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Cleveland 2018/19


How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

Last updated 17/12/2019

An effective fire and rescue service will identify and assess the full range of foreseeable fire and rescue risks its community faces. It will target its fire prevention and protection activities to those who are at greatest risk from fire. It will make sure businesses comply with fire safety legislation. When the public calls for help, the fire and rescue service should respond promptly with the right skills and equipment to deal with the incident effectively. Cleveland Fire Brigade’s overall effectiveness is good.

Cleveland Fire Brigade has a good understanding of the risks to its local area. Its approach is outlined in its four-year plan, which uses a wide range of data to inform its prevention, protection and response activities.

The brigade’s prevention strategy covers seven main areas with a high focus on its staff completing safe and well checks. For the year to 31 March 2018, the brigade had a high rate of these checks per 1,000 population, over three times the average rate of fire and rescue services in England. It has carried out analysis to help it understand the main risk factors in its communities. But it doesn’t always target its prevention work at the people who are most at risk from fire in the home.

Its approach to enforcement is a supportive one, helping businesses to comply with fire safety regulations. For the year to 31 March 2018, the brigade had a high rate of fire safety audits per 100 known premises. Fire crews and specialist staff completed audits. However, it needs to make premises with the greatest risks a priority in its approach.

The brigade thoroughly assesses risk to the community before developing its response requirements. It has introduced smaller response vehicles and changed staffing arrangements, so its resources are proportionately allocated to risk. Its average response time to primary fires is faster than other fire and rescue services. 

The brigade can show it is ready to respond to both local and national events when needed. But it should improve its training with neighbouring fire and rescue services. It should also make sure its staff are well prepared to respond to high-risk premises in its area.

Questions for Effectiveness


How well does the FRS understand the risk of fire and other emergencies?


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies. But we found the following area in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The brigade should ensure it gathers and records relevant and up-to-date site-specific risk information.

All fire and rescue services should identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue-related risks. They should also prevent and mitigate these risks.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Understanding local and community risk

The brigade has a good understanding of local and community risk, which it explains well to the public in its community integrated risk management plan (CIRMP).

The plan tells the public of the main risks faced in their community. It outlines what current and future resources will be available to meet these risks. It also proposes activity to reduce these risks through prevention, protection and response. And it describes the financial constraints facing the brigade.

The current CIRMP is for the years 2018–22. Before publishing the CIRMP, the brigade ran a three-month consultation with the public, staff, local businesses and partners such as local authorities. It received 446 responses, which were shown to the fire authority before the plan was approved.

The analysis of risk in the CIRMP is based on the community risk profile of the brigade’s area. The brigade made effective use of a broad range of data to produce an accurate and clear risk profile. For example, it used its own local incident data, as well as data covering safeguarding, road safety, indices of multiple deprivation, population profiles, employment, housing, health and data on national incidents. This helps the brigade to proactively identify the different levels of community risk in its area. 

The brigade assessed the potential effect on services of emerging and future changes in risk. It worked with local partner organisations and used predictive datasets such as POPPI (Projecting Older People Population Information) to help it do this. For example, it predicts that by 2035 the number of people older than 65 with dementia will increase by 71 percent from 7,000 to 12,000. And by 2032 there will be an estimated 32,000 more homes in its geographic area.

This community risk profile approach to risk has been externally validated by Newcastle University. The brigade uses it to get a clear picture of the areas and households most at risk from fire. It is reviewed and updated each year.

Strategic plans include different scenarios run through risk modelling software. This risk modelling has prompted the brigade to introduce new response standards and change two fire engines from wholetime to on call.

Having an effective risk management plan

There is a clear link between the CIRMP and the brigade’s strategic direction. How resources are allocated to prevention, protection and emergency response can be traced through this plan. In developing the plan, the brigade considered its statutory obligations including the requirements set by the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England.

The brigade also works with its local resilience forum to make sure the risks from its community risk register are included in its planning. The community risk register provides information on emergencies that could happen within the Cleveland area, together with an assessment of how likely they are to happen and the impacts if they do. The brigade keeps a comprehensive record of its corporate risks, which are considered and discussed regularly by the brigade’s executive leadership team.

The brigade develops an annual operating plan based on its CIRMP. This identifies its main strategic priorities for the year and sets out how it plans to measure its effectiveness. The executive leadership team and fire authority scrutinises performance against these priorities.

The brigade’s chief fire officer leads the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) risk management project for best practice in identifying and assessing risk.

Maintaining risk information

The brigade gathers information about high-risk sites that present risks to firefighters and the public, so they can plan how to respond to incidents. Firefighters access risk information and plans on mobile data terminals (MDTs) in fire engines.

When we examined the risk information, we came across several sites whose risk visits hadn’t been reviewed in line with brigade guidelines. We also found examples of out of date site-specific risk information on MDTs. In some cases, it took longer than three months for updated information to be uploaded on to MDTs. Out of date risk information could put firefighters and the public at unnecessary risk. 

The brigade has previously reported the limitations of its arrangements for risk visits. In December 2018, it introduced a new procedure for gathering risk information and making staff aware of it quickly. The brigade is in the process of getting up-to-date risk information for all sites, which we consider to be needed.

We found that the brigade communicates risk information well to operational staff about temporary events, such as large festivals.

The brigade has effective systems in place for communicating general risk information to staff. It uses different methods, such as handovers between watches and briefings, and ‘fire alerts’ systems to share health and safety risk-critical and safety information. Staff must sign to acknowledge they have read and understood this information. Its systems are also well designed to share information quickly between prevention, protection and response staff.


How effective is the FRS at preventing fires and other risks?


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at preventing fires and other risks. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The brigade should ensure it targets its prevention work at people most at risk.
  • The brigade should ensure it quality-assures its prevention work appropriately.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Prevention strategy

Cleveland Fire Brigade has a community safety strategy, which aligns its prevention work with its CIRMP. It also complies with its statutory responsibility to protect the public from the risk of fire. This strategy consists of seven separate plans covering prevention work in the areas of safer homes, safer buildings, safer roads, safer high hazard industries, safer neighbourhoods, national resilience and improved health outcomes.

The brigade has analysed the main risk factors in its communities. Analysis included reviewing fire incidents and national research to identify people at greatest risk of fire, such as lone pensioners, and people who misuse drugs and alcohol. But despite this detailed analysis, we found that the brigade doesn’t always target its prevention work at individuals or households most at risk from fire in the home. For example, it told us that it will complete all high-risk partner referrals in six months, which is excessive considering these are people who have been identified by local partners as potentially being vulnerable to fire or other risks. Should a member of the public phone requesting a visit, they would be visited within six weeks.

Safe and well visits are well established within the service and are completed as a matter of course by specialist prevention staff, wholetime and on-call station staff.

These visits include fire safety checks such as identifying and reducing fire risks and fitting fire alarms. They also involve welfare related activities, such as promotion of health advice and how to avoid slips, trips and falls.

The brigade aims to complete more than 18,000 safe and well visits each year. Individual stations and the specialist prevention team are given individual targets. In the year to 31 March 2018, the brigade made 18,315 home fire safety / safe and well visits. This is 32.4 visits per 1,000 population, more than three times the average rate in England of 10.4. Of these 18,315 visits, 58.7 percent were to households occupied by an elderly person, compared with 54.1 percent for services in England. Households occupied by a person with a registered disability accounted for 18.4 percent of the visits, compared with 24.7 percent for services in England.

The brigade has specialist prevention advocates who are trained to advise people with complex vulnerabilities, such as dementia or drug and alcohol abuse. They work to direct people to local support services to reduce the likelihood of future interventions. The brigade has trained all its operational staff to understand and recognise vulnerable adults and children and to make safeguarding referrals where appropriate. Inspectors found that staff were confident in recognising vulnerabilities and gave good examples of when they had referred to other agencies.

The brigade works effectively with partner organisations who made 3,935 safe and well visits in the year to the end of March 2018. This is higher than the rate per 1,000 population for all English fire and rescue services.

However, we found no monitoring of the quality of either their staff or partners’ safe and well checks. The brigade has evaluated its process and procedures for safe and well checks. It was one of seven fire and rescue services to produce the national report on introducing a standard evaluation framework approach to gathering evidence of the effect and effectiveness of safe and well visits. It also informed us of its plans to evaluate all its prevention work.

Promoting community safety

The brigade’s communication team is part of the prevention team and promotes safety messages using established communication methods and social media. Campaigns are aligned to national activity by the NFCC and the Government’s Fire Kills campaign. The brigade has a campaigns calendar, which is circulated to all stations. We found that central campaigns are well structured and evaluated effectively, but there was an inconsistent approach by stations with no overall evaluation by the brigade.

At the start of 2019, the brigade redesigned its website to make it more user-friendly including translation facility for ten languages.

Districts and stations receive a weekly risk profile of recent fire incidents in their area. These are used by managers to proactively target their prevention work. This work includes activities like community talks in schools and care homes, water safety events and arson prevention. Prevention work is logged on the brigade’s ‘ident’ system to allow managers to monitor whether effective activities are being completed.

The brigade has a commissioned services prevention team funded by partners such as local authorities. This team conducts activities such as the Winter Warmth campaign, youth engagement, National Citizen Service and youth employment initiatives.

A community interest company has also been created. This type of company allows social enterprises to use their profits and assets for the public good. Its profits support a network of community volunteers, which provides extra capacity for prevention work. These volunteers offer activities such as support at prevention events and completing lower priority home fire safety checks.

The brigade works well with partners such as local housing providers to prevent fires and keep people safe. A good example is its involvement in an integrated community safety team at Hartlepool police station, where staff work with other partners such as the council and police. This allows all partners to work together in tackling community safety problems. The brigade also has two community liaison officers whose primary focus is community safety partnerships.

There is also close work with Cleveland Police to investigate fires suspected to have been caused by arson. We were told of successful prosecutions through this work in the last three years. A young persons’ fire-setter programme targets children and young people who have an unhealthy fascination with fire. The brigade is national arson lead for the NFCC. It also sits on the Home Office’s national anti-social behaviour strategic board, which is producing a good practice arson reduction toolkit.

Road safety

Cleveland’s CIRMP identifies road traffic collisions as the greatest risk to life. The brigade is an active member of the Cleveland Strategic Road Safety Partnership whose members include the four local councils, Cleveland Police and organisations such as Road Safety GB. It also has a dedicated road safety officer to promote road safety and drive campaigns.

Partners told us the brigade is proactive in identifying opportunities to improve road safety and is active in several local and national initiatives. A local winter vehicle safety initiative saw a fire station used as the location for vehicle checks and talking to drivers about road safety.

The brigade also presents the road safety roadshow Learn and Live programme to young people aged 15 to 19 years old. The brigade told us that every year it presents over 100 roadshows, sometimes alongside other agencies. Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has commissioned the brigade to provide road safety sessions in 40 primary schools for key stage 1 and 2 pupils.


How effective is the FRS at protecting the public through the regulation of fire safety?


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at protecting the public through fire regulation. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The brigade should ensure its risk-based inspection programme prioritises the highest risks.
  • The brigade should ensure it works with smaller businesses to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations.

All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in buildings and, when necessary, require building owners to comply with fire safety legislation. Each service decides how many assessments it does each year. But it must have a locally determined, risk-based inspection programme for enforcing the legislation.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Risk-based approach

Cleveland Fire Brigade has a risk-based inspection programme and enforcement plan. We found the brigade needs to evaluate its approach so that it makes the highest risk premises a priority. Its definition of high risk comes from algorithms in its Community Fire Risk Management Information System. It is then validated through officers’ professional judgment with in-depth knowledge of the local area and associated industrial and commercial buildings.

It has applied this professional judgment to several premises since its risk-based inspection programme began, and as at 31 December 2018, declared it only had ten high risk premises. The brigade hasn’t set a target for how many of these premises are audited but looks at the frequency of these audits on an individual property level.

Cleveland’s specialist staff carry out fire safety audits that support the risk-based inspection programme. It has adopted the NFCC’s short audit process for their fire safety inspectors. This improves productivity and places less of a burden on business premises than the full audit. In the year to 31 March 2018, the brigade audited 1,862 premises, 12.1 per 100 known premises (those the fire safety regulations apply to). This compares with 3.0 audits per 100 known premises for all services in England. In the same period, 12 percent of the 1,862 audits were unsatisfactory compared with an England average of 31.5 percent. 

As well as its proactive risk-based inspection programme, the brigade also does reactive work. It replies to statutory consultations such as building regulations, audits businesses after a fire, and responds to fire safety complaints from other organisations and the public. The service received 291 building regulation consultations between 1 April and 31 December 2018. Of these, 94.2 percent were finished on time.

We found it positive that the brigade has started to train response managers to do low-risk fire safety audits. These managers complete four audits a month.


The brigade’s enforcement policy is based on the Better Business for All agenda and the Regulators’ Code. The brigade told us that, where possible, it will work to support businesses to resolve fire safety issues rather than seek enforcement.

It has used a range of enforcement powers, including enforcement notices, prohibition and informal notices. In the year to March 2018, the brigade gave 161 informal notices, three enforcement notices, seven prohibition notices, but no alteration notices or prosecutions. The brigade hasn’t prosecuted since 2010/11, but two cases in the past four years were pursued towards prosecution without progressing because of company insolvency. The brigade maintains the prosecution skills of its staff through continuous professional development. Staff with fire safety qualifications are always available to deal with fire safety concerns.

The brigade works well with other enforcement agencies. The brigade attends meetings with regulators at Stockton and Middlesbrough Borough Councils to exchange information about risk, discuss non-compliant businesses and other areas for concern. It also makes joint visits, for example with the police and local authorities, for problems in licensed premises.

Working with others

We were shown evidence of the brigade supporting large organisations such as a local hospital and housing provider to comply with fire safety regulations. The brigade’s website has recently been updated to make it easier for business owners to find fire safety advice. Except for this improvement, it didn’t have a systematic approach to engagement with smaller businesses.

The brigade introduced a new strategy in October 2017 to reduce the negative effect of attending false alarms (unwanted fire signals) at commercial premises. When an automatic fire alarm is reported it can be questioned rather than responded to straight away. The brigade provided data showing that this approach has reduced the burden of attending false alarms to commercial premises by 20 percent in the year to 31 March 2018. Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 December 2018, the brigade reduced false alarms at all premises by 4.6 percent from the previous year.

The brigade is working on a pilot scheme to better exchange information and concerns about premises with local regulatory bodies. We recognise the benefits this approach could bring and look forward to seeing the outcome of this work.


How effective is the FRS at responding to fires and other emergencies?


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at responding to fires and other emergencies. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The brigade should ensure it gives relevant information to the public about ongoing incidents to help keep the public safe during and after incidents.
  • The brigade should ensure it has an effective system for staff to use debriefs to improve operational response and incident command.

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.

Managing assets and resources

The brigade bases its resource requirements on a thorough assessment of risk to the community. It reviewed its fire cover model in 2017. This was based on the identified risks in its area with two key planning assumptions:

  • fire survivability rates and how to reduce loss of life based on extensive research commissioned by West Midlands Fire Service; and
  • a thorough assessment of the resources needed for the most serious cases at its many high hazard industrial sites.

This review identified the need for at least 14 fire engines at any time, with an optimum of 18 engines, to meet the identified risk and brigade’s first attendance response standard. The brigade has 21 fire engines based at 14 community fire stations. Six of these stations are wholetime, namely resourced day and night, six are on-call stations and two are mixed wholetime/on-call stations. It uses its wholetime and on-call firefighters flexibly to maintain the optimum 18 fire engines. When it falls below this number, it has an action plan for increasing firefighter availability. In 2018, it has only been below the minimum number of 14 fire engines for 15 hours.

In 2018, on-call fire engine availability ranged from 48.9 percent to 91.8 percent. Availability of on-call staff is a national challenge and the brigade told us it is in the final stages of a review aiming to increase availability.

The brigade has invested to make its operational fleet more flexible to meet the needs of its CIRMP. For example, it has introduced small fire units crewed by two firefighters unlike traditional fire engines with a crew of four or five. These units are more effective and efficient in tackling small fires while enabling larger fire engines to remain available for high-risk incidents.

The brigade trains its wholetime and on-call firefighters to the same standard. Operational staff we spoke to confidently demonstrated how to use breathing apparatus. Control staff’s training competencies were well managed.


In the year to 31 December 2018, the brigade attended 14.4 incidents per 1,000 population. The rate for England for the same period was 10.4 incidents.

The Home Office collects and publishes data of the time between a call being made and the first fire engine arriving at the scene. This data shows that for the year to 31 March 2018, the brigade’s average response time to primary fires was 6 minutes and 35 seconds. This was an increase from 6 minutes 20 seconds in the year to 31 March 2011 and is the fastest response time of any service.

After public consultation and the 2017 response review, the brigade introduced a new response standard for building fires. This is:

  • first fire engine will attend within an average of 7 minutes;
  • 90 percent will be attended within 10 minutes by the first fire engine; and
  • second fire engine will attend within an average of 10 minutes.

These times are measured from the mobilisation instruction being sent until the arrival of the fire crew at the scene of the incident. The brigade used computer modelling to calculate response times that could meet the fire authority’s expectation of the same standard of emergency response for all its community.

Between 1 April and 31 December 2018, the brigade achieved its response standards. The first fire engine arrived on scene in an average of 4 minutes 48 seconds while the second in 6 minutes 41 seconds.

By March 2021, the brigade aims to adopt all areas of national operational guidance. This guidance covers operational policies, procedures and training for firefighters to deal with incidents effectively and safely. National operational guidance has already been implemented for incident command and use of breathing apparatus.


The brigade has an effective system for ensuring incident commanders at all levels keep their command skills up to date. As well as regular refresher training, all incident commanders complete an annual operational command assessment. Operational commanders we spoke to showed good knowledge and understanding of how to safely and effectively command operational incidents. We found staff were aware of the incident command pack held on fire engines and understood how it should be used.

As part of our inspection, we surveyed staff to get their views of their service (please see Annex A for more details). Of the 189 firefighters who responded to our survey, 88.3 percent agreed that ‘the last incident I attended where I was not the incident commander was commanded assertively, effectively and safely’ which is similar to the England average.

The brigade has analysed crew tasks by incident type to decide how many firefighters and what equipment is needed at incidents. We found that emergency control room staff are good at sending resources to incidents based on this analysis. They also have discretion to alter the attendance criteria to incidents and apply this effectively.

Keeping the public informed

The brigade doesn’t routinely keep the public informed of day-to-day incidents that may have the potential to affect them. During major incidents it works with the local resilience forum to communicate with the public through its communications team. Out of hours cover for media and press enquiries is the responsibility of duty officers who have had media training.

Staff were well trained and confident in recognising vulnerable people. They gave good examples of safeguarding referrals to protect vulnerable people.

Control room staff have access to a language line to enable them to communicate more effectively with members of the public who don’t speak English. This gives immediate access to an interpreter who can relay information between the caller and the control operator. Control staff were also well trained and confident in giving a range of fire survival guidance to the public.

Evaluating operational performance

The brigade has a good debrief process to gather feedback after an exercise or incident.

We found that conducting hot debriefs immediately after an incident is common practice. Staff record what they have learned from incidents using an electronic debrief form. Commanders we spoke to use this electronic form for the debrief process. A formal debrief process is triggered by more significant incidents.

The brigade has good processes for learning from debriefs. For example, it has improved its wildfire equipment and command procedures. We also found that risk-critical safety information identified at debriefs was well communicated to staff. Our staff survey showed that 81.1 percent of the 127 firefighters and specialist support staff who responded agreed that they are confident their service takes action as a result of learning from operational incidents. However, staff we interviewed couldn’t give us examples of other lessons learned after incidents or exercises. The brigade should consider if it can communicate more effectively or promote this knowledge with staff.

We were pleased to see that the brigade shares what it has learnt with other fire and rescue services as well as other emergency responders. It does this through the so-called national operational learning process.

It has an effective procedure for dealing with public complaints. Each case is investigated, and numbers of cases are reported to the fire authority.


How effective is the FRS at responding to national risks?


Cleveland Fire Brigade is good at responding to national risks. But we found the following areas in which it needs to improve:

Areas for improvement

  • The brigade should ensure its staff are well prepared to respond to high-risk premises.
  • The brigade should ensure that its procedures for responding to terrorist-related incidents are understood by all staff.

All fire and rescue services must be able to respond effectively to multi-agency and cross-border incidents. This means working with other fire and rescue services (known as intraoperability) and emergency services (known as interoperability).

We set out our detailed findings below. These are the basis for our judgment of the service’s performance in this area.


The brigade is well prepared to deal with a major incident.

The Home Office funds a number of fire and rescue services to keep and maintain equipment in the case of a major incident, some of which are located in Cleveland,
for example, a detection, identification and monitoring unit. The service has plans in place to allow these assets to be mobilised to other areas. Control staff and operational commanders know how to request other specialist assets and resources, such as urban search and rescue teams through the national co-ordination advisory framework.

The brigade regularly liaises with local high-risk industry and holds a regular forum. This forum keeps the brigade alert to changing risk at these high-risk sites. It also makes it aware of the resources the organisations can provide on their own and other sites.

The brigade has worked with site owners and partners to develop individual response plans for high-risk sites. At the time of inspection, this included 32 sites designated high-risk by the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015. The plans we reviewed were of good quality, but we found some supervisory commanders didn’t fully understand them. 

Working with other services

The brigade has mutual aid arrangements in place with its two neighbouring fire and rescue services. At a recent major fire incident, it was supported by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service to provide fire engines to support normal business. It also shares risk information with these neighbouring services through a secure extranet called Resilience Direct and uploads this on to MDTs.

The brigade shares procedural information with its neighbouring services so that fire crews can effectively work together at incidents. For example, staff are made aware of different breathing apparatus and procedures used. We found, however, that cross-border exercising was infrequent, and many staff said they hadn’t participated in any recent exercises. Of the 127 firefighters and specialist support staff who answered our staff survey, only 25.2 percent agreed that the brigade regularly trains or exercises with neighbouring fire and rescue services. The brigade told us it is exploring ways to increase the frequency and effectiveness of cross-border exercises.

Working with other agencies

The brigade is an active member of the Cleveland Local Resilience Forum. We heard that the brigade is an engaged and supportive member. It helps plan and complete multi-agency exercises and training through a training and exercising group, including at its COMAH sites. However, operational crews weren’t often involved in these exercises. The brigade should make sure it involves all operational crews in multi-agency exercises as it will support them to be fully prepared to respond effectively to these types of incidents.

In general, staff showed good knowledge of the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles, which ensure that all the emergency services work together effectively. The brigade has a number of trained national inter-agency liaison officers. These staff advise on incidents like a marauding terrorist attack and work with partner agencies when an incident occurs. We did find that some station-based crews weren’t sure what action to take at an incident involving a marauding terrorist attack. The service should address this to ensure all operational crews are trained to deal with such an incident.