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Dorset and Wiltshire 2018/19

Read more about Dorset and Wiltshire

This is HMICFRS’s first annual assessment of fire and rescue services. This assessment examines the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people. It is designed to give the public information about how their local fire and rescue service is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable with other services across England.

The extent to which the service is effective at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.

The extent to which the service is efficient at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks is good.

The extent to which the service looks after its people is good.

Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

HM Inspector's summary

We are pleased with the performance of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve in some areas to give a consistently good service.

The service is good at keeping people safe. It is good at:

  • preventing fires and other risks;
  • protecting the public through fire regulation;
  • responding to emergencies; and
  • responding to national risks.

But it requires improvement to how it understands risk.

We found it to be good at providing an efficient service. And it is good at using resources and providing an affordable service.

It is good at looking after its people. We judged it to be good at:

  • promoting the right values and culture;
  • getting the right people with the right skills;
  • ensuring fairness and promoting diversity; and
  • managing performance and developing leaders.

Overall, we commend Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service for its performance. This provides a good foundation for improvement in the year ahead.


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

Last updated 20/06/2019

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. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

But the service needs to improve its effectiveness in terms of its understanding of risk. An external organisation has assessed and approved its community safety plan. It uses a software solution to understand its risk profile.

However, the service needs to ensure that:

  • it is gathering and recording up-to-date risk information, as at present some of the information is out of date;
  • it is communicating risk information more consistently to staff about temporary events, such as festivals; and
  • its visits to premises are carried out promptly and not overdue.

The service communicates its safety information to staff well – although we found no mechanism that showed staff had actually read it.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at preventing fires. In particular the service:

  • delivers safety messages to children;
  • targets safe and well visits towards those who are more vulnerable; and
  • works well with its partner agencies and other organisations to prevent fires.

It needs to improve its response to fires, however. In particular, it needs to ensure:

  • it has enough on-call appliances available; and
  • it meets its standards on response times, especially in some rural areas.

The service works well with other services. Its joint mobilising function with two neighbouring services, Hampshire and Devon & Somerset, means that all three can operate effectively in each other’s service areas. This ensures the fastest possible response.

View the five questions for effectiveness


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

Last updated 20/06/2019

An efficient fire and rescue service will manage its budget and spend money properly and appropriately. It will align its resources to its risk. It should try to keep costs down without compromising public safety. Future budgets should be based on robust and realistic assumptions. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.

The service:

  • allocates its resources well, tailoring them to protection, prevention and response activities; if it needs to adjust the allocation, it rebalances them after consulting delivery teams;
  • has a clear understanding of the financial climate in which it operates; any changes it makes in financing are measured against risk and are in line with the community safety plan; and
  • has put any savings it has made into its reserves.

Combining Dorset and Wiltshire fire and rescue services in 2016 has led to more efficient and productive ways of working. The service has made innovative changes to staff working patterns. The smarter ways of working programme, for example, allows staff to access emails and calendars from wherever they are located. This has cut travel costs and made their work patterns more flexible.

The service has also made savings through:

  • collaboration with Hampshire and Devon & Somerset FRSs; and
  • the one public estate programme, through which it shares 25 of its 60 buildings, mainly with the police and ambulance service.

Other measures of efficiency that the service has put in place are:

  • measures to counter cyber threats;
  • regular testing of business continuity plans; and
  • arrangements put in place should any systems fail in the control room.

The service should focus now on evaluating value-for-money and partnership contributions – which it is working on.

View the two questions for efficiency


How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Last updated 20/06/2019

A fire and rescue service that looks after its people should be able to provide an effective service to its community. It should offer a range of services to make its communities safer. This will include developing and maintaining a workforce that is professional, resilient, skilled, flexible and diverse. The service’s leaders should be positive role models, and this should be reflected in the behaviour of the workforce. Overall, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its people.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at looking after its staff and their health and wellbeing, including those who have attended traumatic incidents. It is also good at communicating the service’s RESPECT values – responsibility, equality, support, professionalism, excellence, communication and transformation.

The service treats its workforce well and:

  • understands its workforce and their skills and capabilities;
  • monitors and records the training it delivers; and
  • ensures sufficient resilience when crewing shortfalls arise.

The staff are proud of the service, of its work and their own contribution.

Training is good. A special facility, the operational effectiveness database, allows the service to get an overview of all operational activity and feedback. Corporate staff are trained appropriately. The service needs to ensure its staff complete all their mandatory health and safety training.

The grievance policy is well understood by staff, although the service does not always meet the timescales it has set to deal with grievances. It is dealing with this problem by training more staff to handle grievance cases. 

The service has a range of support networks that are represented on its equality and diversity committee. The workforce does not yet reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, but a recent campaign, #BeOneOfUs, increased the number of applicants from under-represented communities.

The service is introducing a new leadership programme for supervisors, developed along with the RNLI. It is now being piloted. The aim is to extend it across the service. Another scheme, ‘role hopping’, allows staff to skip the next role or grade and apply for the one above it.

The service’s promotion process is seen as fair, clear and comprehensive.

View the four questions for people

Key facts – 2020/2021

Service Area

2,370 square miles


1.50m people
up2% local 5 yr change


46% wholetime firefighters
54% on-call firefighters
0.55 per 1000 population local
0.56 national level
down4% local 5 yr change
down5% national 5 yr change


50 stations
74 fire engines


2.2 fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
2.4 non-fire incidents per 1000 population local
2.7 national
4.1 fire false alarms per 1000 population local
3.8 national


£22.73 firefighter cost per person per year
£25.22 firefighter cost per person per year (national)

Judgment criteria