Fire service told there is 'still work to do' to improve safety and 999 response times

Avon Fire And Rescue Service Logo On Fire Engine
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Avon Fire and Rescue Service is making ‘good progress’ in addressing issues over its information to protect firefighters but there is ‘still work to do’.

In a report in May 2023 the HMICFRS inspected Avon Fire and Rescue Service for seven weeks, and found that the service still doesn’t have an effective system to make sure it gathers and records relevant and up-to-date risk information to help protect firefighters, the public and property during an emergency and that most operational staff had not been given the support they need to collect risk information.

It also highlighted concern over the mobilisation system, which records information and dispatches resources to emergency incidents saying it was not reliable and crashes during emergency 999 calls leading to slower responses.

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The HMICFRS returned in December 2023 to interview staff including the chief fire officer and found appropriate and clear governance arrangements were in place to monitor progress of the action plan.

The HMICFRS reported: “We were pleased to find that the service had increased staff resources within the risk information team. This has allowed it to provide training to operational staff, including operational wholetime firefighters as well as supervisory and middle managers.

“Although staff spoke positively about the new process for gathering and storing risk information and the service’s plans for the future, some felt that IT systems could still be improved. For example, staff felt that the process was still convoluted and that the transfer of risk information records should be automated rather than manual. This would lessen the risk of records being lost or deleted.”

The service has introduced a new quality assurance process that involves the supervisory manager approving risk information records. At the time of the revisit, the service was planning to install its new mobile data terminals onto its fire engines. This will allow firefighters to access risk information more easily compared to the current tablets, which have been described as unreliable.

On the mobilising system it added: “During our last inspection, we reported that the mobilising system crashed on some consoles. This was while the fire control operator was taking emergency calls.

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“This unnecessarily delays the mobilisation of resources, which results in the public receiving a slower response to emergencies. During our revisit, we were encouraged to find that the system was more reliable following escalation with the third-party supplier, but the system is still not free from technical faults.

“The service had escalated the issues identified with the supplier to the highest level. Regular daily meetings took place to report on progress.”

In conclusion the report states: “We were pleased to see that the service has started to make good progress in relation to both accelerated causes of concern. We recognise that the service has invested time and resources to develop its action plan and has established appropriate and clear governance arrangements, which are being further strengthened following the publication of our full report.

“Despite good progress being made, there is still more work to do. While the action plan is comprehensive, it is too early to determine how effective the plan will be in addressing the accelerated causes of concern. We look forward to seeing the future progress made, particularly once all SSRI visits have been completed and the service has tested the stability of its mobilising system over a longer period.

“We will return to Avon Fire and Rescue Service on a date to be agreed in the near future. We will assess whether the service has made satisfactory progress with its action plan and whether the service it provides to the public has improved.”