Fire and Rescue Services: COVID-19 response
An inspection of how FRS in England responded to the COVID-19 pandemic
We were inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in October 2020 as part of an inspection into how fire and rescue services were responding to Covid-19, as they continued to face challenges during a difficult period.
In an official letter received on Friday 22 January the inspectors praised ECFRS for being well prepared, the support it offered to partners, maintenance of its core services and putting the welfare of its staff at the heart of decisions and activities.
ECFRS received notable feedback in the following areas:
The inspectors said business continuity plans were well developed and enabled ECFRS to respond quickly.
The work of frontline firefighters, community safety officers, fire protection staff, water services, training staff and fleet and central stores, all underpinned by support services, meant ECFRS was able to maintain the delivery of statutory duties. There was particular reference to targeted and risk assessed approach to prevention and protection work.
Inspectors said wellbeing and safety was a clear ECFRS priority and firefighters’ core competence was maintained. Additionally, 93% of colleagues who completed an all-staff survey said they felt supported and appreciated.
Partnership has been vital throughout the pandemic and ECFRS was praised for the work they put into this. Inspectors noted the additional activities ECFRS carried out, including driving ambulances, delivering PPE and medical supplies, providing driving instructor training and packing food supplies. This was alongside its role in the Essex Resilience Forum and Strategic Coordination Group through the staffing of the Multi Agency Information Cell.
New ways of working
Inspectors praised how quickly new ICT solutions were put into practice and how well ECFRS adapted to remote working to ensure that essential support services could be maintained.
Hear Chief Fire Officer/ Chief Executive Jo Turton and Deputy Chief Fire Officer Rick Hylton speak about the feedback:
Previous inspection news
In summer 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) began inspecting the efficiency and effectiveness of all fire and rescue services in England. Formerly known as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the name was changed to reflect the addition of fire and rescue services.
HMICFRS independently assesses fire and rescue services on how we prevent, protect against and respond to fires and other emergencies as well as how well we look after our staff.
In summer 2019 HMICFRS inspected ECFRS for the first time and in December 2019 it published a report of its findings.
Overall summary of inspection findings from HMICFRS
We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). But there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.
We judged Essex County FRS to require improvement to the effectiveness of its service. It requires improvement to how it:
- understands the risk of fire and other emergencies;
- prevents fires and other risks; and
- protects the public through fire regulation.
But it is good at responding to fires and other emergencies. And its response to national risks is good.
The service’s efficiency requires improvement, in particular to how it uses resources. But it is good at making its services affordable.
The way Essex County FRS looks after its people requires improvement. We judged the way it promotes the right values and culture to be inadequate. It requires improvement to how it:
- gets the right people with the right skills; and
- ensures fairness and promoting diversity.
But it is good at managing performance and developing leaders.
Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.
- READ: The full HMICFRS report
- WATCH: Chief Fire Officer/ Chief Executive, Jo Turton, and Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Rick Hylton, respond to the report.
Formal report following Essex County Fire and Rescue Service Peer Review
In October 2018 a team of colleagues from other Fire and Rescue services and the Local Government Association visited ECFRS and met with more than 150 colleagues during a series of timetabled interviews, focus groups and station visits.
The report provides honest and constructive feedback on the Service, highlighting strengths and suggesting areas where there is room for improvement.
The report will now be used to drive forward improvements.