Community and firefighter safety at the heart of fire service plan

Published: 09 Jul 2019

Hertfordshire County Council has approved plans to future-proof Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS).

Following a three-month public consultation which ended in March, the fire and rescue service’s new Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) 2019-2023 received Cabinet approval on Monday.

The IRMP sets out HFRS’s plans to develop the service, equipping it to deal with new challenges and respond to an ever expanding range of emergencies. The plan also embeds a commitment to collaboration, building on partnership working with blue light colleagues following the recent launch of a joint training academy in Stevenage, where firefighters and police officers train alongside each other.

The plan sets out a bold vision to make Hertfordshire the safest place in which to live, work, or visit. HFRS will continue to support and invest in preventative work through community engagement, as well as its role in protecting the built environment.

The plan features a number of key proposals that will allow the service to meet the challenges of the 21st century. They include:

  • Investing in training to ensure that the fire and rescue workforce are provided with ever more realistic opportunities to develop and maintain their skills.
  • Trialling the use of alternative vehicles with different capabilities to traditional fire engines. This would create a mixed fleet of vehicles able to be deployed according to risk, demand and call type. Based on extensive research, new, smaller vehicles will improve HFRS’s response time to common incidents like road traffic collisions.
  • Reducing crewing on standard ‘Type B’ fire engines to four firefighters. Currently, many of HFRS’s appliances run with a crew of four; standardising this means it can plan for spare personnel to be deployed around the county according to the needs of the service; potentially including to on call stations.

The public consultation on the IRMP consisted of an online questionnaire, staff focus group meetings, pop up sessions and public meetings, generating almost three times more responses than the previous IRMP consultation for 2014-2018.

While the public feedback was broadly supportive, some concerns were raised over proposals to crew whole-time fire appliances with a maximum of four firefighters, instead of the current five, as well as plans to trial alternative vehicles in some areas; however the opportunities that these changes will bring were also recognised.

Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Terry Hone, said: “Every day Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service makes a positive difference to the lives of the people in Hertfordshire and to the communities in which they live and work. We want to continue to improve as an organisation to make sure we are meeting the changing needs of our communities and to mitigate the risks they face.”

Chief Fire Officer, Darryl Keen, said: “Since the publication of the last IRMP, the firefighting landscape has changed significantly, with advancements made in technology and fire safety that have greatly improved our response to some of the risks we faced five years ago.

“We now face new challenges; we are seeing an increasing trend in both road traffic collisions and fires, and at the same time, the assistance we provide to other agencies is becoming more important. This new plan sets us up to meet the county’s changing needs.

“We have taken on board the concerns raised to us by staff and the public around some of the proposals. Of course, the welfare of our residents and firefighters has always been our number one priority, which is why we would not introduce any new measures without a full and thorough assessment.

“We are confident that these proposals will provide a foundation for a longer-term approach to mitigating risks in the county while delivering an innovative and modern fire service which is able to respond to aspects such as climate change and development across Hertfordshire.”

As part of the trial, HFRS will be using a rapid response vehicle crewed by three firefighters at Watford Fire Station, with a view to using resources in a more flexible way to support additional community safety activity.

If this trial is successful, the service may consider using similar models at other stations across the county.