The shift from national standards of fire cover to integrated risk management planning is probably the single most significant change to affect the Fire and Rescue Service in over 60 years. Not surprisingly, it is also a massive challenge – as well as an opportunity – for the FBU.

In February 2004, after extensive consultation and debate, the FBU Executive Council rose to this new challenge and agreed a National IRMP Strategy for the Union. The strategy, which placed training for officials at its heart, included:

• Establishing a National FBU IRMP Department;

• Appointing an FBU official to the newly created position of FBU National IRMP Advisor;

• Setting up a National FBU IRMP Board;

• Developing and extending the union-wide IRMP training programme for officials.

Initial training

Starting in August 2003, the Union ran twelve 3-day training seminars across the UK. Drawing upon the experience and expertise of officials and external tutors, over 170 FBU officials at all levels of the FBU went through this initial training programme as a first stage to assisting their understanding of the new IRMP process in order that they could confidently respond to it.

The seminars focused on explaining the IRMP process; examining the new approach in detail, but also looked at what the Unions’ strategy and tactics at brigade and station level should be to deliver the optimum mix of prevention, detection and emergency intervention.

Developing our expertise

During 2004, the FBU built on the initial training with a series of extended Regional Committee training seminars for regional and brigade Officials. The seminars looked in detail at the research, which underpins a risk-based approach to fire and rescue service emergency response planning.

Key to the FBU strategy has been equipping officials with the knowledge and expertise to challenge and present alternatives to brigade plans. One of the main roles of the FBU’s National IRMP Department has been to assist officials across the country in exposing the flaws and weaknesses in local IRMPs, particularly their failure to use robust and risk-based data to evidence IRMP proposals. In far too many cases brigades have seen an opportunity to use the “IRMP-tag” to attempt to force through a local cuts agenda, which has little to do with effective community risk reduction.

What now?

The FBU has always argued that responding to the IRMP challenge would require a short, medium and long-term strategy. Over the coming months this will include:

• Continuing to challenge brigades on the content on their plans and presenting viable, safer, alternatives that protect communities and firefighters;

• Liaising with the Health and Safety Executive to expose flaws in brigade approaches to the IRPM process and resultant draft plans;

• Spreading good practice and facilitating the sharing of information across the Union;

• Extending and further developing training of officials on effective emergency response planning, based on the FBU’s Critical Attendance Standard (CAST) planning scenarios;

• Developing FBU CAST planning scenarios to cover a wider range of incidents that the Fire and Rescue Service is now expected to deal with;

• Production of further information on effective risk-based emergency response planning

IRMP national document