Our emergency response times are “impressive” and we put our communities “at the heart of everything and every decision” we take.
These are just some of the conclusions of an inspection carried out by national experts from the fire and rescue sector and local government.
The ‘peer challenge’ followed our own assessment of our work, which we carried out in line with guidance from the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) and the Local Government Association (LGA).
We then invited a challenge team to visit and scrutinise our findings and work making the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier. The team was led by Alasdair Hay, Chief Fire Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and also comprised:
Councillor Rebecca Knox, Chair of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority
Nick Page, Chief Executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
Mark McAteer, Director of Strategic Planning, Performance and Communications, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Geoff Howsego, Director of Professional Services, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
David Sibert, Fire Safety and Integrated Risk Management Planning Advisor, Fire Brigade’s Union
Gill Elliott, Peer Challenge Manager, Local Government Association.
A wide cross-section of our staff, stakeholders and partners were interviewed, including our Strategic Enabling Team, the Chair and a cross-party selection of members of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA).
Karen Gowreesunker, Strategic Enabler and Clerk to the Authority, said: “We are committed to providing excellent services to our communities across the full range of our prevention, protection and response work.
“We’re indebted to the peer challenge team for their rigorous and in-depth approach, and for their professional, insightful feedback.
“Our thanks also go to the many partner agencies and organisations who work so closely with us. We hope that people who live and work in, or visit, the West Midlands take every reassurance and confidence from the report.”
Councillor John Edwards, Chair of WMFRA, said: “This assessment of West Midlands Fire service and the vital services we provide is very welcome. We are very pleased with the recognition that this prestigious external team have provided for our service delivery model and our unique response times to life-threatening incidents.
“The Fire and Rescue Authority will act on all the recommendations in the report to drive forward our quest for excellence.”
The full report is available on our website. Please click here to read it. Among its key findings:
- West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) places its communities at the heart of everything and every decision it takes
- A key factor in the WMFS approach is its five-minute response time for high risk (life and property) incidents which was developed on an evidence basis in partnership with universities and a leading fire engineer. This is impressive and may well be unique within the fire service in the UK. Benefits for the Service include that it is an easily understood target and gives staff a strong focus for their work
- Response times to incidents are impressive and WMFS’s integrated service delivery model enables it to be more responsive to the needs of its community
- The five-minute minute attendance time target enables the service to reduce the risk to firefighting and increase the survivability of victims. It also reduces the impact of fire on the local community and economy
- The Chief Fire Officer provides clear leadership and the Chair is clearly respected by the Authority and wider constituent partners
- WMFS has a strong focus on its long-term financial sustainability and future funding streams
- The service’s strong brand earns it immediate respect and often entry into the community and people’s homes
- Equality is embedded at all levels and staff understand the links to serving a diverse community, their prevention work and delivering within a health agenda
- WMFS is keen to be at the forefront of working on the wider health agenda identified by the Marmot report. It was the first fire service in the country to be endorsed by Sir Michael Marmot for tackling health inequalities through its prevention and community safety work
- WMFS’s approach to equality encompasses inclusion and cohesion as well as equality and diversity to produce its acronym DICE. Within the Service equality and diversity sits at the heart of all it is seeking to achieve for its diverse communities in terms of prevention, protection and response. As a result it has a strong business case for its work in the community and for establishing and maintaining a diverse workforce.
A number of areas for improvement were identified for consideration and are currently being reviewed with the intention of integrating these into the service’s existing planning and performance frameworks.