Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) has been highly commended for its innovative and targeted prevention work, its response to major incidents and for making the best use of its resources to best serve the public of Merseyside.
The recognition comes from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) who carried out a detailed inspection of the Service in May 2023, and judged it as:
- Outstanding at preventing fires and other risks
- Outstanding at responding to major and multi-agency incidents
- Outstanding at making best use of resources
In addition to the three ‘outstanding’ judgements across the eleven sub-themes for its fire prevention, response to major and multi-agency incidents and making best use of resources, MFRS gained a further five ‘good’ judgements – with no areas ‘requiring improvement’.
Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan expressed his pride that the Service, and more importantly his teams, have been recognised for their outstanding work by the inspectors.
This is the third time HMICFRS has inspected MFRS; the first taking place in December 2018. The Service was deemed ‘good’ in all three areas, a sector leading outcome at that time. However, the results of this latest inspection represent further and consistent improvement over the three inspections and reflects the progress made by the Service in the preceding years. Changes which have seen the Service use innovation to make it quicker to respond, more effective and more resilient.
For this third inspection, inspectors spent several weeks over the spring of 2023 exploring areas covering operational and support functions and interviewing staff.
In his report, lead HMI Inspector Matt Parr said the Service had made significant progress since the last inspection in May 2021 and ‘the service can command fire service assets assertively and safely at incidents’ and furthermore how it ‘promotes equality, diversity and inclusion and engages with under-represented groups in the workforce.’
Inspectors said the Service identifies and understands risk in the community, with a ‘detailed and effective risk management plan’. They also found that the Service has spoken to members of the community and partner organisations about their service plans and listened to their responses to understand risks and how to reduce them. The prevention strategy prioritises those most at risk from fire and other emergencies and prevention work is directed at the most vulnerable people – this work is evaluated to ensure it is effective.
The inspection also found that MFRS is ‘good at protecting the public through fire regulation’ with the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) once again proving to be an effective basis for identifying risks, carrying out assessments and exchanging risk information. Well-resourced Protection teams inspect buildings based on the highest risk, protection work is quality assured and performance indicators and evaluation tools ensure the effectiveness of the inspection programme. The Service has responded well to new fire safety legislation and engages effectively with businesses.
In terms of response, MFRS was found to be ‘good at responding to fires and other emergencies’ with availability of emergency response aligned to risk and demand. MFRS has identified 10 key fire station locations to ensure a fire engine is always available. The Service was commended for its effective command arrangements, with Fire Control staff integrated into command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity.
With the ‘Outstanding‘ judgement, the inspection found MFRS is well prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents, having effectively anticipated and considered foreseeable risks. The Service was found to have developed effective procedures for dealing with incidents such as major fires in high rise buildings, with a clear process to consider national learning. MFRS was found to work effectively with other partners, emergency services and other Fire and Rescue Services, carrying out exercises and developing plans to deal with large scale, diverse incidents.
MFRS was also judged ‘outstanding at making best use of its resources’, with a range of duty systems aligned to emergency response demand. This flexible response to emergency incidents means that the number of fire engines can be increased if required, either for a high number of incidents or a major incident. This also ensures the Service’s own response standards of attendance to life risk incidents within 10 minutes on 90% of occasions is achieved- in 2021/22 this figure was 95.4%. Since the last inspection, the Service has increased its number of fire engines from 30 to 32 and also increased the number of people in Fire Control. Inspectors found that work patterns and performance management ensure a productive workforce, with firefighters’ time utilised effectively in prevention, fire safety and other core work when not responding to emergencies. MFRS has a good understanding of future financial challenges, and new systems and technology are transforming the way the service works. The new training and development academy scheduled to open in April 2024 will provide a modern, state of the art training facility.
The values and culture of the Service were found to be well defined, and behaviour of staff reflects those values. The Service seeks feedback from staff, with senior leaders acting as role models – staff reported that they have direct conversations with leaders and feel that they are listened to. Health and well-being of staff is important to the Service, with staff telling inspectors they are supported in different ways to promote their physical and mental health – the Service has effective health and safety arrangements. A culture of continuous improvement is promoted throughout the organisation and learning is co-ordinated and well managed resulting in well trained and competent staff. The Service is working hard to improve equality, diversity and inclusion, with the growth and development of staff networks to provide support, the appointment of a Head of Culture and Inclusion and an ‘attractions team’ including people from under-represented groups. The Service has encouraged applications from diverse backgrounds and the rate of firefighter recruitment for ethnic minorities and women has increased since the last inspection.
The full inspection report and those of the other fire and rescue services inspected so far are available on the HMICFRS website: Publications – His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (justiceinspectorates.gov.uk)
Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said: “I am very pleased to see these excellent results from our latest inspection which show sustained improvement. We have shown that we have listened to feedback from previous inspections and built that into genuine real-word improvements that are making the Service even better at protecting the people of Merseyside.
“Operational and Support staff across the Service work incredibly hard as one team, putting the community first and keeping each other and the people of Merseyside safe each day. They are inspiring in their passion, dedication and professionalism and this report is a testament to them.
“I have never been prouder to be Chief Fire Officer of our incredible fire and rescue service. We will embrace new ideas to build on the confidence and trust the community place in us and we will overcome any barrier to keep people safe. We know we can always improve, and we will continue to build on the outcomes of this report and find even more innovative ways to keep our communities safe.
“The people of Merseyside should remember that Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is always here for them when they need us most. Our staff are part of the community and our community is at the heart of everything we do and always will be.”
Cllr Les Byrom, the Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority said: “This is another incredible outcome and reflects the hard work, long term commitment and effort put in by everyone across the service, demonstrating consistent performance at the very highest level.
“We have actively listened to what His Majesty’s Inspectorate have said and we will continue to move forward to ever greater achievements- everyone should be rightly proud of their contribution to the Service and the people of Merseyside.”
For free fire safety advice or to request a home fire safety check, call 0800 731 5958.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged 65 or over or those referred by partner agencies.