FIRE Comment

Public safety first

The Fire and Rescue Service is at a crossroads. The second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy sees fire sector participants buried in consultation exercises and working groups to implement Hackitt, whilst the second tranche of inspection results by HMICFRS is on its way, with more of the same predicted. It barely needs saying that these are politically volatile times and for the Service, potentially damaging with the second stage of the Grenfell public inquiry looming.

Anticipating a Labour Government in the not too distant future, the Fire Brigades Union is setting out its stall by challenging its old allies to back sweeping changes to the Fire and Rescue Service and invest in fire safety (see FBU conference report on pg 11). Conference voted for UK-wide standards and structures, including minimum response times and a commitment to five firefighters on every fire appliance.

In response Shadow Fire Minister Karen Lee promised to address the “long overdue pay rise, ensuring fire services receive the resources they need and fixing broken fire regulations”. As ever, it’s easier to raise the stakes in opposition. Let’s see what happens should they get into power. Meanwhile, as Tory leadership candidates trip over themselves to denounce the Police cuts they themselves voted for (we await similar public confessions on Fire), it is impossible to predict which way the tide will turn. But it is a good time to assess the current state of the Fire nation.

This issue picks apart preconceptions around integrated risk management plans and speed and weight of response, leaving no austerity-related excuse unchallenged for slower response times and the variable quality of IRMPs (see special reports from pg 13). ‘It has been argued that instead of IRMP processes being used to properly assess risk, economic realities mean that finance is now the key determinant in the speed and weight of response’ contends our correspondent on pg 17.


“There is much that can be taken from developing a similar model/template and applying to the arena of integrated risk management plans”


The National Fire Chiefs Council’s Community Risk Programme has its work cut out in trying to ascertain which attendance standards are based on sound data and analysis following research carried out by Nottingham Trent University (see pg 21). That a standardised template for producing an integrated risk management plan has never been produced is disappointing and astounding.

That may be why many in the audience found the US’ National Fire Protection Association Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem, presented by President James Pauley at this year’s Worshipful Company of Firefighters Fire Lecture, so heartening (see pg 43). Whilst the eight cogs – covering everything from government responsibility, investment in safety (chance would be a fine thing), preparedness and emergency response through to an informed public – might not map across directly to the UK experience, there is much that can be taken from developing a similar model/template and applying to the arena of integrated risk management plans.

It often takes an outside perspective to shake our thinking and Mr Pauley arrived in town with a clear agenda to raise fire safety considerations onto the global stage by presenting a long list of unnecessary, avoidable fire tragedies from around the world. Is it not time we look at what works elsewhere to learn how best to protect the public, rather than rely upon loose frameworks which often appear to reflect the whims of politicians rather than exalting a safety first culture?

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