Our Approach to Managing Risk in Berkshire
Our analysis of community risk helps us understand the range of foreseeable Fire and Rescue Service related risks and their potential impact on the communities we serve. This analysis of risk can be found in our CRMP Evidence Base document.
We will use our ISDS to identify the most appropriate intervention for incidents. Our first principle is that we want to stop emergencies happening whenever we can. Our prevention and education activities are the most effective way to achieve this. We also use our duty to enforce fire safety law to reduce the chances of fires starting and, if there is a fire, effective fire protection measures should be in place to ensure people escape quickly and safely.
Unfortunately we will never be able to prevent all emergencies. When they happen we respond swiftly and professionally to resolve the situation and support the restoration of normality.
We have identified that the following hazards represent the greatest risk to communities in Berkshire. This section of the CRMP explains our existing activities and outlines areas where we think we can do more to reduce the impact.
Fires in the home
Fires in the home are one of the biggest concerns for our communities. In 2021-22, 334 people died in accidental dwelling fire in Great Britain. Over the past 6 years in Berkshire there have been 9 fatalities and 167 non-fatal casualties in dwelling fires. Even when there are no casualties, the impact of a fire on the lives of those involved can be catastrophic.
- Schools education programme including teacher resources
- Fire cadets
- Adults at risk programme
- Safe spaces initiative
- Partner referral Safe and Well visits (SAW)
- Provision of assistive fire safety technologies to the most vulnerable
- Community visits and provision of meeting rooms
- Preventing fire-setting behaviours amongst children
- Arson prevention advice
- Fire safety advice in languages other than English
- Joint inspections of high-risk dwellings, such as high-risk multi-occupancy
- Hub based integrated delivery model
- We provide training and equipment for firefighters to respond to incidents in the home
Our evidence suggests that we can do more to target those at greatest risk from dwelling fires. We will address this by using our understanding of risk to better inform how we approach prevention. We propose that a Risk Based Prevention Programme will help us to identify and work with those at the greatest risk from fires in the home.
We will also strive to target our resources to risk more effectively and increase resource availability to ensure we use the most appropriate interventions within our integrated service delivery strategy. For example increasing our efficiency in fighting fires in the open will allow us to maintain higher levels of fire appliance availability for dwelling fires. The integrated approach will allow RBFRS to adapt to change in the community, both in the built environment and in demographic shifts such as the increasing density of dwellings in town centres and Berkshire’s growing population changing the risk RBFRS must manage.
Fires in other premises
Fires in buildings which are not dwellings, present a significant risk to our communities. Examples of these higher risk properties include places where people sleep, hospitals, hotels and residential care homes. In addition to life risk, buildings often have cultural, economic or heritage value that is worthy of protection. Reducing loss and harm caused by fires in these buildings represents a significant objective for RBFRS.
- Our Risk Based Inspection Programme (RBIP) helps us enforce fire safety law in premises which are at risk from fire and where risk to life is greatest. A consequence of our intervention is to reduce potential financial loss and protect economic wellbeing. The RBIP has been developed in line with the principles of better regulation as set out in the Statutory Code of Compliance for Regulators, and the Enforcement Concordat
- Undertake proactive and reactive fire safety audits including short audits where appropriate.
- Enforcement of the Fire Safety Order, including using our powers to prosecute where necessary.
- We provide operational intelligence, training and equipment for firefighters to respond to incidents in these buildings.
- Firefighters carry out site visits to familiarise themselves with the premises in case there is an incident.
The Unitary Authority development plans in Berkshire indicate a drive to build new homes. We will monitor both strategic housing developments and construction methods to ensure our activities match new and emerging risk in the built environment. We will also need to continuously develop our response model to mitigate the risks within the county. This will help us to ensure our fire appliances, specialist vehicles and staff are best placed to respond to incidents.
We will evolve our Risk Based Inspection Programme to ensure we are targeting those premises that represent the greatest risk and that we are making the best use of our inspecting officers’ skills to regulate where they are most needed.
In order to improve our efficiency we will work with businesses to reduce the impact of unwanted fire alarms to drive down the need for our operational crews to attend these types of incidents. We will provide training and development to our operational crews to help educate businesses about their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order 2005 in lower risk, simple premises. This will assist us in the delivery of our statutory duties and improve safety outcomes.
Tall buildings include residential flats, hotels, institutions, hospitals, commercial offices and mixed occupancy buildings. Due to the complex nature of these types of buildings, fires in tall buildings are difficult and require a lot of resources.
- We provide advice and guidance to residents and regulate where appropriate.
- Our Risk Based Inspection Programme helps us to ensure that fire safety precautions are in place and adequate.
- Firefighters carry out site visits to familiarise themselves with premises in case there is an incident.
- Partner referral Safe and Well visits.
- We provide operational intelligence including electronic premises information plates, training and equipment for firefighters to respond to incidents in these buildings.
- Since the Grenfell tragedy, we have been engaged at a national level, to improve information sharing and learning.
- We remain up to date with the latest developments and legislation to ensure we provide the most appropriate response to fires in tall buildings
Many of our objectives for managing risk in tall buildings are shared with our approach to fires in other premises. Developing our response model, our Risk Based Inspection Programme and monitoring change in the built environment will help us to reduce risk. In addition to this work our proposed Risk Based Prevention Programme will help us to identify tall buildings in areas of higher fire risk and develop suitable interventions.
Road traffic collisions
Incidents on our roads have a tragic impact on communities and lives in Berkshire. On average over the last decade someone is killed or seriously injured every 16 minutes on UK roads. During our CRMP analysis period there have been 91 fatalities and 954 serious injuries (not including pedestrians) in road traffic collisions in Berkshire. These incidents represent a significant risk.
- We carry out road safety education in schools for 11–15 year-olds;
- We participate in the delivery of Safe Drive Stay Alive to young adults who are at risk road users;
- Collaborative delivery of Biker Down workshops for motorcyclists;
- We provide training and equipment for crews to deal with these types of incidents; and
- We provide a heavy recue vehicle to support crews at incidents.
We propose that a Risk Based Prevention Programme will help us to identify and work with at-risk road users. This programme will also support collaborative road safety initiatives. Development of our response model will take account of the need to mitigate the risk to road users, recognizing that road traffic collisions are dispersed across Berkshire. We will ensure our response model takes account of changing road use, for example the implementation of smart motorways and the increase in use of battery powered electric vehicles. This work will help us to protect the community and ensure firefighters have safe systems of work in place.
Fires in the Open
Incidents involving fires in the open range from large wildfires, as we saw in the summer of 2022, to field fires involving farm land and small fires in the open such as trees, refuse and vehicles. In Berkshire they primarily cause harm to the environment and property. During hot weather multiple fires in the open happening at the same time reduces our capacity to respond to other emergencies.
- We work with landowners and educate members of the public to reduce the number of fires in the open.
- We work with Community Safety Partnerships to reduce antisocial behaviour and fire setting.
- Training and equipment for crews to deal with these types of incidents.
- Provision of specialist vehicles including high volume pumping equipment, water carrier and 4×4 vehicles to support crews at incidents.
We have identified a need to develop a comprehensive response to the impact of climate change. Although the effect of human activities on climate will continue to be felt well beyond the life of this CRMP, it is important that we put mechanisms in place now to adapt the services we deliver. This includes provision of equipment and training in wildfire tactics, gathering suitable operational risk information, developing tactical plans and adapting our response model. This work will support the ongoing development of safe systems of work for our staff. We must ensure we can provide resilience in the face of the increased likelihood of spate conditions from spring through summer when fires in the open are more likely.
We will include fires in the open and wildfires in our Risk Based Prevention Programme, building on evidence gathered during this CRMP, to identify the communities at most risk. We will develop operational risk information and tactical plans relating to wildfire risk in Berkshire. We will also develop our operational crewing model to improve our ability to respond to risk across Berkshire, recognising the differing levels of community risk.
Water incidents – flooding and rescues from water
RBFRS attends a variety of water related incidents. These can be due to flooding caused by sudden rainfall or rising water levels in our water courses. These incidents can have an impact over wide areas of Berkshire or may be localised (for example, flooding caused by burst water mains). We also attend water rescue incidents, where a person or animal has become stranded in a body of water. Although we undertake this work, it is not a statutory duty and we receive no funding for water incidents.
- We deliver water safety education to 11–15 year-olds.
- We train for and provide equipment to crews to deal with these types of incidents.
- Provision of specialist vehicles including high volume pumping equipment and 4×4 vehicles to support crews at incidents.
- We utilise a water rescue unit, to support rescues from large scale flooding incidents
- Work with partners on the Thames path, to provide advice on the best location for life rings and emergency information.
We will develop our prevention activities and response model to reduce the impact of flooding both to the Service and the people of Berkshire. We will use our data and local knowledge to lead our prevention activities. Implementing a Risk Based Prevention Programme will help us identify water risk in the community, improve equality of access to our services by targeting our prevention resources to those at most risk, and ensure that we use our resources in the most efficient and effective way. We will identify those that are at most risk from water incidents and build on our current prevention activities.
We will work collaboratively with partners who have a statutory duty to manage water risk to support the improvement of community outcomes. We will engage with these partners to develop the most effective approach to resolving incidents that currently are not part of our statutory duties. We will do this through our targeted prevention activities and, if required, our emergency response model. These changes will support us to use capacity to deliver our other priorities
Major Incidents and high risk premises
Major incidents are those incidents which greatly disrupt our ability to provide our services and require a level of resourcing beyond our normal planning assumptions. They happen infrequently and usually require RBFRS to request support from other agencies. Major incidents can happen in any part of Berkshire.
We have also identified a number of high risk premises in Berkshire that, if involved in fire, present a significant risk to the occupants or to the wider community.
- Partnership working with other agencies to develop plans and training to be able to deal with such incidents.
- Active membership of Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum.
- Collaborative input to Thames Valley Community Risk Register
- Carry out site specific risk inspections and familiarisation visits to understand the risk presented by these types of premises
We will ensure our service delivery model is resourced as efficiently as possible to meet fluctuating levels of demand to provide a resilient service. We want to continue to deliver good value for money and to provide our services as efficiently as possible.
We will aim to crew all 19 of our frontline appliances, whenever possible, to maximise our resilience. As a baseline service provision (where it is not possible to crew all 19 appliances) we will provide a minimum service of 14 frontline fire appliances. To ensure this baseline provision we will work to improve the availability of our on-call crews.
Other incident types
There are a number of other types of incident that are infrequent but may result in a major impact to communities. These include rail and air incidents, building collapse, terrorism and hazardous materials.
- Mutual aid agreements with each of our neighbouring Fire and Rescue Services.
- Access to specialist equipment and trained personnel both in Service and from the wider UK Fire and Rescue Service community.
- Long standing national resilience arrangements that allow us to scale our emergency response to meet the demands of complex or protracted incidents.
- Provision of a national resilience specialist capability within Berkshire.
We will ensure that we embed our process of monitoring local, regional and national resilience issues through an ongoing horizon scanning process and an annual review of risk.
Automatic Fire Alarms (AFA)
False alarms caused by automatic systems continues to be a real problem for businesses and RBFRS. Over a 5 year period, on average, RBFRS was called to 2937 automatic fire alarm activations each year. We do not send a response to approximately a quarter of these calls.
This is an unacceptably high level and it is diverting the service from more impactful work that could be carried out to better reduce community risk.
Only 1% of automatic fire alarm activations are actually fires. They represent a drain on our resources, reducing our fire cover and our ability to carry out essential activities such as training, risk information gathering, fire safety education and prevention activity.
- Call challenge (checking whether people at the building have confirmed if there is a fire) carried out by Thames Valley Fire Control.
- AFA reduction activities carried out by Protection Officers.
We will continue to seek ways to reduce this burden while ensuring we provide a response to high-risk premises such as dwellings, hotels, care homes and hospitals.
We will further develop our work with businesses to reduce the impact of unwanted fire alarm calls. It is our intention to reduce these as far as possible. We will develop our operational crews to educate businesses about their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order 2005 in lower risk premises to help with this goal. Avoiding the unnecessary diversion of our resources will help us use our valuable people and assets in the most effective way to reduce risk through prevention and ensure we are maximising the time for operational training and risk intelligence gathering.