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South Yorkshire 2021/22


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

Last updated 20/01/2023
Requires improvement

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s overall effectiveness requires improvement.

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

We found the service is good at identifying and assessing the fire and rescue-related risks to its communities. It has used a range of information, and consulted widely, to produce a comprehensive community risk management plan (CRMP). The information in the plan has helped the service to review its response standards to better serve its communities.

We also found the service to be good at how it identifies those people in its communities who are most at risk from fire and works with its partners to good effect to reduce this risk. But the number of home fire safety checks (HFSCs) it carried out during the pandemic decreased, and it still has many HFSCs identified and awaiting a visit.

We were disappointed to find that the service’s risk-based audit programme (RBAP) is not effectively targeting high-risk premises and that it is not carrying out enough audits compared to its own annual target. But since our 2019 inspection it has improved its arrangements in tackling false alarms.

We were also disappointed to see that the service had made limited progress since our 2019 inspection in introducing national operational guidance and obtaining operational learning. But we did find that the service is well prepared to respond to major and multi-agency incidents.

Questions for Effectiveness


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


South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at understanding risk.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was good 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.

Areas for improvement

The service should ensure its firefighters have good access to relevant and up-to-date risk information.

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

Working with the community to build a comprehensive risk profile is good

The service has assessed an appropriate range of risks and threats after a thorough community risk management planning process. When assessing risk, it has considered relevant information collected from a broad range of internal and external sources and datasets. These include emergency incident data and socio-economic information from the indices of multiple deprivation and information on population from health authorities in England, known as Exeter data.

In developing its CRMP, published 1 April 2021, the service consulted its communities constructively. It held focus groups across South Yorkshire. It also sent a residents’ survey to 1,100 people who proportionally represented the population of the community. And it published a public survey that anyone could respond to. The service received over 3,000 responses to help inform its understanding of risk and how it might mitigate it.

The service has an effective CRMP

After assessing relevant risks, the service has recorded its findings in an easily understood CRMP. This plan describes how prevention, protection and response activity should be effectively resourced to mitigate or reduce the risks and threats the community faces, both now and in the future. For example, it sets out how the service will invest resources in the protection team and how it has implemented a new emergency response standard based on incident data analysis. To validate the data review and risk profiling carried out in determining the new response standard, the service used external consultants.

The service has an effective governance board to drive performance of the CRMP and a structured approach to updating the CRMP annually. However, the service would benefit from more robust links between the CRMP and the associated annual plan.

The service needs to improve how it gathers, maintains and shares risk information about people, places and threats

The service collects some information about the people, places and threats it has identified as being at greatest risk, but the information we reviewed was limited, inaccurate or not up to date. From the records reviewed we found that operational risk information visits aren’t always carried out within the time frames set by the service. Our inspection also highlighted ineffective quality assurance of the risk information. For example, we found records of premises with incorrect risk classifications (medium instead of very high risk) and an absence of important information such as the presence of flammable cladding or conflicting information such as differences in premises’ evacuation strategies. The service should make sure that all risk information is accurately recorded so it is relevant for staff who need it. This was identified as an area for improvement in the first round of inspections in 2019 and the service has made limited progress.

However, the service does have robust systems in place to make staff aware of any significant changes to risk information. The service uses red, amber and green memos that must be read and understood by staff. This means that staff get urgent risk information related to their role.

But we found that the service doesn’t use a co-ordinated system to collect and update temporary risk information (such as information about occupiers in premises or sporting events and festivals). This system needs better control and scrutiny. Some risk information is missing, outdated or very limited, which won’t help fire crews responding to an incident at these locations. The service has recognised improvements are required in the management of temporary risk information and is developing a computer recording system to address this.

The service uses the outcomes from operational activity well to build its understanding of risk

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, following information received from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service on emollient creams and the risk of fire, the service has increased awareness among staff, updated its training and amended its HFSC programme.

The service has used learning from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to reduce risk

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.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from this tragedy. The service has assessed the risk of every 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.

At the time of this inspection, the service was making good progress with its Grenfell action plan.


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


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

South Yorkshire 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 make sure it puts in place measures so it can catch up on the home fire safety checks identified and awaiting a visit that have built up during the pandemic.
  • The service should make sure it quality assures its prevention activity, so staff carry out home fire safety checks to an appropriate standard.

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

The service has an integrated prevention strategy

The service’s prevention strategy 2022–24 is clearly linked to the risks identified in its CRMP. The CRMP states that analysis of incident data and studies of what makes a fire more likely show that there is a very strong link between locations of fires and locations of people living in poverty. The prevention strategy in turn uses locations of fires and indices of multiple deprivation as risk indicators to target home fire safety activity. Prevention activity is also co-ordinated with CRMP risk profiling and the service’s revised emergency response standard. The service has targeted HFSCs for around 7,000 households that are situated beyond the 15-minute response time.

The service’s teams work well together and with other relevant organisations on prevention, and it shares relevant information when needed. Information is used to adjust planning assumptions and direct activity between the service’s prevention, protection and response functions. For example, referrals into the service from partners, such as adult social care services, for people they have identified as being vulnerable are prioritised. Firefighters and community safety staff aim to conduct HFSCs at these premises as a priority.

The service has many prevention visits that have built up due to the pandemic

We considered how the service had adapted its prevention work during our COVID-19-specific inspection in September 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its public prevention work appropriately. Since then, however, the service hasn’t addressed the many HFSCs identified and awaiting a visit.

On 31 March 2021, the service had 1,385 checks identified. At the time of the inspection (June 2022) we found that this figure had remained relatively static. The service should put measures in place to effectively address those visits and make sure that it is prioritising those people who are most vulnerable and at risk of fire.

Prevention activity is targeted

Prevention activity is clearly prioritised using a risk-based approach towards people most at risk from fire and other emergencies. The service uses an online portal for partner organisations to provide relevant details of the persons they are referring and to help the service to risk assess them. The service recognises the need to update the risk assessment methodology and is looking to introduce the National Fire Chiefs Council online HFSC system.

The service takes account of a broad range of information and data to target its prevention activity at vulnerable individuals and groups. This includes health and social data, and referrals from the organisations it works with. The service is improving its targeting using improved data collection and distribution throughout the service. It has developed risk cluster maps using demographic and accidental dwelling fire data on non-deliberate fires in the home. Training has been provided to station staff in the use of this information to support prevention activity. We look forward to seeing how it is used to enhance prevention activity in the future.

It provides a range of interventions that it adapts to the level of risk in its communities. These include HFSCs and safe and well visits to members of the community, based on an assessment of their needs. Safe and well visits build on the advice provided at HFSCs and cover additional support to the individual on topics such as crime and fall prevention, and healthy ageing. Community safety staff, wholetime and on-call firefighters, and volunteers all carry out prevention work.

Safe and well visits and quality assurance of prevention activity are limited

Staff told us they have the right skills and confidence to carry out HFSCs. These checks cover an appropriate range of hazards that can put vulnerable people at greater risk from fire and other emergencies. Firefighters carry out most HFSCs across South Yorkshire and training is provided for them by a specialist prevention team. When additional vulnerabilities are identified, or the check is likely to be more complex, the check is allocated to a dedicated prevention officer who has a greater level of training.

However, it was evident from the inspection that there is limited quality assurance of prevention activity. So, the service doesn’t know whether staff consistently work in line with service standards.

Furthermore, it was disappointing to note that firefighters carry out safe and well visits only in the Doncaster district. This follows an approach that was piloted in Doncaster over two years ago but hasn’t yet been expanded to the other three districts in South Yorkshire: Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham. This means that only prevention staff, instead of firefighters, complete safe and well visits in these districts. Consequently, numbers of visits are reduced there.

Staff understand how to identify vulnerable people and take action to safeguard them

Staff we interviewed told us about occasions when they had identified safeguarding problems, such as hoarding and people who seemed to be vulnerable. They told us they felt confident and trained to act appropriately and promptly. Staff must complete training in adult and child safeguarding protocols and there is online refresher training scheduled every two years. The service safeguarding team or duty senior officer provide more support to staff when needed.

The service collaborates well with other organisations

The service works with a wide range of other organisations to prevent fires and other emergencies. A large focus of the prevention work is the joint community safety department (JCSD). This is an effective partnership with South Yorkshire Police. The JCSD carries out an extensive range of prevention activities in the community, such as:

  • road safety work through the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership;
  • water safety through the Local Water Safety Forum, which works in line with the National Fire Chiefs Council’s National Drowning Prevention Strategy;
  • fire cadet programmes for young people; and
  • the co-ordination of fire and police volunteer schemes.

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 adult social care departments in the four local authorities in South Yorkshire.

Arrangements are in place to receive referrals from others. The service has over 400 partner agencies that refer people to the service that they believe will benefit from a HFSC. This increases the effectiveness and efficiency of the service’s prevention work. The service acts appropriately on the referrals it receives by assessing the risk and prioritising the referral appropriately.

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 service uses a range of data and information from partner agencies to target those most at risk from fire, such as assisted bin collection data from councils, which can identify vulnerable people.

The service has effective processes to tackle 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. The service has an extensive educational programme, including the Lifewise Centre where schoolchildren attend to learn about the dangers of fire and other risks.

The service gets referrals from the police, schools and local authorities and has a team of specially trained staff to deal with young fire setters. The service received 25 such referrals in 2021/22.

When appropriate, it routinely shares information with other relevant organisations to support the prosecution of arsonists. The service investigates fires where the cause is deliberate, and it contributes to the coroner’s court process in cases where there is a death or serious injury.

The service is good at evaluating its prevention work

The service has good evaluation tools in place. These tools measure how effective its work is so that it knows what works and its communities get prevention activity that meets their needs. The service carries out good performance management of JCSD partnership activities linked to incident data. It can also focus on specific prevention interventions, for example if there are increases in arson, anti-social behaviour or water-related incidents.

Prevention activities take account of feedback from the public, other organisations and other parts of the service. The service has commissioned an external evaluation of the effectiveness of its partnership with South Yorkshire Police. In addition, the prevention team works closely with the communications department to evaluate the effectiveness and value for money of the service’s safety campaigns.

Feedback is used by the service to inform its planning assumptions and amend future activity, so it is focused on what the community needs and what works.


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

Requires improvement

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at protecting the public through fire regulation.

South Yorkshire 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 assure itself that its risk-based audit programme prioritises the highest risks and includes proportionate activity to reduce risk.
  • The service should make sure it has an effective quality assurance process, so staff carry out audits to an appropriate standard.
  • The service should make sure it works with local businesses and large organisations to share information and expectations on compliance with fire safety regulations.

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

The intentions in the CRMP aren’t effectively put into practice

The service’s protection strategy and associated RBAP are clearly linked to the risk it has identified in its CRMP.

But we found that the service’s implementation of the RBAP was not effectively addressing the risks. The RBAP states that it will target high-risk premises, that each inspection officer will dedicate 75 percent of their auditing time to this activity and that the service aims to audit high-risk premises about once every 5 years. However, we found that this was not being fulfilled.

The service’s protection work has supported businesses as pandemic restrictions were lifted

We considered how the service had adapted its protection activity during our COVID-19-specific inspection in September 2020. At that time, we found it had adapted its protection work well. Since then, we are encouraged to find that the service has resumed audits and on-site protection activity. The service has also communicated effectively with business owners, giving advice about how their businesses can operate in a safe way as they re-opened when the restrictions were lifted.

The service’s protection activity doesn’t align with its strategy to target risk

The service’s RBAP is focused on the service’s highest-risk buildings. The service has targeted sleeping accommodation – for example, hospitals, hotels and hostels – and licensed premises as its highest risks. In 2020/21 it had identified 10,468 high-risk premises in South Yorkshire. It decided that high-risk premises will be inspected every 5 years with an annual target of 2,160 premises. This is based on the establishment of 24 competent business fire service inspection officers.

But we found that the service isn’t consistently auditing the buildings it has targeted in the timescales it has set. In 2020/21 the service carried out 766 audits of which only 334 were high risk. This means that the service was considerably below the 2,160 annual high-risk audit target it had set itself. At that rate it will fall substantially short of the aim of inspecting every high-risk premises every five years.

Analysis of high-risk audit numbers for previous years showed that the service was always well below the identified target amount, which has been 2,160 since 2018. From 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2021, a total of 2,210 high-risk audits were carried out, just above the service’s yearly target.

The service should review its resourcing and performance management standards

The service has developed performance standards for inspection officers and designed the RBAP based on the capacity of 24 competent inspection officers. In 2020/21 the service had 25 competent officers and 3 in development within the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Competency Framework. So, in theory the service has enough qualified protection staff to meet the requirements of the service’s RBAP. However, as identified in the section above the service hasn’t met inspection targets.

Nevertheless, it was pleasing to note that the service has improved the resilience of its 24/7 fire safety cover. In our 2019 inspection, one area for improvement was the service’s arrangements for providing specialist protection advice out of hours.

We are encouraged to see the service now has robust arrangements in place to provide technical support at all times of the day (24/7). Seven inspection officers support the cover arrangements on a rotational basis.

Audits of all high-rise buildings have been completed

Audits have been carried out at all high-rise buildings the service has identified as using cladding that is similar to the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower. Information gathered during these audits is made available to response teams and control operators, enabling them to respond more effectively in an emergency.

The service has visited all the high-rise, high-risk buildings it has identified in its service area.

The quality of audits is inconsistent

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

Not all the audits we reviewed were completed in a consistent, systematic way, or in line with the service’s policies. It was evident that the service doesn’t always complete audits at regulated premises after a fire. This means it misses opportunities to fully review the fire safety arrangements of premises that may have underlying deficiencies leading to outbreaks of fire.

Quality assurance isn’t effective

Only limited quality assurance of its protection activity takes place. The service doesn’t have robust processes in place to review the quality of work. This includes the monitoring of action plans or reviewing the decisions of an inspector who overrides automatically-generated audit outcomes based on their own opinion of an audit they have completed.

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.

The service is good at taking enforcement action when appropriate

The service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers and, when appropriate, prosecutes those who don’t comply with fire safety regulations. We saw good evidence of the service taking enforcement action in response to those who fail to comply with fire safety regulations. This included the prosecution of a responsible person who failed to respond adequately to enquiries about cladding on a high-rise building.

In the year to 31 March 2021, the service issued:

  • 3 alteration notices;
  • 289 informal notifications;
  • 7 enforcement notices;
  • 5 prohibition notices; and
  • undertook 1 prosecution.

It has made 5 prosecutions in the last 5 years from 2016/17 to 2020/21.

The service works well with other agencies in regulating fire safety

The service works closely with other enforcement agencies to regulate fire safety and routinely exchanges risk information with them.

It has worked closely with the local authorities in South Yorkshire to share information on sports grounds and high-rise premises. The service worked with Sheffield City Council to secure funding for a temporary alarm system in a high-rise residential block. Previously, the residents had to pay for security guards to monitor communal areas of the block for any outbreaks of fire (known as a ‘waking watch’).

The service responds appropriately to building consultations

The service responds to most building consultations on time, so it usually meets its statutory responsibility to comment on fire safety arrangements at new and altered buildings. In the year ending 31 March 2021, it responded on time to 92 percent of consultations received.

The service needs to do more work with businesses to promote safety

The service could do more to engage with local businesses and other organisations to promote compliance with fire safety legislation.

The service provides some safety information on its website, and it uses social media to promote safety messages, often aligned to national business safety campaigns. But it rarely works directly with businesses to explain the importance and benefits of complying with fire safety legislation, and it hasn’t set up any primary authority schemes. It is missing opportunities to improve fire safety by helping businesses understand the value of good compliance.

The service has an effective strategy that has reduced unwanted fire signals

The service has made effective progress in reducing the number of unwanted fire signals (false alarms), which we identified as an area for improvement in 2019. An effective risk-based approach is in place to manage the number of unwanted fire signals. The service works with businesses to provide training and information on reducing and investigating false alarms. Staff in the control room challenge the caller so that the service sends out fire engines only when needed. It doesn’t attend properties that don’t have a sleeping risk – where no-one sleeps – if there is a person on site who can inspect the premises for signs of fire. If a fire is confirmed or there are signs of smoke or fire, the service sends appropriate resources.

The service gets fewer calls because of this work. The number of false alarms due to apparatus has decreased over the last 3 years from 1,827 in 2018/19 to 1,201 in 2020/21. Fewer unwanted calls means that fire engines are available to respond to a genuine incident rather than responding to a false one. It also reduces the risk to the public if fewer fire engines travel at high speed on the roads.


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

Requires improvement

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service requires improvement at responding to fires and other emergencies.

South Yorkshire 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 improve the availability of its on-call crewed fire engines to respond to incidents in line with its community risk management plan.
  • The service should ensure it understands everything it needs to do to adopt national operational guidance and it should ensure its plan is resourced to do so.
  • The service should ensure it has an effective process in place to obtain operational learning so as to improve its operational response.

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

The service aligns resources to the risks identified in its CRMP

The service’s response strategy is linked to the risks identified in its CRMP. 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.

The service has 27 fire engines and a range of specialist vehicles strategically situated around South Yorkshire, with effective measures in place to make sure there are enough staff to operate these. It uses a crewing reserve cohort (known as the Operational Resource Team) to fill gaps at stations where there are shortages of staff.

The service has improved its response standards

There are no national response standards of performance for the public. Furthermore, in our last inspection in 2019, we found that the service didn’t have a set of response standards of its own but instead gave a commitment to get to emergencies as fast as they could.

In its CRMP for 2021–24, the service has developed its own response standards, which are based on 2 specific factors:

  • the level of risk in different areas of South Yorkshire; and
  • the severity of the incident the service is called to attend.

Using these factors, the service has determined risks across all the communities of South Yorkshire and categorised incident types. For example, a dwelling fire or an incident where someone’s life is at risk would be classed as high risk, and an incident where life and property aren’t at risk would be classed as low risk. This provides the service with a tailored set of response standards.

Monitoring and reporting of response through the service’s Fire Standards Committee is still developing. Performance figures received from the service showed that in 2021/22 it met its response standards on 87 percent of occasions. However, it hasn’t set itself a target to achieve these standards on a certain percentage of occasions. Home Office data shows that the service’s average response time to primary fires has improved from 8 minutes 55 seconds in 2018/19 to 8 minutes 26 seconds in the year ending 31 December 2021. However, this is slower than the average for predominantly urban services, which was 7 minutes 30 seconds for the same year.

The service needs to improve its on-call availability

To support its response strategy, the service has set itself a challenging target to have all fire engines available on 100 percent of occasions. The service doesn’t always meet this standard. In 2020/21 the service had an overall availability of 85.9 percent. This was broadly in line with the England average of 86.4 percent but below the levels of availability provided by predominantly urban services.

It is the service’s on-call availability that is bringing its overall performance level down. In 2020/21 the wholetime availability was 99.6 percent whereas on-call availability was 39.4 percent, and only 4.29 percent at 1 station for a 6-month period. This is the second lowest on-call availability of all services in England.

We noted that the service is taking some action to try and improve the availability of its on-call stations. This includes using a team of wholetime staff to cover on-call staff shortages and recruiting more on-call staff. We look forward to seeing the improvements this will make.

Staff have a good understanding of how to command incidents safely

The service has trained incident commanders who are assessed regularly and properly. Their competence is reassessed every two years and the service has introduced accreditation by an external company. 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.

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).

Control staff aren’t always involved in debriefing and operational learning

We are pleased to see the service’s control staff are sometimes integrated into the service’s command, training, exercise and assurance activity. Fire control staff gave examples of being involved in a multi-agency exercise incorporating a marauding terrorist attack.

But control staff aren’t always involved in debriefs. This means they don’t always have opportunities to learn from others or contribute to shared learning. It was also evident that lessons learned from incidents and exercises weren’t always effectively communicated to control staff who weren’t involved in them.

The service hasn’t yet implemented its procedures to handle multiple fire survival guidance calls

The service has provided some training to control staff on fire survival guidance. But it hasn’t tested its ability to provide fire survival guidance to many callers simultaneously, as we would have expected it to. This was identified as learning for fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire.

The service is currently reliant on passing fire survival information to an incident using radio communication and paper-based systems. It is in the process of introducing a new system that will help the exchange of live fire-survival information between control and the scene of the incident.

Risk information is easily accessible to staff, but quality assurance should be improved

We sampled a range of risk information at wholetime and on-call stations across South Yorkshire, 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 comprehensive and could be easily accessed and understood by staff. We did find, however, that there were some variations in the operational risk information and the associated tactical plans that are provided to assist decision-making at operational incidents. The service should ensure that information is consistent and up to date.

The service needs to do more to improve operational incident debriefing

As part of the inspection, we reviewed a range of emergency incidents and training events. These included significant domestic and commercial fires, and road traffic collisions.

The service doesn’t always act on learning it has, or should have, identified from incidents. This means it isn’t routinely improving its service to the public. We found that the service’s debrief process was ineffective and that there had been limited progress on this area for improvement identified in the 2019 inspection.

From our review of several significant incidents, we found that the service hadn’t identified learning from them and hadn’t carried out debriefs of them as fully as we would have expected. Moreover, the service isn’t using structured debriefs for larger incidents or exercises. Staff are unclear on the criteria for deciding when structured debriefs should take place.

However, 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 national operational learning and joint organisational learning updates provided in the service’s magazine, Snapshot.

There has been limited progress to introduce national operational guidance

The service needs to do more to implement national operational guidance and ensure it is understood by everyone. National operational guidance provides industry good practice for developing procedures and is important to aid consistency across fire and rescue services. This was identified as an area for improvement in our 2019 inspection and we found that there had been limited progress since then.

We found that the service’s national operational guidance implementation plan and associated resourcing requirements were unclear. The service should put robust arrangements in place to progress this work.

The service is good at keeping the public informed

The service has good systems in place to inform the public about ongoing incidents and help keep them safe during and after incidents. This includes 24-hour communications officer coverage to liaise with the media and assist the incident commander with the provision of safety advice to the community.

Incident information is delivered to the public using social media for urgent messages and traditional media, such as local newspapers and radio. For large-scale incidents, such as the wide-area flooding in 2019, the service works with the local resilience forum (LRF) to warn and inform the public as required.


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


South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is good at responding to major and multi-agency incidents.

South Yorkshire 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).

Areas for improvement

The service should arrange a programme of cross-border exercises, sharing the learning from these exercises.

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 well prepared for major and multi-agency incidents

The service has effectively anticipated and considered the reasonably foreseeable risks and threats it may face. These risks are listed in both local and national risk registers as part of its community risk management planning. The service is an active member of the LRF risk planning and management groups, in which members review the local risk register and apply national risk to the local area. The service has developed plans to deal with specific risks, such as Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) sites. It has also worked with LRF partners to create general plans for incidents such as floods, extreme weather, industrial action and health emergencies. Plans are stored on a safe and secure system called Resilience Direct, which can be accessed by all multi-agency responders.

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. These include wide-area flooding and high-rise residential buildings. Firefighters have access to risk information from neighbouring services. This was found to be unreliable in our 2019 inspection and has now been improved. The service has access to risk information up to 10 km into neighbouring service areas. But fire and rescue services in the region have more to do to improve the consistency of this information.

The service has the capability to respond to major and multi-agency incidents

We reviewed the arrangements the service has in place to respond to different major incidents, including fires in high-rise residential buildings and terrorist-related incidents.

The service has good arrangements in place, which are well understood by staff. There is a specialist response team to deal with marauding terrorist attacks and the service is providing practical high-rise evacuation training for all firefighters.

The service is well prepared to respond to local and national major incidents. Resources include a high-volume pump used for wide area flooding and specialist tactical advisors that can assist other services at a range of incidents.

The service works well with other fire services

The service supports other fire and rescue services responding to emergency incidents. For example, it regularly attends incidents in its four bordering service areas. It is intraoperable with these services and can form part of a multi-agency response.

The service has successfully deployed to other services and has used national assets. Incident commanders are clear on the processes for deploying or requesting additional assets.

Cross-border exercise plans are ineffective

In our 2019 inspection, we identified an area for improvement that the service should arrange a programme of cross-border exercises, sharing the lessons learned from these exercises. It has not made enough progress in this area.

The service has a cross-border exercise plan with neighbouring fire and rescue services. This helps them to work more effectively together to keep the public safe. But the plan lacks detail and doesn’t include the risks of major events at which the service could foreseeably provide support or request assistance from neighbouring services.

In our staff survey, 61 percent (112 out of 185) of respondents told us they haven’t participated in training with neighbouring services in the past 12 months. The service is missing opportunities to learn and work more effectively together to keep the public safe.

Firefighters have a good understanding of JESIP

The incident commanders we interviewed had been trained in and were familiar with JESIP. This helps make sure they can work effectively with other emergency services.

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 nationally recognised messaging (that is, messages that all emergency services and related organisations understand).

The service is a valued partner in the local resilience forum

The service has good arrangements in place to respond to emergencies with other partners that make up the South Yorkshire LRF. These arrangements include working with the service’s partner organisations to prepare multi-agency response plans for high-risk sites.

The service is a valued partner in the LRF and is responsible for managing the LRF training and exercise programme and chairing the strategic group. The service takes part in regular training events with other members of the LRF and uses the learning to develop planning assumptions about responding to major and multi-agency incidents. The 2021 service exercise plan was comprehensive and included the following:

  • multi-agency strategic and gold courses for senior officers;
  • marauding terrorist attack exercises;
  • business continuity exercises such as national power supply problems or cyberattacks; and
  • training on the release into the environment of hazardous materials.

The service keeps up to date with national learning

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.