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Derbyshire 2021/22


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

Last updated 20/01/2023

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness is good.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

In our last inspection in 2019, we highlighted some areas for improvement. The service has addressed several of these. The service now has good and up-to-date risk information that it makes available to staff. Incident commanders are recording decisions and are trained to command service assets appropriately. The service has a process to include new buildings in the inspection programme, and it makes sure staff know how to safeguard vulnerable people.

The service is meeting its response standard to life-risk incidents, and the availability of fire engines is good. However, the service should review plans for maintaining the availability of on-call fire engines to ensure it can continue to provide an effective response to incidents.

The service analyses a wide range of data and uses this information to prepare departmental plans. Staff know their responsibilities.

It has an effective process in place to learn from operational incidents and make improvements. The service works well with to respond to people and premises at high risk of fire and other emergencies.

The service should make sure it uses the right amounts of resource when testing plans to respond to major incidents. It would also benefit from quality assurance and evaluation in some areas to identify opportunities to make further improvements.

Questions for Effectiveness


How effective is the FRS at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies?


Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service required improvement in its 2018/19 assessment.

Each fire and rescue service should identify and assess all foreseeable fire and rescue-related risks that could affect its communities. Arrangements should be put in place through the service’s prevention, protection and response capabilities to prevent or mitigate these risks for the public.

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

The service is good at identifying risk

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough integrated risk management planning (IRMP) process. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and datasets. For example, two risk review processes analyse data from previous incidents to identify people and homes that are more at risk of fire. Information is shared with prevention, protection and response teams so that activities can be targeted at those at highest risk.

When appropriate, the service has consulted and undertaken constructive dialogue with communities and other groups to both understand the risk and explain how it intends to mitigate it. These groups include the Independent Community Inclusion Board, community leaders, the chamber of commerce, and emergency service partners. The service consults face-to-face at markets and via social media, articles in GP magazines and information available in libraries.

The service should make its strategic priorities clearer

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood integrated risk management plan (IRMP), which it calls Our Plan. This describes all the risks the public faces and the service’s range of prevention, protection and response activities. Annual action plans identify specific activities that will take place to mitigate risks identified in the IRMP.

However, the service should ensure that action plans clearly prioritise activity and link to priorities in the IRMP. It should also explain clearly to the public what progress has been made against each of the risks in the IRMP.

The service gathers, maintains and shares risk information well

The service routinely collects and updates the information it has about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk. It has processes in place to make sure that high-risk buildings are reviewed and information about them is updated and quality assured. This information is then added to mobile data terminals and electronic tough books on fire engines so it can be easily retrieved by firefighters when needed.

This information is readily available for the service’s prevention, protection and response staff, which helps it to identify, reduce and mitigate risk effectively. For example, the service has a process for hazard management alerts so that all staff are aware of risk, such as oxygen cylinders in people’s homes. Where appropriate, risk information is passed on to other organisations through an emergency services steering group.

The service has not yet trained operational crews to review premises’ risk information. Guidance has been issued to staff and the service should ensure it has been understood.

The service is good at building understanding of risk from operational activity

The service records and communicates risk information effectively. It also routinely updates risk assessments and uses feedback from local and national operational activity to inform its planning assumptions. For example, its operational assurance team reviews operational learning identified in the service’s monitoring and auditing process. This learning identified an increase in water rescue incidents and led to increased water rescue training and safety messages for the public.

The service has good risk information following the Grenfell Tower Inquiry

During this round of inspections, we sampled how each fire and rescue service has responded to the recommendations and learning from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. At the time of our inspection, the service had already assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area.

It has carried out a fire safety audit and collected and passed relevant risk information to its prevention, protection and response teams about buildings identified as high risk and all high-rise buildings that have cladding similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower.


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


Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at preventing fires and other risks.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

Fire and rescue services must promote fire safety, including giving fire safety advice. To identify people at greatest risk from fire, services should work closely with other organisations in the public and voluntary sector, and with the police and ambulance services. They should provide intelligence and risk information with these other organisations when they identify vulnerability or exploitation.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should develop a clear prevention strategy targeting people most at risk and make sure activity undertaken prioritises people most at risk.
  • The service should make sure it quality assures its prevention activity, so staff carry out safe and well visits to an appropriate standard.
  • The service should evaluate its prevention activity so it understands what works.

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

The service prevention strategy should clearly identify who is most at risk

The service’s prevention strategy focuses on working with other organisations to identify risk in the community and engage with people to reduce risk. The strategy should be clearer about who is most at risk of fire and how they will be prioritised to make them safer. We were surprised to see that the current strategy does not focus on all work carried out internally such as the substantial number of self-generated safe and well checks, and activities by staff to give a broad range of safety advice.

The service has located prevention, protection and response staff together so that teams can share relevant information when needed. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. Performance meetings are held to share information about local risk and what action is being taken to mitigate this. The service should review this new way of working to ensure it is achieving the intended outcomes.

The service has resumed face-to-face safe and well checks since the pandemic

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID-19 specific inspection in October 2020. At that time, we found it was slow to adapt its public prevention work appropriately as face-to-face safe and well checks were stopped. Since then, we are pleased to find that the service has resumed its safe and well visits to support and protect those vulnerable to fire.

The process for targeting safe and well checks should be improved

The service takes account of a broad range of information and data to target its prevention activity, although this should be reviewed to ensure a more person-centred approach. Operational crews are provided with addresses to target with safe and well checks, but people living at these addresses aren’t always at higher risk or more vulnerable to fire.

The service is working in partnership with other organisations such as East Midlands Ambulance Service and Derbyshire Police and is able to receive more than 4,000 referrals for safe and well checks per year. We are pleased to see it also refers people to partners for further support where needed.

The service aims to complete safe and well visits within 25 days. It should review this timescale to ensure that people who are at highest risk are prioritised and visited first. The service should also review how it categorises risk in order to help staff prioritise those who are most at risk.

More training is required for operational staff who conduct safe and well visits

Prevention staff carry out safe and well visits to people who are at highest risk and they told us they have the right skills and confidence to carry out these visits.

The service trains new firefighters how to conduct effective safe and well visits but there is no ongoing training programme for operational staff. The service should ensure that training is provided to all staff who carry out safe and well visits.

The service has improved how it responds to safeguarding concerns

Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems. We were pleased to hear they feel more confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly since the last inspection. Safeguarding guidance is available on fire engines and safeguarding advice is available out of office hours to support operational staff.

The service works well with partners to respond to risk

The service works with a wide range of other organisations such as adult social care, children’s services, health partners, housing teams, and the Derbyshire and Derby Road Safety Partnership to prevent fires and other emergencies.

We found good evidence that it routinely refers people at greatest risk to other organisations which may be better able to meet their needs. These organisations include mental health and social care. Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from several partners, including police, ambulance, Healthy Housing Hub and First Contact. The service acts appropriately on the referrals it receives.

The service routinely exchanges information with other public sector organisations about people and groups at greatest risk. It uses the information to challenge planning assumptions and target prevention activity. For example, the prevention team attends community partnership meetings and safeguarding boards. It was proactive in setting up a vulnerable adult risk management process in response to hoarding risk.

The service conducts reviews following fatal fires and includes partners in this process. Learning is identified and shared where appropriate.

There are effective procedures for tackling fire-setting behaviour

The service has a range of suitable and effective interventions to target and educate people of different ages who show signs of fire-setting behaviour. This includes informing prevention staff and operational crews about fire-setting and working with police community support officers to target interventions and messages about fire-setting in the community. The service has also trained a group of staff to work with fire-setters to change their behaviour.

There is not enough quality assurance or evaluation of prevention work

We found no evidence of quality assurance or review of safe and well checks. The records for completed safe and well checks lack information about risk and vulnerability. The service should make sure its work is making a difference to the people it visits.

We found some evidence that the service evaluates the effectiveness of its prevention activity, but further evaluation is needed. The service sends questionnaires to people who have received a safe and well visit but there is no other evaluation of the programme. Partnership working has not been evaluated.

Staff report on their activities to support safety campaigns but there is little evidence of how this has led to improvement. Without evaluation, the service can’t be sure that prevention activity is effective.


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


Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at protecting the public through fire regulation.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment

All fire and rescue services should assess fire risks in certain 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.

Areas for improvement

  • The service should make sure it has appropriate plans in place to meet the risk-based inspection programme.
  • The service should make sure it has an effective quality assurance process, so staff carry out audits to an appropriate standard.
  • The service should evaluate its protection activity so it understands what works.

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

The protection plan outlines the service’s main risks

The service’s protection strategy is clearly linked to the risk it has identified in its IRMP.

Staff across the service are involved in this activity, with information effectively exchanged as needed. For example, wholetime operational staff carry out fire safety checks at lower-risk premises. The service has also located protection staff in response areas to improve how teams work together and information is shared about risk. Information is then used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s protection, prevention and response functions. This means resources are properly aligned to risk.

The service adapted its protection activity positively during COVID-19

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID‑19 specific inspection in October 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. Since then, we are encouraged to find that protection activity has continued, and wholetime operational staff and specialist protection staff are continuing to carry out face-to-face visits.

Protection resources have increased since the last inspection

The service has increased the number of protection staff to meet the requirements of the service’s RBIP. At the time of the inspection three watch managers were working towards their Level 3 Certificate to become competent in role. The service is confident that when all staff are competent it will help the service to provide the full range of audit and enforcement activity needed.

The service aligns staff training with nationally recognised standards and we were pleased to hear that continuous professional development days are held throughout the year.

Protection activity is focused on the highest-risk buildings

The service has introduced a new RBIP since our last inspection. The inspection programme is updated daily based on a wide range of information, and risk is scored and weighted to ensure it is focused on the service’s highest risk buildings. We were pleased to see it also automatically includes new buildings every six weeks, which is an improvement on the previous inspection programme.

During the inspection we found that some premises were included in the inspection programme that should not be, and these are being suspended or removed.

The service has set a target of 77 audits per month to achieve the inspection programme over a 5-year period. During the inspection we found the service had only completed half the target amount so far this year as new protection staff are currently being trained. The service should ensure it has appropriate plans in place to meet the inspection programme.

The service has successfully audited all high-rise buildings

Audits have been carried out at all high-rise buildings with local housing teams, as part of the building risk review programme. Information gathered during these audits is made available to response teams and control operators, enabling them to respond more effectively in an emergency.

Fire safety audits are completed to a good standard

We reviewed a range of audits of different premises across the service. This included audits as part of the service’s RBIP, after fires at premises where fire safety legislation applies, where enforcement action had been taken, and at high-rise, high‑risk buildings.

The audits we reviewed were completed to a high standard in a consistent, systematic way, and in line with the service’s policies. Relevant information from the audits is made available to operational teams and control room operators.

The service told us that where it is judged appropriate following a fire in commercial premises, a fire safety audit should be completed within 48 hours. However, not all the sampled post-fire records provided evidence that a visit or audit had taken place.

Fire safety audits are not being quality assured

The service has plans in place to quality assure fire safety audits. However, this assurance programme had not started at the time of the inspection.

Protection activities aren’t evaluated

The service doesn’t have good evaluation tools in place to measure its effectiveness or to make sure all sections of its communities get equal access to protection services that meet their needs.

Fire safety legislation is effectively enforced

The service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers, and when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations. The service has two fire engineers who support more complex audits and enforcement against non-compliant premises.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued 1 alteration notice, 149 informal notifications, 12 enforcement notices, 4 prohibition notices and undertook 3 prosecutions. It completed 15 prosecutions in the 5 years from 2016/17 to 2020/21.

The service will recall a competent officer to duty if there isn’t one on the duty rota, or leave a fire engine at premises where conditions are dangerous. The service should consider how effective these arrangements are for providing specialist protection advice out of hours.

The service works closely with partner agencies

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them. Protection staff attend safety advisory group meetings and conduct joint audits of events. They also conduct joint inspections of commercial premises with local authority housing teams. The service regularly shares information with local housing providers, the NHS and Care Quality Commission.

The service responds to building and licensing consultations on time

The service responded to 98 percent of building consultations within the required time frames in 2020/21, so consistently meets its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. It engages with the Derbyshire Building Control Partnership and offers advice on more complex consultations.

The service works well with businesses

The service proactively engages with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation. Business safety advisors visit businesses to offer support and advice. They target higher-risk situations, such as people sleeping above takeaways, or in response to incident trends. The service’s website also contains a wide range of information to support businesses.

The service could do more to reduce the number of unwanted fire signals

The service has a procedure in the control room when dealing with automatic fire alarms. When calls originating from automatic fire alarms are received, operators challenge callers and fire engines are not mobilised automatically. The service will also send letters to responsible persons for repeated calls to automatic fire alarms.

However, the service did not meet its target for attending automatic fire alarms in non‑domestic properties in 2021/22. It attended 644 compared to 302 the previous year. The mobilising system does not allow the service to monitor how many calls are being challenged. The service should review how effective it is at reducing unwanted fire signals.


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


Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to fires and other emergencies.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

Fire and rescue services must be able to respond to a range of incidents such as fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies in their area.

Areas for improvement

The service should make sure it has an effective process to monitor and assure commanders of operational incidents.

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

The service’s response plan is aligned to risk identified in the IRMP

The service’s response strategy is linked to the risks identified in its IRMP. Its fire engines and response staff, as well as its working patterns, are designed and located to help the service to respond flexibly to fires and other emergencies with the appropriate resources. Incident commanders can request additional resources to deal with incidents, although the service has not reviewed its pre-determined attendance list of resources to certain incident types for three years. The service should review the pre-determined attendance lists to assure itself that the appropriate number and type of resources are being sent to incidents.

The service meets its response standard to life-risk fire incidents

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. But the service has set out its own response standards in its IRMP. The service standard is to attend life-risk fire incidents within 10 minutes on 80 percent of occasions. Home Office data shows that in the year to March 2022 the service reached 80.1 percent of emergencies within 10 minutes.

The service’s average response time to primary fires in the year to March 2021 was 9 minutes and 32 seconds. This is in line with the average for predominantly rural services.

The service is not meeting its overall availability target

To support its response strategy, the service aims to have 99 percent of wholetime fire engines available on 100 percent of occasions and 82 percent of on-call fire engines available on 100 percent of occasions. The service consistently meets the wholetime standard, although in the year to March 2022 the availability for on-call was below target at 79.1 percent.

The service recognises that some on-call staff are providing more hours than they are contracted to. The service has a recruitment and retention plan to increase on-call availability. The service should ensure that this is communicated well to staff and is effective at increasing availability.

Staff have a good understanding of how to command incidents safely

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed every two years. New incident commanders are trained before they can take command at incidents. This helps the service to safely, assertively and effectively manage the whole range of incidents that it could face; from small and routine ones to complex multi-agency incidents. This was an area for improvement identified in our inspection in 2019.

As part of our inspection, we interviewed incident commanders from across the service. The incident commanders we interviewed are familiar with risk assessing, decision-making and recording information at incidents in line with national best practice, as well as the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP).

The service has recently introduced a new process to keep a central record of decisions made at operational incidents. This was another area for improvement identified in our inspection in 2019. The service should ensure this new process is well known and consistently used.

Fire control can give fire survival guidance to multiple callers

The control room staff we interviewed are confident they could provide fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire. Fire control has arrangements in place to communicate with other control rooms and for calls to be diverted if the need arises.

Control has good systems in place to exchange real-time risk information with incident commanders, other responding partners and other supporting fire and rescue services. Maintaining good situational awareness helps the service to communicate effectively with the public, providing them with accurate and tailored advice.

The service has improved access to up-to-date risk information

We identified in our last inspection that mobile data terminals were not reliable. We were pleased to see that electronic tough books containing relevant and up-to-date risk information are now on fire engines. We sampled a range of risk information on the service’s mobile data terminals and tough books, including what is in place for firefighters responding to incidents at high-risk, high-rise buildings and what information is held by fire control.

The information we reviewed was up to date and detailed. It could be easily accessed and understood by staff. Encouragingly, it had been completed with input from the service’s prevention, protection and response functions when appropriate.

Effective operational debriefs are carried out

As part of the inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events. These include fires at commercial premises and incidents where operational discretion was used.

The service reviewed and updated the operational debrief process and forms in January 2022. This has improved the quality and consistency of debriefs, as before there were some gaps in debrief records. Hot debriefs held immediately after incidents are not recorded, although all staff can submit a debrief form at any time if learning has been identified. The service routinely follows its policies to assure itself that staff command incidents in line with operational guidance. Internal risk information is updated with the information received. This information is exchanged with other interested partners through an emergency services user group meeting.

During the inspection there was no evidence of debriefing after major incident exercises. The service should ensure debriefs are held so that learning from exercises can be identified and shared with all staff.

The service has responded to learning from incidents to improve its service for the public. Learning is shared through a monthly operational assurance bulletin. Urgent learning is shared through a service action note or a safety flash which staff must sign to say they have read.

We are encouraged to see the service is contributing towards, and acting on, learning from other fire and rescue services or operational learning gathered from other emergency service partners. This includes learning from a fire in a high-rise building that was shared through the local resilience forum (LRF).

There is no monitoring of incident commanders

While the operational debrief process considers incident command, the service does not have a process in place to monitor and quality assure all incident commanders at incidents. This was stopped during COVID-19 and has not resumed. New incident commanders can be mentored or supervised at incidents, but this is not a formal process. The service should reintroduce the operational assurance of incident command.

Control staff are involved in debrief activity

We are pleased to see the service’s control staff integrated into the service’s command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity. Control staff can submit debrief forms and are invited to attend debrief meetings. The use of virtual team meeting software has helped control staff to attend more often as they can maintain cover in the control room.

There are good arrangements to keep the public informed about incidents

The service has good systems in place to inform the public about ongoing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. Information is posted on social media and the website and sent to the media.


How effective is the FRS at responding to major and multi-agency incidents?


Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to major and multi‑agency incidents.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was good in its 2018/19 assessment.

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 service is prepared for major and multi-agency incidents

The service has effectively anticipated and considered the reasonably foreseeable risks and threats it may face. It has response plans in place for all high-risk premises. These risks are listed in both local and national risk registers as part of its integrated risk management planning.

It is also familiar with the significant risks that could be faced by neighbouring fire and rescue services that it might reasonably be asked to respond to in an emergency. Firefighters have access to risk information from neighbouring services up to 10 km across borders through their mobile data terminals and tough books.

Staff are prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service has in place to respond to different major incidents, including wide-area flooding, moorland fires and a marauding terrorist attack.

The service has good arrangements in place, and these are communicated to staff. In our previous inspection we identified an area for improvement that the service should ensure all staff understand how to respond to a marauding terrorist attack. The service has provided e-learning for this type of incident and most staff knew the procedures.

However, some staff told us they don’t feel confident about responding to a major incident such as a marauding terrorist attack or a fire in high-rise building. The service should ensure that all staff are given the opportunity to test and exercise arrangements for dealing with major incidents.

The service works well with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. For example, the service shares a control room with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and emergency calls can be taken by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. This means that the quickest fire engine to an incident is mobilised first. The service has also purchased the same breathing apparatus sets as neighbouring fire services. It is intraoperable with these services and can form part of a multi-agency response.

Cross-border exercising has not fully resumed since the pandemic

The service has a cross-border exercise plan with neighbouring fire and rescue services so that they can work together effectively to keep the public safe. The plan includes the risks of major events at which the service could foreseeably provide support or request assistance from neighbouring services.

However, exercises have reduced during COVID-19 and some have taken place without the appropriate level of resources to test plans. Only some learning from these exercises is used to inform risk information and service plans.

There is a good understanding of JESIP

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in and were familiar with JESIP.

The service could provide us with strong evidence that it consistently follows these principles. This includes staff knowledge and use of the joint decision-making model, and the use of JESIP meetings at incidents to confirm priorities and tactical plans.

The service works well with its partner organisations

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other partners that make up the Derbyshire Local Resilience Forum. These arrangements include multi-agency response plans at high-risk sites.

The service is a valued partner and represented in the LRF’s strategic and tactical co‑ordinating groups and subgroups. The service takes part in training events with other members of the LRF and uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents.

National learning is shared with all staff

The service keeps itself up to date with national operational learning updates from other fire services and joint operational learning from other organisations, such as the police service and ambulance trusts. This learning is used to inform planning assumptions that have been made with other partners. This learning is also shared with staff in a monthly bulletin.