Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service rated ‘outstanding’

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) has been highly commended for its innovative and targeted prevention work, its response to major incidents and for making the best use of its resources to best serve the public of Merseyside.

The recognition comes from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) who carried out a detailed inspection of the Service, and judged it as:

  • Good at effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks
  • Outstanding at efficiently keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks
  • Good at looking after its people

MFRS also scored an unprecedented three ‘outstanding’ judgements across the 11-sub themes for its fire prevention, response to major and multi-agency incidents and for providing value for money.

Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan expressed his delight that the Service, and more importantly his teams, have been recognised for their outstanding work by the inspectors.

This is the third time HMICFRS has inspected MFRS; the first taking place in December 2018. The Service was deemed ‘good’ in all three areas, a sector leading outcome at that time. However, the results of this latest inspection represent further improvement and reinforces the bold plans adopted by the Service in the preceding years, which saw the Service use innovation to make it quicker to respond, more effective and more resilient.

MFRS was also inspected in autumn 2020, with its response to the Covid-19 pandemic praised, particularly the Service’s national role.

For this third inspection, inspectors spent several weeks over the summer of 2021 exploring areas covering operational and support functions and interviewing staff.  

In his report, lead HMI Andy Cooke said MFRS ‘proactively targets’ its activities to reduce anti-social behaviour arson and violence, and improve water safety. Inspectors said they saw ‘positive examples of its community work to increase awareness and reduce the risk of fire and other emergencies’.

Inspectors said the Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, with MFRS on track to have assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area by the end of 2021.

Inspectors also found that staff have access to an excellent range of services to support their physical and mental health, with a ‘positive working culture’ in place. Inspectors said they heard positive examples of how leaders ‘actively engage with staff’ to give information and receive feedback.

The full inspection report and those of the other fire & rescue services inspected so far are available on the HMICFRS website: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/fire-and-rescue-services/

Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said, “This is a fantastic result for the communities of Merseyside and I am very pleased that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate have seen what I see – the passion, dedication and professionalism that our staff demonstrate every single day. They are inspiring and the outcomes of this report is a testament to them.

“I have never been prouder to be Chief Fire Officer of this incredible fire and rescue service. Our staff have shown that even through the most challenging of times, they will go above, beyond and overcome every barrier put in their way to keep their communities safe.

“We recognise how far we have come and we are extremely positive about the future. Our vision is to be the best fire and rescue service in the UK and I genuinely believe we are well on our way to achieving that ambition. We know we can always improve and there is still work to do in some areas but we will continue to build on the outcomes of this report and find even more innovative ways to keep our communities safe.

“The people of Merseyside should remember that we are unswerving in our commitment to them, and that Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is always here for them. Our staff are part of the community and our community is at the heart of everything we do and always will be.”

Cllr Les Byrom, the Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority said, “This is a sensational outcome and reflects the hard work and effort put in by all parts of the Authority. In 2018, we bucked the national trend and made some bold changes in the way we deliver services, this outcome vindicates those decisions.”

Preventing fires and other risks

The inspection found that in the year ending 31 March 2021, MFRS carried out 7.98 Home Fire Safety Checks per 1,000 population, many more than the England average of 4.47. The Service attended 15,884 incidents, with 39% of those being fires, 27% non-fire incidents and 34% false alarms.

Understanding risk and responding to emergencies

The report concluded that the service understands risks in its local community and consistently meets its own target of attending all life risk incidents within 10 minutes on 90% of occasions. Home Office data shows that in the year to 31 March 2020, the Service’s response time to primary fires was 7 minutes and 19 seconds, in line with the average for predominantly urban services.

Inspectors said the Service ‘effectively targets its prevention activities’, with the Service’s strategy outlining its commitment to making every contact count and its person-centred approach.

Responding to major and multi-agency incidents

MFRS’ response to major and multi-agency incidents was rated as ‘outstanding’ by inspectors, with the Service having ‘effectively anticipated and considered the reasonably foreseeable risks and threats it may face’.

Inspectors were impressed with the Service’s approach to maintaining staff skills and competency in this area, with the introduction of MFRS’ Sunday Six training programme described as ‘innovative practice’. The training programme, first introduced in November 2019, addresses six local and national risks – flooding, high-rise buildings, marine, wildfire, terrorism and recycling/waste fires. Topics are rotated every eight weeks to ensure that every Watch receives all of the training. During the pandemic, this was adapted and delivered virtually.

In 2018, HMICFRS found that Fire Control staff did not have the same high quality of training received by firefighters. However, in their most recent visit, inspectors said they were pleased to see the Service’s control staff integrated into the command, training, exercise, debrief and assurance activity, adding that they are ‘encouraged to find that since then Fire Control has been brought in line with the rest of the Service’.

Protection

Inspectors said the Service has responded positively and proactively to learning from the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, with MFRS on track to have assessed the risk of each high-rise building in its service area by the end of 2021.

MFRS was also commended for its proactive approach to enforcement activity. The Service consistently uses its full range of enforcement powers and, when appropriate, prosecutes those who fail to comply with fire safety regulations.

An area for improvement in the last inspection was for MFRS to allocate enough resources to a prioritised, risk-based inspection programme. HMICFRS said they are ‘pleased to see that the Service has enough qualified protection staff to meet the requirements of its risk-based inspection programme’. Inspectors also recognised the introduction of a fire engineer, which enables the Service to provide the appropriate range of audit and enforcement activity needed.

Making the best use of resources

Inspectors said MFRS is outstanding and innovative at making the best use of resources, and is good at making savings, having clear priorities for 2021/24, including:

  • recruiting firefighters
  • changing shift patterns
  • strengthening the fire safety inspection programme
  • digitalising frontline services
  • making efficiencies so money saved can be re-invested in service improvements

Inspectors said the Service has a good understanding of future financial challenges and makes good use of its reserves, and has a good track record of making savings and efficiencies without compromising frontline services.

People

MFRS was judged as ‘requires improvement’ in only one area, related to fairness and promoting diversity, but inspectors said the Service has improved its approach to equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) since 2018 to be able to offer the right services to communities and support staff with protected characteristics. However, MFRS recognises there is still work to be done and, since the last inspection, has introduced three staff networks; Race Equality and Cultural Heritage (REACH), gender equality and LGBTQ+. Senior managers also act as lead champions for each equality and diversity protected characteristic.

Inspectors recognised that MFRS has made improvements to increase staff diversity. In 2017/18, 4.2% of all staff self-declared as being from a BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) background and 22.8% were women. In 2019/20, this increased to 4.6% for BAME and 25.3% for women.

In 2019/20 there was an increase in female staff in operational roles: up to 12.4 percent, from 7.9 percent in 2017/18. BAME staff in operational roles rose from 4.8 percent in 2017/18 to 5.4 percent in 2019/20.

For free fire safety advice or to request a home fire safety check, call 0800 731 5958.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged 65 or over or those referred by partner agencies.

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook and Twitter? You can also send story ideas to [email protected]

Tap or click the button to like us on Facebook

Tap or click the button to follow us on Twitter
Have you got a Wirral story? Email [email protected]

Latest news