Policy

Supporting fire and rescue authorities to reduce the number and impact of fires

Issue

Fire and rescue authorities have a duty in law to promote fire safety and respond to fires and a range of other emergencies.

It’s important that fire and rescue authorities have the right resources to do their job effectively.

We work with them to ensure that standards of service are consistent across the country, while also giving them the freedom to decide how best to provide services locally.

Actions

We provide funding to the fire authorities through the revenue support grant – an annual grant from central government for fire authorities to meet their ongoing expenses. Fire and rescue authorities, working with other organisations in their area, use this funding to:

  • reduce deaths and injuries from fire
  • help people to prevent fires, especially those who are most vulnerable because of old age or disability
  • respond effectively to major national emergencies like severe weather, flooding and terrorist incidents

We set the overall structure of 46 fire authorities in England, and are responsible for the laws they have to work within.

We publish a national framework, which is agreed by Parliament, to explain what we expect fire and rescue authorities to achieve with the government funding they receive. The most recent Fire and rescue national framework was published in July 2012. The framework includes information about what fire and rescue authorities must do to prepare for and respond to national emergencies. However, it does not instruct fire and rescue authorities about local operational matters. We think fire and rescue authorities should work with people, businesses and other organisations to decide how to work effectively in their area.

Fire prevention

We have helped to reduce deaths and injuries and the overall incidence of fire by:

  • running Fire Kills, the national campaign designed to educate people about fire safety to help them prevent fires; Fire Kills has produced a range of fire safety guidance leaflets
  • commissioning research to identify particular groups likely to be at increased risk from fire
  • working with the European Commission to develop a new safety standard for cigarettes so that only those that self-extinguish when not being smoked actively are available for sale

Fire resilience programme

We have:

  • provided digital radios for the fire and rescue service for England, Scotland and Wales
  • provided specialist equipment and training for fire and rescue services to respond effectively to major emergencies and accidents
  • established a new Fire and Rescue Strategic Resilience Board to provide a way for fire authorities and other organisations to plan for disasters

Fire Service College

To give the Fire Service College the flexibility to achieve commercial success, we have sold it to the private sector.

Improving control rooms

We have been working with fire and rescue authorities to improve control rooms.

Background

Fire deaths in the home have halved since the 1980s. Since 2007 the number of accidental fire deaths in the home has stabilised at around 210 per year.

However, fire and rescue authorities face new challenges. They need to be able to deal with the continuing threat of terrorism, the impact of climate change, and the impacts of an ageing population, against the need to cut the national deficit.

It is against this background that we launched the revised national framework.

The previous national framework (2008 to 2011) covered a broad range of activities and responsibilities for fire and rescue authorities including planning for and responding to national emergencies, and fire prevention, protection and response.

In the response to the fire and rescue sector’s Fire Futures report, the government committed to work with fire and rescue authorities to develop and consult on a revised national framework. Our aim was to reset the relationship between central government and fire and rescue authorities to give the authorities more local control over how they operate.

We ran a public consultation on the new national framework. This led to the development of the revised framework, which was laid before Parliament in July 2012.

Who we’ve consulted

We launched a consultation on the future of fire and rescue control rooms in January 2011. The overwhelming response to the consultation was that fire authorities wanted more freedom to decide how to provide services to meet the needs of people in their area.

The public consultation on the new national framework ran from December 2011 to March 2012.

Bills and legislation

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 and the Fire and Rescue Service (Emergencies)(England) Order 2007 give fire and rescue authorities mandatory functions in relation to fire and road traffic accidents and in connection with certain types of emergencies (chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear and urban search and rescue).

Fire and rescue authorities are also ‘category 1 responders’ under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. This means they are subject to the full set of civil protection duties, including:

  • assessing the risk of emergencies happening (ranging from widespread flooding to terrorist attacks) and using this to inform contingency planning
  • ensuring that emergency plans and business continuity management arrangements are in place

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 replaced over 70 pieces of fire safety law. It’s designed to prevent fires in non-domestic premises and protect employees and the public.

We’ve produced guidance on making your premises safe from fire for those seeking advice on how to comply with the provisions of the order - usually employers or owners/occupiers of commercial buildings and those to which the public have access.

We’ve also produced guidance for fire and rescue authorities to help them enforce the Fire Safety Order.

Fire safety advice is also available in:

We also manage the statutory determination of disputes process available under Article 36 of the order. This means that if someone responsible for fire safety in a non-domestic premises disagrees with a fire inspection recommendation of how fire precautions should be technically put in place in the building, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government can decide.

Who we’re working with

There are 46 fire and rescue authorities in England of various size and structure.

Fire and rescue authorities are responsible for providing local fire and rescue services. These include:

  • promoting fire safety and enforcing fire safety regulation
  • fire-fighting
  • national resilience
  • special services, like rescuing people from road traffic accidents

We also work with a number of organisations to develop fire and rescue policy, including the Local Government Association, Chief Fire Officers’ Association, the Fire Brigades Union, the Retained Firefighters Union and the Fire Sector Federation.

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