Emerging trends from the HMICFRS Fire Inspections 2019

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of the police forces and fire & rescue services, having recently taken responsibility for the 45 fire and rescue services in England.

Roy Wilsher explores how fire will be inspected under the new HMICFRS arrangements and how the NFCC will support that process, linking in with standards work as well.

When looking at fire service inspections, they focus on 3 areas:

  1. Effectiveness: How effective is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

  2. Efficiency: How efficient is the fire and rescue service at keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks?

  3. People: How well does the fire and rescue service look after its people?

Now that the first round of fire inspections is underway – with 14 services having now completed – we’ve drawn up a summary of the key results and identified some emerging trends across the sector based on the first summary of HMFRS findings in each of these 3 areas.

The full report and individual fire service reports can be found here, but for now let’s look at some of the key trends.


This pillar consists of five questions which cover understanding risk, preventing fires, protection through regulation, responding to fires and other emergencies and preparing to respond to national incidents.


HMICFRS find that most fire and rescue services are effective at keeping people safe from fire and other emergencies. While some services could handle site risk information better, we’re seeing the positive trend that most have a good understanding of local risk.

The key trends identified in this area are:

  • Community engagement | An area for growth, further public engagement is known to improve public expectations and understanding of risk and the role of the service.  

  • Response | The majority of inspected fire services arrived quickly when needed with skilled and trained firefighters who do their best to help people and most fire and rescue services are ready for large-scale incidents – including flooding or terrorist attacks. Most services have good access to risk information held by neighbouring services. This would help them to work safely in the event of a national risk.

  • Collaboration | Widespread collaboration across fire and rescue services and with other public-sector organisations is emerging, from sharing buildings to fully collaborative functions such as shared control rooms.

Fire and rescue services are using collaboration as an opportunity to reduce costs and improve services to the public. The North West Fire Control centre – an arrangement that serves four services and is overseen by the relevant local authorities – has led to improved mobilisation of fire engines. This helps make sure the public gets the engine that will arrive quickest, regardless of county boundaries.

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This pillar consists of two questions:

  1. How well the service uses resources to manage risks; and

  2. How well the service is using resources to ensure the service it provides is affordable now and in the future.

The key trends identified in this area are:

  • Budgets | Reducing budgets and austerity is widespread and can require services to find new revenue streams to continue delivering.

  • New revenues | Vehicle maintenance, training services and CCTV monitoring are becoming entrepreneurial ways for fire services to increase income.

  • Outdated systems | Technology is emerging as an important future consideration across the fire and rescue sector and one that can be supported with the latest innovations on the market.



The third pillar against which HMICFRS inspected is how well the service looks after its people. This includes how well they train, manage, treat and support the people who work for them.

  • Culture, wellbeing & diversity | Positive culture and access to wellbeing resources is an emerging priority for fire and rescue services, as well as fairness and diversity.

  • Identifying future talent | We’re seeing a need across the sector to proactively identify future leaders and develop this talent. In January 2019 the NFCC launched its new national Inspiring Leadership Framework, which aims to support and develop fire and rescue service leaders now and in the future. This is part of NFCC’s People Programme, which focuses on the Home Office reform agenda, the introduction of the HMICFRS and the development of professional standards.

What’s next?

HMICFRS will report on the next tranche of 16 fire and rescue service inspections, alongside an additional overview report, in June 2019.

How we support fire and rescue…

We’re passionate about supporting the fire and rescue sector in delivering results using technology.

If you’d like to meet us to find out more, we’ll be at the NFCC Spring Conference in April 2019 as Gold sponsor of the event.

To speak with us before then, just send us an email or call us on 01482 808300.