Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was commissioned by the Home Secretary to inspect how fire and rescue services in England are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service (NYFRS) was inspected in November 2020 and the outcome has been published by the Inspectorate today (22/1).
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, Matt Parr, has expressed his appreciation for the positive and constructive way that NYFRS engaged with the inspection process. He also thanked the service for the positive contribution it has made to the community during the pandemic.
The inspection process aimed to recognise what is working well and what is being learned through the service’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The report noted that NYFRS had adapted and responded to the pandemic effectively. In addition to its ongoing provision of core services it has provided additional support to the communities of North Yorkshire. Firefighters have been trained and on standby to drive ambulances and provided professional guidance for the establishment of the Nightingale hospital in Harrogate. Staff have delivered essential items to vulnerable members of the community, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies to NHS and care facilities.
The service has made approximately 5,500 telephone calls to vulnerable members of the community in North Yorkshire, to find out their needs and check how they were. This was to support the county council’s shielding programme, and during these calls fire safety advice was also offered.
The report recognises that staff have been creative and innovative in how they have provided solutions to support communities. Staff made use of station video conferencing technology to talk to and work with fire cadets and children being home educated. The service also carried out a live national webcast event with businesses and communities to help reduce their risk of fire and increase their resilience to Covid-19.
Commenting on the inspection report Chief Fire Officer, Andrew Brodie, said:
“I am tremendously proud of the way in which the whole of NYFRS has responded to the challenges of continuing to provide a critical service to the public during a global pandemic. I welcome the recognition of the Inspectorate of all work that has been undertaken to serve the public of North Yorkshire in addition to our core role of preventing and attending emergencies, and protecting those involved. We have adapted our approach to be able to continue carrying out our prevention and protection work while also managing the risks to our staff.
“I pay tribute to everyone in NYFRS, who has gone above and beyond to keep the public of North Yorkshire safe through this crisis period. We have worked closely with other partner agencies and responded to their calls for support whether that was making phone calls to the vulnerable to check how they were, to delivering food parcels for food banks or visiting addresses when remote contact was not successful.
“Against this backdrop we were also able to improve the level of availability of our fire engines to 94.8% (April – June 2020) compared to 97.3% over the same period the previous year (2019). We have also bolstered our control room cover and processes in readiness for any infection outbreaks that would affect staff attendance.
“I also appreciate the feedback to the Inspectorate from our staff, that they were provided with regular and relevant communications during the pandemic and that they note the close working between the service and its representative bodies.”
The Inspectorate highlighted three areas of focus for the service:
– It should determine how it will adopt for the longer term, the new and innovative ways of working introduced during the pandemic, to secure lasting improvements.
– It should determine what steps it could take to align itself more closely with the National Fire Chiefs Council’s guidance on protection.
– It should work with all staff to determine how it can identify and address any current and longer-term impacts Covid-19 may have on their wellbeing.
Responding to the report Julia Mulligan, Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner said:
“First of all, a huge thank you to the men and women in our fire and rescue service for all that they have done during the pandemic. The past year has been far from easy, so it is good to have official recognition of their excellent work. I have been particularly impressed by the ideas that firefighters have had about how they can help their communities, particularly very vulnerable people.
Of course, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has also played a central role in working with the police, local authorities and the NHS in responding to the pandemic. There is much to build on, so it is only right that we consider how we learn from the experience going forwards.
“Of particular note are the benefits from our investment in digital technology which has helped the service support the public, as well as make the change to home working as straightforward as possible. The service will be looking to continue with the benefits from this in the future.”