risks during visits and act appropriately to improve people’s safety. This included escalating the matter to a more qualified person or making a referral to a partner agency.

Staff can respond appropriately to safeguarding concerns

Staff told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. Most said they feel confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly and could describe safeguarding referrals that they had made.

The service is good at collaborating with others

The service works with a wide range of other organisations, such as local authority adult safeguarding boards, NHS clinical commissioning groups and the Staffordshire Safer Roads Partnership to prevent fires and other emergencies.

The service has several data-sharing agreements with other agencies so it can exchange information about vulnerability. We found good evidence that the service routinely refers people at greatest risk to organisations that may be better able to meet their needs, such as adult social care. Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from other organisations, including West Midlands Ambulance Service, University NHS Foundation Trust, Staffordshire Police and housing associations. The service also has an arrangement with Western Power Distribution, which offers vulnerable customers a safe and well visit from the service during an annual welfare call. The service acts appropriately on the referrals it receives. For example, the prevention team prioritises referrals from partner agencies and through the contact centre.

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. For example, after a fire death, the service identified that homelessness didn’t meet the normal risk profile, which led to a joint review of risks with partner agencies.

The service should do more to tackle fire-setting behaviour

The service has only limited involvement in targeting and educating people who show signs of fire-setting behaviour. But it does run the national Flames Aren’t Games campaign to raise awareness of the effect of deliberate fire setting. Operational staff don’t routinely work with partners around fire setting, although they complete referrals from the police.

The service evaluates some prevention activity

The service evaluates some of its prevention work but doesn’t formally evaluate its main prevention functions.

The service uses some data to measure the effectiveness of its campaigns. It looks at the number of interventions or safe and well visits and the number of properties with a working smoke detector. It also reviews the number of accidental dwelling fires and people seriously injured or killed and trends for deliberate fire setting.

We were pleased to see that the service has acted on feedback from staff about the effectiveness of its safe and well visits to make changes. It asks people to complete a questionnaire after a safe and well visit.

After a fire that has resulted in death or serious injury, the service carries out a review with partner organisations. It also evaluates high-risk referrals from partners to see if the service’s involvement was effective.

The service routinely evaluates the Safe+Sound schools’ education initiative. But it doesn’t have any means for evaluating the effectiveness of its other partnerships.

3

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

Requires improvement

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

Staffordshire 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 (RBIP) for enforcing the legislation.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should assure itself that its RBIP prioritises the highest risks and includes proportionate activity to reduce risk.
  • The service should make sure it has an effective quality assurance process, so that staff carry out audits to a consistent standard.

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

The intentions set out in the IRMP aren’t effectively put into practice

The service’s protection strategy is clearly linked to the risks it has identified in its IRMP. It clearly defines high-risk premises and explains how it uses risk to inform and prioritise its RBIP to target businesses most at risk from accidental fire.

But we found that the data used to inform the RBIP isn’t clear. Protection staff in the service delivery teams work independently from the central protection team, and work is planned around available resources rather than risk and demand.

The service hasn’t caught up with protection work since the pandemic

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19 specific inspection in October 2019. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. It continued to carry out inspection audits by telephone. But we found that the service had no plan in place for inspecting 80 high-risk premises that it identified as needing a follow-up visit.

Although the service had identified new and emerging risks during the pandemic, such as re-opening hotels and refugee accommodation, by August 2021 it had completed 202 out of a target of 880 audits for the financial year.

The service’s protection activity doesn’t align with its strategy

The service has a RBIP, but it is limited in scope and not up to date. The service uses Experian data, but this doesn’t match the data provided by the government department so the service can’t be sure that it has identified all of its high-risk premises. It was also unclear whether local knowledge of risk was used to inform the RBIP.

The service doesn’t have a clear plan to audit all its high-risk premises. Premises are often prioritised for inspection based on available skills and resources rather than risk. Staff in the district-based teams work independently of each other so the service doesn’t have a consistent approach to its audits. We were told that the service has an inspection schedule of 2 years for high-risk premises and has a target to audit 880 premises each year. It had carried out 202 audits in the first 5 months of the year so isn’t making enough progress to meet its own targets. In the year ending 31 March 2021, the service carried out 400 audits, which is equivalent to 1.4 audits per 100 known premises, slightly below the England rate of 1.7. And it carried out telephone audits. Of the audits, 91 percent were satisfactory, meaning that the service may not be effectively targeting its audit activity at risk.

The service has audited all its high-rise buildings

The service doesn’t have any high-rise buildings with cladding similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower. It has audited all high-rise buildings it has identified. Information gathered during these audits is made available to response teams and control operators, enabling them to respond more effectively in an emergency.

It has completed a full revisit programme for all the high-rise, high-risk buildings it has identified in its service area.

The service also has an effective strategy to fit sprinkler systems to all high-rise premises by 2026. It is making good progress with this and has completed the work on properties in Stoke-on-Trent. This will improve the safety of residents in high-rise buildings and make it safer for firefighters responding to incidents in those buildings.

The quality of audits is inconsistent

We reviewed a range of audits of different premises across the service. This included audits as part of the service’s RBIP, after fires at premises where fire safety legislation applies, where enforcement action had been taken and at high-rise, high-risk buildings.

Not all the audits we reviewed were completed in a consistent, systematic way, or in line with the service’s policies.

Quality assurance isn’t routine

The service quality assures very little of its protection activity. In one case, the quality assurance was undertaken by the same person who did the audit.

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

The service has improved its use of enforcement powers

The service has improved the way it uses its enforcement powers, and when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations. The service is currently progressing two prosecutions.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued no alteration notices, 29 informal notifications, 6 enforcement notices, 7 prohibition notices and is prosecuting 2 cases. There were no prosecutions between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2021.

The service doesn’t effectively resource protection activity

The service has a resourcing plan for all its inspections of buildings over a two-year period. But the plan depends on having a full complement of qualified protection staff supported by trained operational staff. Although the service has three new members of protection staff, some staff who have left haven’t yet been replaced. At the time of our inspection, of a total of 18 protection staff, 10 staff weren’t qualified.

The service has just started training operational staff to carry out audits. So, it doesn’t have enough trained and qualified staff to support its audit and enforcement activity. But as staff are trained and qualified they will be able to help with audits, which will benefit the public in the long term.

The service works well with other agencies in regulating fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. It is an active member of Staffordshire County Council Safety Advisory Group. It has worked closely with the council’s planning department to share information on high-rise premises.

The service also has risk data-sharing agreements with other agencies, such as Trading Standards, UK Visas and Immigration, and the Environment Agency, and collaborates with them to regulate fire safety.

The service responds appropriately to building consultations

The service responds to most building consultations on time, so it usually meets its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. In the year ending 31 March 2021, it responded on time to 94.8 percent of those received.

The service works well with businesses to support them to comply with fire safety regulation

The service has a dedicated business support team who proactively engage with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. They engage with businesses after a fire to help them to continue trading or reopen their business. They have delivered training to business owners and actively engage with the Chamber of Commerce and the Housing Fire Strategy Group.

There is also clear information on the service’s website for businesses to comply with fire safety.

There is an effective strategy to reduce unwanted fire signals

An effective risk-based approach is in place to manage the number of unwanted fire signals. The service engages with businesses to provide training and information on reducing and investigating false alarms. Staff in the control room challenge the caller to make sure they only send out fire engines when needed. The service doesn’t attend properties that don’t have a sleeping risk if there is a person on site who can inspect the premises for signs of fire. If a fire is confirmed then the service will send appropriate resources.

The service gets fewer calls because of this work. The number of automatic fire alarms has reduced over the last 4 years from 4,241 in 2017/18 to 3,469 in 2020/21. And it doesn’t attend 54 percent of these compared to the England rate of 37 percent. Having fewer unwanted calls and attending less automatic fire alarms means 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?

Requires improvement

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

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

Fire and rescue services must be able to respond to a range of incidents such as fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies within their areas.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure that it has effective systems in place to reliably understand resource availability.
  • The service should improve the availability of its fire engines to respond to incidents in line with its IRMP.
  • The service should make sure that it improves the way in which it captures and shares learning from operational incidents.

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

The response strategy is linked to the risks identified in the IRMP

The service’s response strategy is linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. Its fire engines and response staff, as well as its working patterns, are designed and located to enable the service to respond flexibly to fires and other emergencies with the appropriate resources. For example, it looks at historical demand and risks and plans for future scenarios if it changed the location of stations or working patterns, so it can assess the impact of any changes on the ability to respond to incidents. But the service’s response activity isn’t meeting its strategic intent.

The service doesn’t meet its response standards

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. The service has set out its own response standards in its IRMP, but these aren’t publicly available. The response standards for the first engine are as follows: 8 minutes in high-risk areas, 10 minutes in medium risk areas and 18 minutes in low-risk areas.

Service performance against its standards has deteriorated. We were told that in the first quarter of 2021 performance against the standards had dropped by nearly 4 percent compared to the previous year. Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s response time to primary fires was 10 minutes and 28 seconds, which is slower than the average for significantly rural services, which is 9 minutes and 44 seconds. This is affected by the time it takes to drive to incidents in rural areas.

The service doesn’t always have enough fire engines available

To support its response strategy, the service has set itself a challenging target to have all of its fire engines available on 100 percent of occasions. The service doesn’t always meet this standard. In the year ending 31 March 2021, its availability was 80 percent. We were told the service has a manual process in the control room for updating on-call availability which means there can be a delay of up to 30 minutes for changes in availability to show on the system. This means a fire engine may be showing as unavailable when there are actually enough staff available.

The service has a plan which sets out how it will respond to incidents as fire engines become unavailable in certain circumstances such as prolonged periods of activity or industrial action. We were told the service is using this plan constantly and as a result, there is a risk that the service will not be able to get to some incidents quickly enough.

In the year ending 31 March 2021, in 29 percent of all incidents a crew was moved to another station because there weren’t enough crews available in the area. This is significantly higher than the England rate of 7 percent and is the second highest rate of all services in England. This means that the service doesn’t have enough staff available to meet its response strategy.

We noted that the service is taking some action to improve the availability of its on-call stations. This includes using a small team of full-time staff to cover shortages and providing more local training and recruitment so on-call staff don’t need to leave their area to attend courses. We look forward to seeing the improvements this will make.

The service commands incidents well

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed regularly and properly. Their competence is re-assessed every two years and accredited by an external company. This enables the service to safely, assertively and effectively manage the whole range of incidents that it could face, from the small and routine to complex multi-agency incidents.

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

The service doesn’t fully involve control staff in learning activity

For some years the service’s control room function has been provided by West Midlands Fire Service. There is a good working relationship between the service and the control room. But we are disappointed to find that the control staff aren’t always included in the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. The staff are told to read updates that are attached to their training plan and occasionally receive case studies with learning points from incidents. Staff in the control room carry out their own debriefing following incidents and send any relevant information to the service.

The service hasn’t yet implemented its procedures to handle multiple fire survival guidance calls

The service hasn’t reviewed its ability to provide fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously, which we would have expected. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire. The service hasn’t yet implemented its operational guidance for managing simultaneous evacuation and firefighting at high‑rise buildings. This means staff in the control room and operational crews aren’t clear on the procedures to be followed.

Although the control room staff communicate directly with the incident commander, the tool they have to exchange live information and record multiple fire survival calls hasn’t yet been adopted by the service although we were told the service is looking to do this. This means they have to rely on emails. Staff in the control room were unclear on the procedures for sharing information on high-rise incidents with the incident ground.

Firefighters can access up-to-date risk information

We sampled a range of risk information for sites including hospitals, care homes and high-risk, high-rise buildings and what information is held by fire control.

The information we reviewed was mostly up to date and detailed. It could be easily accessed and understood by staff, but in some cases we were told that the mobile data terminals weren’t always reliable so staff had to print the risk information.

Encouragingly, some of the risk information at high-rise premises had been completed with support from the service’s protection staff.

The service doesn’t routinely evaluate operational performance

As part of the inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events. These include fires at domestic and commercial premises, rescues where a person was killed or seriously injured and large-scale training exercises carried out with other agencies.

We are disappointed to find that the service doesn’t consistently follow its policies to assure itself that staff command incidents in line with operational guidance. The service sends a tactical advisor to monitor every incident where there are two or more appliances, but we found the service isn’t effectively using this resource to gather information to inform learning and improve.

The service has an officers’ forum where learning is shared and cascaded to staff but there isn’t a clear link between the outcome of incidents and the learning that is discussed at the forum.

The service rarely carries out formal debriefs with all staff involved following significant incidents. So, the service can’t be confident that it always acts on learning it has, or should have, identified from incidents. This means it isn’t routinely looking at ways that it can improve to provide a better service to the public.

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. It participates in the structured debriefs led by the CCC. These debriefs include other emergency services and agencies and share information on national and joint operational learning. We were told about an example of a multi-agency debrief that the service was involved in following a fire at a high-rise residential property.

The service is good at keeping the public informed

The service has good systems in place to inform the public about ongoing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. The tactical advisors who attend every incident have specific media responsibility and receive training. At larger incidents there is a dedicated media officer. These staff are responsible for keeping the public informed through social media and the website and through briefing the press.

5

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

Good

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

Staffordshire 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 well 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 planning. For example, it has plans for specific high-risk sites and it contributes to the community risk register held by the LRF.

It is familiar with some of the significant risks in neighbouring fire and rescue services, which it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. But it has more to do. For example, information on risks in bordering services was not always available to firefighters.

The service is able to respond to major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service has in place to respond to different major incidents, including flooding and terrorist-related incidents.

The service mostly has good arrangements in place, which are well understood by staff. For example, staff are well trained and were confident to respond to terrorist incidents. But we did find that staff did not feel confident in responding to a high-rise fire requiring the evacuation of residents.

The service works well with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. For example, it regularly attends incidents in bordering services. 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 as such. Incident commanders were clear on the process for requesting additional assets.

The service has plans to carry out exercises over its border

The service has a cross-border exercise plan with some neighbouring fire and rescue services so they can work together effectively to keep the public safe. The plan includes the risks of major events at which the service could foreseeably provide support or request assistance from neighbouring services. During the pandemic the service stopped training and exercising with neighbouring services, but we are pleased to see that this has resumed.

Incident commanders understand 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. For example the commanders were able to effectively describe how they would use the principles to make sure there were effective command structures in place and sharing of information at incidents.

The service is a valued partner in the LRF and CCU

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other partners that make up the Staffordshire LRF. The service is also part of the CCU. These arrangements include clear information packs and lines of communication with the CCU in the event of major or multi-agency incidents.

The service is a valued partner and is a member of the Commonwealth Games, HS2 and risk assessment groups. It is also vice chair of the LRF and chair of the CCU funding group. Multi-agency plans are tested on a five-year cycle with each plan being tested every three years. The service takes part in regular training events with other members of the LRF and uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents. Although physical training and exercising was put on hold during the pandemic the service still took part in desktop exercises.

The service keeps up to date with national learning

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

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