Agenda item

Draft IRMP 2021-24

To consider Report CFO/009/21 of the Chief Fire Officer, concerning the release of the draft Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) 2021-24 for a period of 12 weeks’ consultation prior to adoption and implementation, whilst noting that the proposals outlined within the IRMP may change to reflect the views expressed during the consultation process.



Members considered Report CFO/009/21 of the Chief Fire Officer, concerning the release of the draft Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) 2021-24 for a period of 12 weeks’ consultation prior to adoption and implementation, whilst noting that the proposals outlined within the IRMP may change to reflect the views expressed during the consultation process.


Members were provided with a detailed presentation, highlighting the key areas contained within the Draft IRMP.


Members were advised that the Draft IRMP seeks to ensure the disposition of MFRA resources, based on risk, demand and vulnerability. In terms of key headlines, they were advised that it aims to increase the number of fire appliances available, maintain the number of firefighters and slightly improve Protection based on current funding levels. Members were advised however, that the funding for Protection, has been in year funding received, which the Authority are trying to extend via lobbying,


Members were informed that the plans aim to increase resilience on the basis of more appliances and more retained provision, which will also improve performance. They also propose enhancing specialist capabilities, through the creation of specialist teams; and enhancing firefighter safety, on the basis of a new training facility, which will enable our staff to train effectively against all foreseeable risk.


It was highlighted to Members that as part of the interim IRMP in 2019, the Authority sought to re-invest in the frontline; and since then, MFRA has seen a significant improvement in its ability to respond to incidents. They were advised this this proposed IRMP, seeks to build upon that.


Members were assured that despite a challenging financial position, the proposals are based on sound budget planning and arrangements.


Members were advised that the Interim IRMP 2019/21 changed the 2017-20 IRMP quite significantly, with the aim of improving the operational response capability, based on foreseeability of risk. It was confirmed that the draft IRMP 2021-24, will enhance that further. Ultimately, this means that over the course of the 2014 – 2024 IRMP period, appliance availability will have increased from 26, to 30 (29+1), to 32 (31+1).


It was highlighted to Members that the proposals are based on risk, taking into consideration national security risks, as well as community risks and how we manage them locally. Members were informed that this identified a number of high impact areas, such as our ability to respond to terrorist incidents, wildfires, marine incidents, flooding, large fires akin to Grenfell; and fires in waste disposal sites. They were informed that such risks have been built into the plan, given the impact that they have on our resources, but also the impact that they have on our communities.

It was also advised that these risks have been built into the 30 fire appliance model, which will enable MFRA to respond to any large, protracted incidents, whilst also being able to continue to respond to life risk across the whole of Merseyside.


Members were informed that other consideration when forming the IRMP, are around demand and vulnerability, which links to the key station methodology captured within the IRMP. Members were advised that this takes account of the fact that we would want to get to vulnerable people, anywhere across Merseyside, but equally, acknowledges that we would want to deploy resources based on demand, recognising that demand follows deprivation.


It was re-iterated to Members that the draft IRMP takes account of risk, demand and vulnerability, in the utilisation and mobilisation of our resources.


The presentation went on to highlight that demand also fluctuates, with the service being twice as busy during the day than at night. As such, it was highlighted to Members that there are more fire appliances available during the day than at night, which also means that the service can be more productive in some of the additional work we undertake as a wholetime FRS, such as the prevention work undertaken by our operational crews.


Members were shown a map of Merseyside, highlighting where the IRMP proposes to allocate resources. Members attention was drawn to the reference to a Long Lane site, which is within the Aintree area; and an increase in resources around the Kirkdale station area.

Members were informed that the proposals within the IRMP, aim to introduce a hybrid system at Kirkdale; as well as merging Aintree and Croxteth stations, at the Long Lane site, to create a “Super Station”. They were advised that the Long Lane site, will be a hybrid specialist rescue station, along with a new training facility, subject to planning approval and public consultation.

Members were also informed of the proposal to combine duty systems at Liverpool City and Kensington, to create a “dual hybrid”, incorporating specialist capabilities, a specialist command and control function; and also improving the combined platform ladder (CPL) capability, moving from a 34m ladder, to a 46m ladder.


Further proposals highlighted to Members, were the provision of a “Stinger” type appliance at St. Helens, which has the capability to act as a water tower, as well as the added capability of a lance to punch through tin buildings. Members were advised that this capability would be particularly useful for some sites that we may respond to, as it will enable us to reach spaces that we would ordinarily not be able to reach, without putting firefighters into the risk area. They were informed that this appliance would be staffed on a day crewed, retained basis, meaning it will be more immediately available than previously.


Members were advised that the proposals also seek to create specialist capabilities at a number of stations, which will enhance the skills, competencies and understand of staff based at those locations.

They were informed that Liverpool City would become a specialist Command and Control station; Wallasey - a specialist Marine and Ships firefighting station; St. Helens - a Hazardous materials stations; Long Lane - a specialist Search and Rescue station; Kirkdale – a specialist Terrorist and Flood station; Belle Vale – would host a high volume pump on a wholetime basis, to be deployed both within and outside of Merseyside; and Heswall and Formby fire stations, would have a specialist Wildfire capability with an all-terrain vehicle.  

It was confirmed to Members that such distribution of resources, would enable MFRA to manage all foreseeable risk as previously identified, across the whole of Merseyside, as well as enhancing the skills and competencies of staff, which is something they are very keen to engage with.


Further information was then provided to Members around the proposals for a new Training & Development Academy (TDA), which would be a significant commitment from the Authority, but recognising that current arrangements are less fit for purpose now than they were previously. The proposals also recognise the aspiration to provide the best possible training facility for our staff to train against foreseeable risk.

Members were advised that the new TDA, would also improve the secondary fire control room, which is important given our Lead Authority status with the Home Office. They were also informed of dialogue with the Home Office, around potential support with capital funding to support the build of the new facility. However, it was confirmed that despite the outcome of those discussions, a new training facility is part of the plan for 2021-24.

Members were informed that the proposals around the new TDA have been very well received by staff, in some of the initial engagement, recognising the fact that it will be a fantastic facility, as well as providing a new fire station.


It was confirmed to Members that the Long Lane site, is equidistant between the current Aintree and Croxteth stations. They were informed that the current Croxteth site is around 5 acres, whilst the Long Lane site is approximately 12 acres. It was highlighted that this will enable the provision of training that would not normally be possible, for example it will allow for a mock high rise building to be included, which firefighters can use to train around foreseeability, managing the risk, and their safety.


It was also highlighted, that importantly, the new proposed site is based on improved performance. Members were advised that Process Evolution simulation software, has been utilised, which reviews where we were and applies changes we are looking to make. They were advised that this enables us to see where we were going to be in 2020, compared to where we are intending to be for our IRMP 2021-24. Members attention was drawn to a slide, highlighting overall performance and response times. They were informed that the new site is predicted to improve response times by 17 seconds, which is significant in life risk situations.

It was noted that performance has improved each time the IRMP has been refreshed; and that actual performance is quicker still than the times predicted.


Members were also informed that the aerial appliances will be based at Liverpool City, given the high rise risk in the City Centre; and at Southport and Saughall Massie, which will be complementary crewed. They were advised that the intention is to move away from complementary crewing, however that decision is financially driven as it stands.


Members were also informed of the addition of a drone capability over the period of the IRMP, which the Protection Team will run, manage and fly. They were informed that the rationale for the provision of a drone is 2 fold – to assist with firefighting, but also to assist with the auditing of buildings. It was highlighted that the use of a drone in high rise buildings, would enable access to parts of buildings that wouldn’t normally be able to be accessed for Protection audit responsibilities.


With regards to innovation, Members were informed of proposals to create a none-established 32nd fire appliance, for a 12-month period, in recognition that when we move to specialist capabilities, there will be a greater requirement on training, in order to ensure staff are at the necessary standard. Therefore, the 32nd appliance, will be used to backfill for training. They were also informed that this additional appliance will be used to explore different duty systems, in recognition of the fact that we have new entrants to the service, who may have childcare responsibilities, as well as older firefighters, who may have parental and carer responsibilities. It was highlighted that this appliance will be utilised to see if there is a duty system, which will enable us to do something a bit different around managing our organisational responsibilities around response, whilst also managing the aspirations of our staff.


With regards to the proposals around Protection, Members were advised that the number of Protection staff will be increased by 8, 4 of which are likely to be operational staff. However, it was re-iterated that this will be a temporary arrangement whilst government lobbying continues, in an effort to maintain the additional funding provided to MFRA, following the Grenfell Tower enquiry recommendations, to enhance our risk based inspection programme. Members were advised that a positive response had been received from Government, however the posts cannot be filled on a permanent basis, until continued funding is confirmed. As such, it was confirmed to Members that there will be a temporary increase in Protection staff, to enable us to discharge our responsibilities in relation to our risk based inspection programme and Grenfell Tower enquiry recommendations.


In relation to the Prevention proposals, Members were informed that these are not dissimilar to those previously proposed; and it was confirmed that MFRA have been very effective in driving down fire deaths across Merseyside. However, it was highlighted to Members that there has recently been another fire death, bringing the total for this year to 7. It was also highlighted that all of those fire deaths have occurred during a period of lockdown, which is of concern; and it was noted that MFRA have been unable to be as proactive within its communities, as it would like, due to the Covid restrictions. It was confirmed to Members that the intention is to get back into our communities as soon as possible, continuing to target those aged over 65, whilst also recognising that some of the communities in Merseyside are more deprived than in other parts of the country; and that poverty also plays a part in terms of vulnerability and risk. As such, MFRA will seek to address this by providing intervention in our communities, to protect them in the long term.


With regards to Preparedness, Members were advised that we will be seeking to extend our cross-border training; and extend and build on support provided to NWAS. It was noted that Emergency Medical Response (EMR), was contained within our previous plan; and it was confirmed that this would be carried over to the 2021-24 IRMP. Members were also informed that consideration will be given to the fluctuating demand placed on NWAS, particularly over the course of this plan, and MFRA will aim to adopt a practice that supports them, enabling us to step when required and step away when demand reduces. They were also advised that a comprehensive training and exercising programme, against all foreseeable risk, with commence.

In addition, Members were advised that dynamic staffing in Fire Control, will also be considered, akin to that adopted at hybrid stations. They were informed that this would provide staff with more flexibility, as well as more opportunities to develop. It was highlighted that within Fire Control at present, progression stops at Watch Manager level, and it would be beneficial for staff within Fire Control to progress further and develop beyond the control room, across the organisation more broadly, given the skills and competencies they hold.


In relation to National Resilience, Members attention was drawn to MFRA’s relationship with Home Office and aspiration to create a Centre of Excellence for National Resilience, at the new TDA site. It was highlighted that should this come to fruition, it will enable MFRA to drive training and coordinate more effectively, whilst also enhancing the secondary control room.


It was confirmed to Members that should the recommendations be approved, the proposed IRMP will go out for public consultation, for a period of 12 weeks, with the public being encouraged to fully engage in the process.


Members commented that the proposals contained within the Draft IRMP 2021-24, were very positive and exciting.


Comments were made regarding MFRA’s preventative work outside of the Covid pandemic, in supporting NHS colleagues through the promotion of Bowel Cancer screening and flu vaccinations.


A question was raised regarding the percentage of female firefighters. It was commented that whilst it was heartening to see that MFRA were performing well in this regard, they were not doing as well as Gloucestershire FRS, who have 15% of female firefighters, which is well above the national average. It was suggested that contact be made with Gloucestershire, to see how they recruit and if we could learn from their processes. 

It was confirmed to Members that this would be undertaken. It was noted that Gloucestershire have a number of retained firefighters, which may have some bearing on the figure, however that being said, there are a raft of FRS’s with large numbers of retained firefighters, therefore Gloucestershire must be doing something right. It was also commented that MFRA are better all round for having more female firefighters.


Members also commented on the format and language used within the document, which they applauded for being so easy to read and understand.


A further question was raised around the Long Lane site proposals and the secondary control room being incorporated within that site. It was commented that the Long Lane site will be quite close to the main control room; and that although Members could see the benefits of that in terms of transferring staff over, there could be potential risks in terms of any incident rendering Fire Control unusable, also affecting the Long Lane site.


Members were advised that as things stand at present, the secondary control room is contained within our existing Croxteth TDA site, which would be moved to the Long Lane site in the proposals. It was also commented that the facilities currently being utilised as a secondary control room, is quite limited, which has been highlighted by the pandemic. As such, it was explained to Members that when discussions commence with the Home Office, there is an opportunity to enhance those facilities and create a more bespoke space for our control room to fall back to.

Members were assured that all of those factors in terms of risks and business continuity, would be considered fully; and they were also assured that MFRA do have buddy arrangements with other FRS’s, should such issues ever occur.


A further question was raised around the take up of Covid vaccinations; and whether MFRA could potentially assist in this regard.

Members were informed that this could be facilitated. Reference was made to the response provided by MFRA in the Sefton area around surge testing; and how a response had recently been received, thanking MFRA for its contribution and confirming that out of the test kits distributed, 89% had been completed and returned, which was unprecedented. Therefore, it was confirmed that MFRA staff could assist by providing extra support and advice around vaccines.

Members were also informed of planned work with the BAME network, around encouraging take up of vaccinations within BAME communities, acting as positive role models and hopefully easing and addressing people’s trepidation.


Members Resolved that:


a)    The draft Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) 2021-24 attached at Appendix 1, be approved subject to a period of 12 weeks’ consultation prior to final approval, publication and implementation.


b)    A designed version of the draft IRMP, be published for consultation purposes. 








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