Humberside 2018/19Read more about Humberside
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 requires improvement.
Phil Gormley, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services
HM Inspector's summary
We are pleased with most aspects of the performance of Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in keeping people safe and secure. But it needs to improve how it looks after its people, to give a consistently good service.
Humberside FRS is good at providing an effective service. It is good at:
- understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies;
- preventing fires and other risks;
- responding to fires and other emergencies; and
- responding to national risks.
But it requires improvement to the way it protects the public through fire regulation.
The service is efficient. It makes good use of its resources and it provides an affordable service.
The way the service looks after its people requires improvement, specifically how it:
- gets the right people with the right skills;
- ensures fairness and promotes diversity; and
- manages performance and develops leaders.
But it is good at promoting the right values and culture.
We are encouraged by the positive aspects we have identified. We look forward to seeing a more consistent performance over the coming year.
How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
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. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.
The service uses a wide range of data to build a risk profile across its four local authority areas. It uses this information to help decide where to locate its fire engines, and where to focus its protection and prevention work.
The service finds public engagement challenging. It ran an eight-week consultation on its strategic plan in 2017 but had a small number of responses. It also had limited input from the local community on its integrated risk management plan (IRMP).
The service uses its range of data to identify people in the community who are most at risk from fire and other emergencies. It needs to study the impact of its prevention work and make sure it targets it according to its risk profile. It does a range of work with people who are more likely to engage in fire-setting behaviour.
While the service responds to consultations, building regulation requests and complaints, it doesn’t target its protection work on its greatest risks. The service can’t carry out its risk-based inspection programme to the expectations set out in its IRMP because it doesn’t have enough qualified staff. The service could do more to reduce the impact of false alarms. It is committed to taking enforcement action if required, and does this well. The protection teams only work during office hours, so when firefighters find urgent protection problems outside these hours there is sometimes no one available to give advice.
The service has effective systems in place to learn from operational incidents, but it is not recording the learning from less serious incidents. It regularly visits and inspects premises that pose a greater risk to firefighters and the public. This information is stored centrally, but it is not always updated regularly. Firefighters can access this information in their fire engines, although crews say they sometimes have technical problems with the terminals. We found out-of-date risk information in a number of formats. These included printed information held on a fire engine, information on mobile data terminals (MDTs) and entries on the central database. Not having current risk information poses a risk to firefighters.
The service works well with, and is a leader within, the local resilience forum (LRF). It participates in planning and exercises for county-wide risks like flooding and fires at industrial sites. Staff are well trained, well equipped and knowledgeable about high-risk sites in their areas. They know how to access information about safety at particular sites, and understand how to identify vulnerable people at incidents and how to refer them for extra support.
The service has good response plans and is well prepared for incidents at high-risk premises. It has a new team of firefighters to support a response to a marauding terror attack, but so far this team has limited experience.
How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?
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. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service’s overall efficiency is good.
The service uses sensible assumptions to plan its budget, and has effective arrangements in place to make sure the goods and services it buys represent value. But it needs to improve the balance between its protection, prevention and response work. It aspires to focus on ‘quality not quantity’ rather than setting targets for its work, although without proper consistent evaluation it is not clear how it can be sure it is achieving the aspiration of quality.
The service has introduced new shift patterns intended to help make sure the right number of firefighters are available at any given time. These are popular with staff, and have improved morale. But there is no evidence they have improved effectiveness.
The service overspent on its pay budget in 2017/18 but this was balanced within the wider service budget by the end of the financial year, resulting in a small underspend overall. A similar underspend was forecast for 2018/19.
The protection team has got smaller, so the service can do less protection work. This includes reducing attendance at false alarms and reducing its risk-based inspection programme.
Humberside FRS is keen to work with others, whether it is the sharing of estates or functions such as control, or providing services on a cost recovery basis on behalf of the local police force or ambulance service – for example, a team of firefighters who respond to people who have fallen on behalf of the ambulance service.
The service needs to make sure it plans all these collaborations properly and evaluates their success.
The service also generates income from work such as servicing fire extinguishers and renting out its land and buildings. It is actively looking for other similar opportunities. Its reserves are in line with best practice, and this is expected to continue for the next four financial years.
The service has robust business continuity plans if something happens that directly affects staff or stations, such as power cuts or extreme weather.
How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?
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, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at looking after its people.
The service has health, safety and wellbeing policies. It gives support to staff who have been in traumatic situations or have mental health needs. The system relies on managers or individual staff members to recognise signs and symptoms of health issues and make referrals when support is required. Not all managers or staff understand how to access the support networks that are available.
The service takes health and safety seriously. Staff get appropriate training. The service learns from incidents and updates its procedures accordingly.
The service has a set of values that are understood and demonstrated by staff at all levels. Senior managers regularly visit stations to give and receive feedback.
The service takes into account its future needs when planning recruitment. Most staff feel that they have the right training to do their jobs, but training for non-operational work is hard to access, not widely available and poorly recorded. In the fire protection teams, there aren’t enough trained and competent staff to do the work as effectively as is needed.
The service has a clear policy for staff grievances. But it doesn’t track all grievances, especially ones that are resolved informally, to identify any trends and to make sure they are handled fairly. Most staff feel that they have opportunities to feed their views upwards, but fewer are sure their views will be listened to or that they can feed back freely without repercussions.
Individual performance management is uneven across the service. The personal development and review (PDR) process has been updated, but is used inconsistently. The outcomes vary depending on the manager, and some staff have never had a PDR. Some staff feel that promotion processes are frequently changed and there appeared to be a perception among some staff that this meant the processes are not fair, consistent or clear.
The service promotes diversity and engages with under-represented groups in its staff. It is taking steps to improve the diversity of its firefighters, with some positive results, though it doesn’t yet reflect the community it serves. Senior managers are supportive of this, but not all staff understand the benefits of this important work.