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Drivers for change

IO4: Innovative approaches to prevention

In 2004 the Fire and Rescue Services Act made fire prevention a statutory duty. This built on the findings of the Bain Report. “The new approach based on risk gives the Fire Service the opportunity to re-position itself within the community. The emphasis must be on engaging with the community by education and preventative measures to prevent fire occurring rather than concentrating on dealing with fire after it happens. Resources should be re-deployed accordingly. The result should be a reduction in the risk of fire and the incidence of fire.”

In the same year, the government gave fire and rescue services £25m over four years to introduce Home Fire Safety Checks whereby firefighters visited people’s homes and provided advice and smoke alarms. Subsequent evaluation of that grant estimated that the c. 2.4 million alarms installed would save 53 lives per year. Since then smoke alarm ownership has risen to 95 per cent and the messaging has changed to checking rather than owning a smoke alarm.  

In 2015, NHS England, Public Health England, the Local Government Association, the Chief Fire Officers Association and Age UK signed a Consensus Statement on Improving Health and Wellbeing. This was a major milestone in recognising the value of the fire and rescue service as a preventative service working hand in hand with the health service in England, seeking to help reduce pressures. 

The evolution of the Safe and Well visit from the well-established Home Fire Safety Check recognises the value of the partnership fire and rescue services have with health and other local providers. The National Fire Chiefs Council is developing a ‘person centred’ principle that attempts to bring these two approaches together. 

HMICFRS was largely positive about the prevention work undertaken by services with their partners. In the tranche 1 summary report they note that home fire safety checks continue in large numbers alongside other preventative work with partners but they could not find substantial evidence of evaluation of the benefits of the activity. The tranche 2 report went further by commending innovative practice but noting that prevention activity was not always prioritised based on those at greatest risk.