Responding to fires and other emergencies quickly and effectively
Our response and resilience priorities are to:
- Ensure we always provide an effective and timely response to fires and other emergencies
- Improve our specialist response capability by optimising the special appliance fleet
- Work with Bedfordshire Local Resilience Forum partners to effectively plan and prepare for local and national emergencies
- Work with partners to broaden our response role and capabilities
- Ensure our response resources and crewing arrangements are aligned to current and future risks
Our approach is to:
- Deliver the outcomes of our Emergency Cover Review, pilots and trials, and special appliances review
- Have effective operational policies and procedures aligned to National Operational Guidance
- Provide firefighters with fast access to accurate, relevant, and timely operational risk information
- Align with the Fire Standards and National Operational Guidance
- Maintain a positive health and safety culture, ensuring we continuously learn from incidents
- Continue to invest in appliances, equipment, training, and development to ensure our crews respond safely and effectively
- Continue to test and maintain effective business continuity plans
- Proactively collaborate with multi-agency and cross-border partners
- Continue to develop and maintain our national resilience assets and capabilities
Our emergency response standards
Prior to 2004, targets for response times to fires and other emergencies were based on a prescriptive framework of national standards. It is more than a decade since we established our own local emergency response standards that set out how quickly we aim to respond to key emergencies within our area. The standards relate to the time it takes to get the first fire appliance to the scene from the time it is alerted by our Fire Control.
It is clear from the initial analysis of our Emergency Cover Review that these response standards need updating to enable us to effectively benchmark ourselves against other fire and rescue services in England. For example, there is no comparable and nationally agreed definition of a ‘critical fire incident’.
Our response strategy is designed to provide a prompt and effective emergency response if an incident does occur. The type of incidents responded to by BFRS can broadly be split into three areas:
- Fires - defined as either primary or secondary
- Non-fire incidents which cover a wide range of incidents including road traffic collisions, rescues from height, from water, providing medical assistance, flooding, incidents involving hazardous materials and other calls to protect life, property, and the environment
- False alarms which include false reports of all incident types originating from both automatic fire detection systems and by human error
The number of incidents attended by the Service has fluctuated over the five years and had been showing a three-year downward trend. The number of incidents is now on the increase, due primarily to undertaking more collaborative activity in support of our partners and through expanding our capabilities to deal with a broader range of incidents (e.g., forced entry for medical emergencies, co-responding and falls, and assisting the Police with missing persons).
We have reviewed and implemented a range of improvements to maintain operational availability giving more flexibility and efficiency including:
- Reviewing our 24-hour shift system first introduced in 2012 which resulted in a 10% reduction in posts
- Reviewing and implementing a revised officer rota which since 2015 resulted in a 20% reduction in officer posts
- Maintaining a shared strategic command rota with Cambridgeshire FRS first introduced in 2016
- Better availability of on-call fire appliances through new ways of working (recruitment, strategic reserve, standby schemes, dual contracts, self-rostering and phased alerting)
On-call availability management improved through use of new software systems, and in 2022 trialling flexible leave arrangements, different training delivery options, new support posts for on-call and alternative employment contracts.