Kent FRS first in UK to receive formal recognition for incident debriefs

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (Kent FRS) has become the first UK fire and rescue service to receive professional recognition for its extensive incident debrief process.

As part of its commitment to continuously learn and improve, the service has made significant and pioneering changes to its formal debrief process, making it more thorough and inclusive of all departments involved in an incident from the first 999 call – both operational and non-operational personnel.

In light of the improvements, the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) has awarded KFRS with formal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) recognition for future operational debriefs.

This is the first time the IFE has recognised a UK fire and rescue service’s debrief process as an official CPD exercise.

The changes and implementation of a formal debrief process were introduced following an internal audit in 2017, which prompted KFRS to review its learning process following an incident, starting from the beginning and ascertaining what would trigger a formal debrief of an incident.

James Rutherford, Operational Assurance Manager, said, “Previously, a debrief would only be held if four or more fire engines attended an incident, however this would potentially exclude other serious incidents with less attendance but still warranted a full debrief.”

With this is mind, KFRS introduced the three-tier critical incident system, which categorises the seriousness of the incident on the outcome for the customer, rather than the attendance. Now, all critical incidents, regardless of the tier, are debriefed.

Another unprecedented change was to include all departments involved in the incident, such as control, health and safety, media, building safety, post-incident care and of course, crews.

“It was the first time the initial 999 call had become part of a debrief process,” James added. “By involving everyone who played a part in an incident, it allows us to discuss, challenge and ultimately improve our tactics.

“A debrief is a place to learn and ensure we continue to deliver the best possible outcome to the customer.”

Vicki Ball, Head of Education at the IFE, said, “As the professional institution for those operating in the fire sector, the IFE is committed to supporting and recognising the continuing professional development available through relevant learning opportunities.

“The award of CPD hours for those participating in operational debriefs recognises the importance of operational debriefs as a way for individuals to increase their understanding and to develop their personal skills in recognising areas for improvement for both themselves and their organisation.

“This is the first time that operational debriefs have been recognised in this way and IFE has welcomed the opportunity to work with KFRS in this important area of work.”

For KFRS staff who attend debriefs that run for a minimum of two-and-a-half-hours, they receive an official IFE certificate to acknowledge the time committed has been recognised as CPD time, which is required to maintain IFE membership.

Since the first formal debrief took place in February 2018, the team has now delivered over 100 debriefs, with more than 1375 attendees. And, as a result, in excess of 1000 actions have been implemented and over 600 operational changes introduced.

To date, 14 other fire and rescue services have adopted the debrief processes designed by KFRS.