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West Sussex 2021/22

Effectiveness

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

Last updated 27/07/2022
Requires improvement

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

Since our last inspection, the service has used increased funding from West Sussex County Council to add more staff to its prevention, protection and operational assurance teams. This has helped improve effectiveness. But there is still more to do.

For example, the service needs to make sure that all firefighters understand what their role would be in a possible terrorist incident. And firefighters could carry out more prevention work with the public.

The service also needs to do more to reduce unwanted fire signals. We are pleased that the current public consultation on the service’s community risk management plan (CRMP) includes proposals for addressing this problem.

It is encouraging that the service has begun using new technology to improve the way it works. A database is allowing prevention, protection and response staff to share information on risks, which helps keep the public and firefighters safer.

Questions for Effectiveness

1

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

Good

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

West Sussex 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 needs to improve how it engages with 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 following a thorough planning process. This is communicated to the public in its integrated risk management. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and data sets. For example, the service shares information about vulnerable people with other parts of West Sussex County Council.

The service is consulting on a new integrated risk management plan (IRMP), which it plans to call the community risk management plan (CRMP) 2022–2026.The county council has reviewed and approved the approach the service has taken to involve its local communities in this process.

When appropriate, the service has consulted and undertaken constructive dialogue with communities and others such as parish councils, voluntary groups, faith organisations, and other emergency services. The service is also consulting with staff and representative bodies on its CRMP. This work helps the service understand risks and explain how it plans to mitigate them.

There is an effective IRMP

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings 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.

The service’s IRMP for 2018–22 sets out how it aims to:

  • reduce the number of emergency incidents and their effects by continuously improving prevention, protection and response activity;
  • as part of West Sussex County Council, work with local communities, districts and boroughs to keep West Sussex safe;
  • work with emergency services and other local and national organisations to improve end results for the public;
  • support staff to be professional, resilient, skilled, flexible and diverse; and
  • focus on customer needs and offer value for money.

The service reports to West Sussex Fire Authority on its performance and progress, which are measured against the IRMP’s priorities.

It has brought in local risk management plans (LRMPs) which cover the district areas within the county. The LRMPs include and support actions from the IRMP.

But firefighters don’t yet have enough links with their communities. The service should build and strengthen these links so the LRMPs can more effectively support people who are most at risk.

The service communicates risk information well

The service routinely collects and updates the information it has about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk. It has established robust processes and systems to gather, record and make site-specific risk information readily available to prevention, protection and response staff. This helps them to identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively.

The service’s processes and systems include:

  • gathering information during familiarisation visits to high-risk premises;
  • working with building owners to put measures in place to reduce fire risks;
  • working with organisations and businesses to determine short-term risk, for example at sporting events and festivals; and
  • recording risk information about vulnerable members of the community, including hoarders.

Staff are given information in a range of ways, including mobile data terminals on fire engines, email and an online learning system.

Where appropriate, risk information is also given to other organisations such as local authorities, other emergency services and health organisations.

Feedback from operational activity informs understanding of risk

The service records and communicates risk information effectively. It also routinely updates risk assessments and uses feedback from local and national operational activity to inform its planning assumptions.

Since our last inspection, the service has added more staff to its operational assurance team. This team has reviewed and improved the way it gathers and disseminates learning from operational activity.

The service monitors national learning platforms to help find ways to improve the way it works. It also distributes its own learning via one of these, the National Fire Chiefs Council platform.

Learning from Grenfell is helping reduce risk

During this round of inspections, we sampled how each fire and rescue service has responded to the recommendations and learning from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. At the time of our inspection, the service was on track to having assessed the risk of every high-rise building in its service area by the end of 2021.

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

The service and local authority building control teams share information with each other as part of Building Risk Review work. This has helped create a common understanding of risk.

2

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

Requires improvement

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at preventing fires and other risks.

West Sussex 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 are encouraged to see improvement in the service’s prevention work since our last inspection. We previously identified a cause of concern in how the service aligns prevention activity with risk, and how it conducts safe and well visits in a timely manner. This cause of concern has now been resolved. While there is still more to do, the central prevention team is working much more effectively.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure operational staff are productively involved in prevention work.
  • The service should make sure it quality assures its prevention activity, so staff carry out safe and well visits consistently.
  • The service should evaluate its prevention activity so it understands what works.

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

The prevention strategy aligns with the IRMP

The service’s prevention strategy is clearly linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. Since our last inspection in 2018, prevention activities are targeting risk more effectively. The service has a much better understanding of overall risk in its area, which means it can better target its support to people who are most at risk.

The service co-ordinates its teams and works well with other relevant organisations on prevention, passing on relevant information when needed. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. There is a process in place to make sure that information about high-risk premises is shared between different departments. This means the service can manage and respond to risks appropriately.

The pandemic has reduced prevention activity

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 by giving more online safety information and giving more advice to people on the telephone. This meant the service supported people when it wasn’t possible to do this work in person.

Since then, the service hasn’t resumed its prevention activities in the same way as before the pandemic. Firefighters aren’t achieving the targets the service has set for safe and well visits and many are doing very little prevention work. The service told us this is because some people are less willing to have fire service staff in their houses during a pandemic. In contrast, the central prevention team is on target to achieve its targets for safe and well visits.

In light of this situation, it is good that the service has redirected firefighters to carry out more school visits and other prevention activities. But the service needs to understand why the central team is going into enough homes while operational staff aren’t.

Work to make sure the most vulnerable people are prioritised is improving – but there is more to do

Prevention activity is clearly prioritised using a risk-based approach towards people most at risk from fire and other emergencies. The service takes account of a broad range of information and data to target its prevention activity at vulnerable individuals and groups. This includes NHS data, demographic information, vulnerability data from the county council and historic incident data.

The prevention team uses a scoring system to help determine which people are most at risk from fire. The service then uses different activities to address the risks it has identified. This includes sending staff with specialist training to visit the people who are most at risk, while firefighters visit people at lower risk.

Based on its assessments, the service sets targets for how many safe and well visits should be carried out by firefighters. Firefighters also have targets for generating safe and well visits. But we found they are often reluctant to make these visits and that many tend not to see prevention as part of their role.

Staff need more support in carrying out safe and well visits

Some staff told us they don’t have the right skills or confidence to make safe and well visits. These checks cover a range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies.

Some staff told us that they felt comfortable giving the public fire safety advice on the visits but were less confident discussing wider health and safety matters. Some said they avoided asking questions on these topics. But even when this happens, a visit can still be counted as completed.

The service has recruited two prevention trainers to support and develop the skills of its operational crews in this area. But this work has been delayed by the pandemic, when it hasn’t always been possible for the trainers to visit staff on fire stations. The service introduced an online training package to overcome this. However, many firefighters told us they need more support.

Staff feel confident in identifying and raising safeguarding concerns

Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. They told us they feel confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly. Staff were able to explain the process they would follow if they had any safeguarding causes for concern. All staff have access to online safeguarding training, which covers a range of topics including identifying neglect and modern-day slavery.

The service works well with other organisations

The service works with a wide range of other organisations to prevent fires and other emergencies. These organisations include Sussex Police, Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, and telecare providers, who monitor and support vulnerable people to live independently.

We found good evidence that the service routinely refers people at greatest risk to other organisations which may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include Age UK, the local public health team, prevention assessment teams, and community safety partnerships. Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from other organisations such as the NHS and adult social care. The service has good systems in place to respond to the referrals it receives. At the time of our inspection there was no backlog of referrals from other organisations.

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, in the last year the service has started to carry out collaborative fatal fire reviews, working with other organisations who may be able to learn from them.

As we saw in the COVID-19 inspection, the service is now working more closely with organisations in the Sussex Resilience Forum. Staff from other organisations have told us that as a result, the service is seen as a more active and trusted partner.

There are effective procedures for tackling fire-setting behaviour

The service has a range of suitable and effective interventions to target and educate people of different ages who show signs that they might start fires. This includes having a trained group of staff who work with fire-setters to change their behaviours.

The service works with other organisations including the police and local authorities to share information and support a multi-agency approach.

Until now the service has only worked with younger fire-setters, but there are plans to work with adult fire-setters too.

The evaluation of prevention activity could be improved

The service could improve the way it evaluates the effectiveness of its activity, to make sure all its communities get access to prevention activity that meets their needs.

For example, operational staff told us that to achieve their targets for generating safe and well visits, they sometimes go to supermarkets and public places to get the required quantity of requests – which isn’t targeting the people most at risk.

Because the prevention activities are not consistently evaluated the service can’t be sure that its work is making a difference to the people it visits.

The service doesn’t ask for feedback following all its prevention activities. This means it is missing opportunities to learn and improve the types of activities it provides to the public.

3

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

Requires improvement

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

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was inadequate 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.

We are encouraged to see improvement in the service’s protection work since our last inspection.

We previously identified a cause of concern that the service didn’t have a clear strategy for using its RBIP to identify the highest-risk premises. We found that the database the service used to manage premises’ information was unreliable and not always accurate. And the service couldn’t carry out the number of audits of high-risk premises that it committed to as part of its programme.

The cause of concern is now resolved. While there is still more to do, the protection team is working much more effectively.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should ensure it addresses effectively the burden of false alarms (termed ‘unwanted fire signals’).
  • The service should make sure it works with local businesses and large organisations to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations.

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

The protection strategy is aligned with the IRMP

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

Staff across the service are involved in this activity, with information effectively exchanged as needed. For example, protection staff give information about enforcement activity to operational crews about where there may be an increased level of risk.

Information is in turn used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s protection, prevention and response functions. This means resources are properly aligned to risk. The service is training all its firefighters to carry out basic fire safety audits, to improve the way it works with businesses and help integrate protection and response work.

The pandemic has slowed down inspection work

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19 specific inspection in October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. It introduced more online and telephone advice for businesses when it wasn’t possible to do this in person. Since then we are encouraged to find that fire safety audits have continued, most of them remotely.

The service told us that its RBIP had gone ahead more slowly than expected because of the pandemic. At the time of the inspection we saw that it had robust plans to address this and intended to prioritise physical visits when safe to do so.

Protection activity is becoming more focused on the highest-risk buildings

In 2020/21 86 percent of the audits the service completed were satisfactory, which is higher than the national average. This was an improvement on the previous year, but the high number of satisfactory audits could indicate that the service isn’t auditing the highest-risk premises.

The service’s RBIP is becoming more focused on West Sussex’s highest-risk buildings. The service is using a new IT system to support this approach, scoring each premises against several criteria to determine the overall level of risk. As the IT system becomes more widely used within the protection team, protection activities are becoming better aligned with risk. The audits we reviewed were completed in the timescales the service has set itself.

Safety audits of high-rise buildings are on track

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

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

Post-fire audits aren’t routinely carried out

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.

The audits we reviewed were completed 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.

However, we noted that audits aren’t routinely carried out after fires at premises where fire safety legislation applies. We also found that the service doesn’t always communicate with the responsible person after an audit, in contrast to its stated policy.

Fire safety audits are quality assured

Quality assurance of protection activity takes place in a proportionate way. Before an audit file can be closed, it must be approved by a line manager, who reviews the contents. And managers regularly carry out quality assurance by accompanying inspecting officers on audits.

Protection activities aren’t evaluated

The service doesn’t have good evaluation tools in place to measure its effectiveness or to make sure all sections of its communities get access to protection services that meet their needs. The service is aware of this and is starting to work with community groups to improve the situation. For example, it is having discussions with owners of takeaways to help them understand how to comply with fire safety legislation.

Fire safety legislation is effectively enforced

The service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers, and when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations. The service has 24/7 availability for enforcement and prohibition activity.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued no alteration notices, 87 informal notifications, 12 enforcement notices, 7 prohibition notices and undertook 3 prosecutions. It completed 7 prosecutions in the last 5 years from 2016/17 to 2020/21.

Protection resources have been increased to match needs

The service has increased the number of competent protection staff to meet the requirements of the service’s RBIP. At our last inspection in 2018/19, there were 5 competent staff in the protection team. At the end of 2020/21 there were 14. This will enable the service to provide the full range of audit and enforcement activity needed, both now and in the future.

The service aligns staff training with nationally recognised standards. It doesn’t have a trained and competent fire engineer but has arrangements with neighbouring services to access engineer support when this is needed.

The service works closely with other organisations on fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. For example, since the start of the pandemic, the protection team has worked with the Care Quality Commission to share information and carry out joint visits to care homes. The service has also worked with the county council to support fire safety compliance at quarantine hotels such as those near Gatwick Airport.

Responses to building consultations are being submitted on time

The service has improved its response to building consultations and it completed 100 percent of building consultations within the required time frame in 2020/21. This met its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. But the number of consultations received was almost a third lower than in the previous year (499 in 2020/21 compared with 730 in 2019/20). In 2019/20 the number of consultations completed on time was 83 percent. The service needs to make sure it has enough resources to meet any future increase in demand.

The service needs to do more to work with businesses

The service could do more to engage with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. During our COVID-19 inspection, we found that the service used its social media accounts and website to communicate messages to businesses about fire safety compliance in the pandemic. But in this inspection, we found that the service wasn’t communicating with businesses regularly.

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

During our last inspection, we identified an area for improvement in how the service deals with unwanted fire signals. Only limited action is being taken to reduce the number of unwanted fire signals.

The service has introduced procedures in the control room when dealing with automatic fire alarms. When calls coming from automatic fire alarms are received in the control room, operators challenge callers more and fire engines aren’t mobilised automatically. The service told us it has set a target to reduce automatic fire alarms (AFAs) in non-domestic premises by 10 percent per year, and achieved a 12 percent reduction in 2020/21 from the previous year.

Despite this, the service attends more AFAs than the national average. In the year to 31 March 2021, it didn’t respond to 16 percent, compared to the England-wide rate of 37 percent. This means that fire engines may be unavailable to respond to genuine incidents because they are attending false alarms. It also creates a risk to the public if more fire engines travel at high speed on roads to respond to these incidents.

The service has included options for improving how it responds to unwanted fire signals in its current IRMP public consultation. These include assessing whether to attend based on the risk level of premises; using technology to change the ways businesses manage potential false alarms; education; and in extreme cases, charging businesses which don’t do enough to reduce false alarms.

4

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

Good

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

West Sussex 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 the availability of its on-call fire engines is aligned to the risks identified in its IRMP.

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

Response resources are linked to identified risks

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 right resources. The service plans to review its crewing models as part of its CRMP.

The staff in the control room use computer software which helps make sure fire engines are where they are needed. The service call this the ‘dynamic cover tool’. This means that when fire engines respond to an incident, the tool suggests which fire engines should be moved from their base locations to maintain cover across the area.

Target response times are consistently achieved

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in its IRMP. These vary by risk level but say that a critical incident in a high-risk area should be attended by a fire engine within 10 minutes and within 14 minutes in a low-risk area.

The service consistently meets its standards. Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2021, the service’s response time to primary fires was 9 minutes and 33 seconds. This is faster than the average for other services categorised as significantly rural.

The availability of on-call fire engines needs improvement

The service met its target availability for wholetime fire engines in 2020/21 (99.4 percent availability compared to its target of 100 percent). But the service is not meeting its target for the availability of on-call fire engines (69.1 percent compared to a target of 75 percent).

The service recognises that the current on-call arrangements don’t support the IRMP. In its CRMP consultation, the service has made proposals to address this problem.

Incident commanders have appropriate training

Our last inspection identified an area for improvement for the service to make sure it has an effective system to maintain the competencies of all incident commanders. We are pleased to see that this has improved. The service has trained its incident commanders and assesses them against national standards. In 2020/21, 97 percent of incident commanders had been accredited within the preceding 2 years. In the same year, every incident was attended by an incident commander with the right level of accreditation. This helps the service to safely, confidently 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 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).

Control staff are regularly involved in operational learning

We are pleased to see the control room staff are integrated into the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. We saw examples where control staff had been involved with debrief procedures and were able to give feedback on performance.

Fire control also has its own staff training programme, which is aligned to national competencies.

Fire control can provide fire survival guidance to multiple callers

The control room staff we interviewed were confident they could provide fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire. We saw that the mobilising system had prompts and checklists for staff to follow when fielding multiple fire survival guidance calls.

Control has good systems in place to exchange real-time risk information with incident commanders, other responding partners, and other supporting fire and rescue services. The service has recently introduced new co-ordinating roles to liaise between control and incident commanders. At the time of our inspection, this approach was being implemented and tested. Maintaining good situational awareness helps the service to communicate effectively with the public, providing them with accurate and tailored advice.

Risk information is easily accessible to staff

We sampled a range of risk information for several premises involving long and short‑term risks, including what is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings and what information is held by fire control.

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

We saw examples of temporary risk information being given to staff – for example, relating to a light aircraft crash near Goodwood Airfield in July 2021.

Operational performance is comprehensively evaluated

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. We saw evidence of useful information being disseminated throughout the organisation through bulletins which are based on operational debriefs for incidents attended by the service’s staff. Staff must confirm that they have read these bulletins through the training IT system.

We are encouraged to see the service is contributing towards, and acting on, learning from other fire and rescue services or operational learning gathered from other emergency service partners. Briefings from national operational learning (NOL) and joint organisation learning (JOL) are reported to the operational assurance team and then communicated to the rest of the service. A process is in place to make sure staff read and respond to these updates.

The public is kept well 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 communications team has enough resources to keep the public informed about continuous incidents on a 24/7 basis. The team also makes sure that the service’s website and social media accounts are regularly updated with information on incidents and safety messages.

The communications team works well with the local resilience forum to convey consistent messages to the public.

5

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

Requires improvement

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at responding to major and multi‑agency incidents.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service required improvement 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 make sure it is well-prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to a terrorist incident, and its procedures for responding are understood by all staff and are well tested.
  • The service should make sure it is well-prepared to form part of a multi-agency response to an incident and all relevant staff know how to apply JESIP.

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

The service is prepared for major and multi-agency incidents

The service has effectively anticipated and considered the reasonably foreseeable risks and threats it may face. These risks are listed in both local and national risk registers as part of its integrated risk management planning. For example, the service has made plans for dealing with large-scale flooding, wildfires and industrial incidents.

It is also familiar with the significant risks that could be faced by neighbouring fire and rescue services that it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. These include possible incidents at high-rise buildings in Brighton and the motorway network. Firefighters have access to risk information from neighbouring services. And operational staff have access to risk information for areas up to 20 kilometres into neighbouring FRSs.

Staff are generally well-prepared for major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service has in place to respond to different major incidents, including incidents relating to high-rise buildings, wide-area flooding and a marauding terrorist attack.

The service has good arrangements in place. These are well understood by staff, who can learn about them through e-learning training packages. We found that the service tests its arrangements and its staff’s understanding of them through regular exercises. The service has maintained this exercise programme throughout the pandemic, although the number of exercises was understandably reduced from the previous, pre‑pandemic year.

All staff must be prepared to respond to a terrorist incident

Many firefighters we spoke to didn’t realise they might have a part to play in responding to a marauding terrorist attack, because they thought only the specialist team would be involved.

The service needs to be sure all its staff are prepared to respond safely and effectively to a terrorist incident. And it needs to make sure learning from exercises is used to improve its plans.

The service needs to learn from its work with other services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. Since beginning joint control arrangements with Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in 2019, the 2 services have used borderless mobilising. This means control staff will send whichever fire engine can get to an incident the quickest. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service joined these control arrangements in November 2021. The service is intraoperable with these other services and can form part of a multi‑agency response.

The service has successfully deployed to other service areas and has used national assets in its own service area.

But we saw little evidence that the service evaluates its work with other services. We found few lessons were learned and shared between the neighbouring fire and rescue services.

The service would benefit from more structured cross-border plans

The service has a cross-border exercise plan with neighbouring fire and rescue services. This enables them to work more effectively together to keep the public safe. But the plan lacks detail and doesn’t include the risks of major events at which the service could foreseeably provide support or request assistance from neighbouring services. Staff we spoke to had limited awareness of cross-border risks and had little experience of attending cross-border exercises. Only some learning from these exercises is used to inform risk information and service plans.

Most staff understand interoperability principles

The service could provide us with strong evidence that it consistently follows the JESIP. This includes online training packages on JESIP. All the incident commanders we spoke to at station manager level and above had a good understanding of JESIP. But some crew and watch managers were less familiar with the principles.

The service is an active member of the Sussex Resilience Forum

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other partners that make up the Sussex Resilience Forum. These arrangements include joint plans for generic major incidents, as well as site-specific risk information for places that have additional risks.

The service is a valued partner in the resilience forum. During the pandemic the service has been represented in the forum’s strategic and tactical co-ordination groups, as well as other working groups when needed. The service takes part in regular training events with other members of the local resilience forum and uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi‑agency incidents. Members of the forum use a single policy and procedure, called Sussex Emergency Response and Recovery.

The service uses and contributes to national learning

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

We saw evidence that the service has contributed to NOL and JOL. There is a single point of contact for both of these, who makes sure the service maintains up to date information.

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