Skip to main content

Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Drivers for change

IO10: Meaningful collaboration

Fire and rescue services have traditionally worked closely with other emergency services. In addition to this they work at a local level through crime and disorder partnerships, local resilience forums, health and other organisations. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 cites fire and rescue as a Category 1 responder with particular responsibilities. The National Framework says that an efficient fire and rescue service should actively explore collaboration where it lines up with the priorities in its IRMP. 

The government invested in a programme to create the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles. This provides a basis on which the emergency services would work together. The Joint Doctrine was published in August 2016 and id guidance to support and enhance interoperability between emergency response organisations when responding to multi-agency incidents. 

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase 1 report highlights a concern about the failure of the emergency services to co-ordinate with each other. Sir Martin Moore Bick is critical of the Joint Doctrine as well as the responders’ use of the principles within it on the incident ground. He says that the Category 1 responders (LFB, MPS, LAS and the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) did not fully adhere to the principles contained in the Joint Doctrine with the principle, common to all, being poor communication. The consequence of this was organisations working in isolation and in ignorance of what others were doing.  

Earlier in 2017, the Manchester Arena terrorist bombing resulted in the deaths of 22 people. Lord Kerslake was asked to lead a review into the emergency services response. He writes in his final recommendation for fire and rescue, “The response to the Arena attack provided an extraordinary validation of the on-going work within the UK civil protection sector to embed the JESIP Interoperability Framework in practice”. He praises responders where the principles of JESIP held good but goes on to say, “Where unforeseen limitations in guidance, protocol and circumstance collided to block such collaboration, the response of the organisation affected was paralysed for a crucial period”.

Both Grenfell and the Manchester Arena bombing are major incidents where interoperability and joint co-ordination of response are critical. There is National Operational Guidance on Major Incidents to assist fire and rescue services in preparing for and responding in an effective way. 

Police, fire and ambulance are also under a statutory duty to collaborate. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 introduced the concept of collaboration agreements and compelled the duty holders to keep under consideration opportunities to collaborate where it is in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness. 

HMICFRS finds that nearly all fire and rescue services have a positive attitude towards collaboration. Their reports cite wide ranging examples of collaboration across all aspects of fire and rescue service business. As referenced in Improvement objective 6, the issue is evaluation and providing the evidence that the collaboration is necessary and impactful.