Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) is ‘inadequate’ at responding to emergencies, a new report has found. According to the report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), AF&RS’s method of dispatching firefighters and fire engines ‘isn’t reliable and crashes during 999 calls.’
Furthermore, the report says AF&RS lacks an effective system to maintain up-to-date risk information on high-risk, high-rise buildings.
Citing one example, Inspector Wendy Williams said,
“Concerningly, we were told by firefighters that on one occasion when they were reviewing the risk information on their way to an incident, a completely different building was displayed that had no relevance to the incident they were attending.”
Out of the 11 criteria inspected, AF&RS was deemed ‘inadequate’ – the lowest rating possible – on four: understanding fire and risk, preventing fire and risk, responding to fires and emergencies, and promoting values and culture. Five other areas that AF&RS was assessed on ‘require improvement’, while two were judged to be ‘adequate’.
As a result of the report, AF&RS has been moved into an enhanced level of monitoring.
Responding to the HMICFRS report, AF&RS Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Simon Shilton said,“There can be no denying that His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ inspection report into the Service makes for uncomfortable reading. That said, as a Service we welcome the challenge and support to ensure we are the best Service we can be, however, I’m sorry if local people feel let down.
“I accept these are the Inspectorate’s findings, and I want to reassure our local communities we have already put plans in place to address some of the concerns raised. It is disappointing, despite the hard work undertaken by our staff to deliver the best possible service to our communities, it’s clear the pace of change has not been sufficient against the challenging financial and political backdrop we’ve faced this past year.
“There is more to be done to tackle and improve on the areas highlighted going forward, particularly in relation to our provision of risk critical information and in creating a more inclusive culture. However, I feel strongly that the findings do not represent who we are as a Service and what I know the dedicated staff I work alongside daily, strive for the Service to be.”
Avon Fire Service in ‘state of crisis’ says FBU
Reacting to the HMICFRS report’s findings, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) issued a statement outlining the significant impact of resource cuts on the service.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said, “This alarming report paints a picture of a dysfunctional and mismanaged fire service. Deep cuts to resources have left Avon fire and rescue in a state of crisis. It is shocking that a modern fire service has been rated ‘inadequate’ at responding to and preventing fires, and the reports findings on discriminatory conduct in the service is equally concerning.
“Firefighters work incredibly hard under difficult circumstances to keep their communities safe. Avon fire authority’s latest decision to axe 40 firefighter posts threatens to push an overstretched service beyond breaking point. The FBU stands with our members and the public in the fight against these dangerous cuts.”
The recommendations outlined in the HMICFRS inspection report have formed the basis of an action plan for AF&RS and progress on their implementation will be publicly shared via the service’s website – www.avonfire.gov.uk.