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by the NFCC

Context

This proposal is to identify how fire and rescue services can be made “Fit for the Future”. Its content all drives towards a future that serves people in every part of the community in England, wherever they live, work and take leisure. 

Governance of fire and rescue services in England is devolved through the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 to local fire and rescue authorities. The governance arrangements within those authorities follow a number of different models. Many of the services provided by fire and rescue services in response to community risks are common to all parts of the country.  But each authority serves local people, in differing communities, which can create varying types and levels of risk and in different local contexts. Some elements of the service need to be tailored locally, to meet these local needs.

This places the statutory responsibilities for the provision of fire and rescue services to local communities in the hands of the local fire and rescue authority. Any improvement initiatives need to be seen in the context of this governance arrangement and has to be developed in collaboration with fire and rescue authorities throughout England.

Society is changing in different parts of the country in different ways. Fire and rescue services need to be able to reshape themselves to address societal changes, including population growth and movement, an aging society, health issues such as obesity and heart disease. Services need to take into account changes in context such as modern methods of construction technology and innovation. There are also the challenges posed by climate change leading to increasing risks of flooding, wildfires and water shortages. Services also need to be able to build upon their success in changing human behaviour and improve their contribution to a safer, more prosperous society. A role for fire and rescue services in the future that builds on the excellent work so far and continues to not only save lives, but that changes lives.

Societal changes are reflected in the risks that drive the activities of the fire and rescue service. Although many risks and some resultant activities are common to all fire and rescue services, no one service is identical to another. Through consistent and robust IRMPs local risks need to be properly assessed to inform the deployment of services Proposals for service delivery need to be carefully assessed and local public engaged to ensure the impact of the delivery of services is known and understood.

As well as tailoring services to meet local needs, all fire and rescue services need to continue to strive for excellence in their core functions and to meet their statutory duties. This includes preventing fires and other emergencies, protecting people from the effects of incidents that do happen and providing a timely, effective response to the highest standards of quality. 

Fire and rescue services need to ensure that their responses are resilient and can respond in collaboration with others to demanding events such as wildfires and major flooding. The threat of terrorism is a sad reality that needs to be prepared for and the ability to respond, in line with civil contingencies and with partner agencies is vital.  

Recent tragic events have challenged fire and rescue services and placed their operations under intense scrutiny. Both the Grenfell Tower Fire and Manchester Arena bombings demonstrated to the public that although fire and rescue services do respond to major incidents, they are organisations that need to continually learn, can reflect on their actions and implement change so that they can improve the delivery of their services.

Knee jerk reactions to reports that come after major incidents is something that fire and rescue services, as well as others in the fire sector and beyond should avoid. Recommendations for change, and for improvement (including those from HMICFRS) should be considered in the wider context of an evolving fire and rescue service. Improvement needs to be fed from a wide variety of sources and the response needs to be joined up and co-ordinated to best effect.