Assistant Editor, IFSEC Global & SHP

May 31, 2022

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The Video Surveillance Report 2022

Fire and rescue

New plans for fire and rescue service reform introduced by Home Secretary

The government has announced new reforms for fire safety led by the Home Office, with recommendations from the Grenfell Inquiry being put into law, as well as launching a consultation to introduce “system-wide reform” to strengthen the fire and rescue services in England.

In a new whitepaper for the consultation, the government has set out its vision for new regulations being put in place, designed to improve the fire and rescue services along with changes following the Grenfell fire and new measures to ensure people are safe in their homes and work.

Firefighters-Charity-20The Home Secretary and the Minister of State for Building Safety and Fire visited Old Kent Road fire station in London on 18 May to announce the upcoming changes. At the event, the Home Secretary said: “The government’s priority is keeping the public safe and the reforms we’ve set out today will strengthen and support our hard-working fire and rescue services.”

One of the changes include the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021, which will look to improve assessment of fire safety risks for all blocks of flats, and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, which will help people feel safe at home, according to the Home Office.

The whitepaper plans to:

  • Increase public safety
  • Improve accountability
  • Enable better engagement with the public

Reform aims to build on three key areas – People, Professionalism and Governance. Proposals will seek to allow fire professionals to further develop skills and provide better clarification of the role of fire and rescue services. In relation to professionalism, the proposals will “seek to modernise the fire and rescue service”, by moving from a Fire Standards Board to the creation of a College of Fire and Rescue.

Meanwhile proposals related to governance will seek to transfer fire functions to a single, elected individual who would hope their operationally independent Chief Fire Officer to account, compared to a committee structure that is in place in 38 out of the 44 fire and rescue authorities at present.

Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said:

“I am delighted to introduce this comprehensive reform plan for our fire and rescue services and improvements to fire safety.

“The Grenfell Inquiry and independent inspections show reform is needed and we are tackling issues head on with this whitepaper.

“Fire professionals step up to protect and serve their communities and it is only right that they have the right tools to do their jobs effectively.

“There has been a legacy of reform to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and culture of fire and rescues services over recent years, such as increased focus on and funding for fire protection and helping services across England to respond to the lessons highlighted by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

Reform currently in process

Additionally, the government has launched a new consultation on its alternative proposal to Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans, which are designed to support the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.

This new proposal by the government, instead known as “Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing”, would require Responsible Persons (those in charge of fire safety in their building,) to assess the needs of vulnerable residents and consider what can be done to mitigate any risks to fire safety.

Fire and Rescue Services will also be provided with up-to-date information on where these residents live within the building – to further assist and effect the evacuation of these residents.

London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Andy Roe, said: “The new legislation gives fire and rescue services much-needed clarity to take enforcement action against building owners and managers who are not meeting their responsibilities on external areas of buildings, such as cladding and balconies.

“We have already warned London’s building owners and managers that this was coming and we will use these news powers if they aren’t meeting their legal responsibilities so we are again reiterating our calls that they need to take urgent action to fix their buildings if there are serious failings.

“Now the provisions in the Fire Safety Act have come into force, we will be working with NFCC and government to look at how we can best move forward in a way that is consistent across the country and enables us to enforce as quickly as possible against those that continue to drag their feet.

“We still need to see a culture change in the industry when it comes to fire safety in residential buildings. It is extremely concerning that the number of buildings with serious fire safety failings has been at more than 1,000 for almost a year.”

The London Fire Brigade has welcomed  the government’s commencement of the Fire Safety Act and has stated it will respond to the new consultation on PEEPs and fire reform.

The inquiry into the Grenfell Fire, in which 72 people died, has recommended 46 changes to the fire safety policy – although this inquiry is still ongoing. According to the Home Office, 21 of the 46 have so far been incorporated into law.

 

Fire Safety in 2021 eBook – Is the industry ready to embrace systemic change?

Download the Fire Safety in 2021 eBook, as IFSEC Global and FIREX International keep you up to date with the biggest stories of the year, including new legislation, a round-up of the biggest news stories, and articles on third-party certification and the role of digital information software in meeting golden thread principles.

The eBook also features an exclusive foreword from the Fire Industry Association's Ian Moore, and a look at how the sector embraces systemic change in attitudes to risk and safety.

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