Ready to respond? How fire and rescue can adapt for the future
March 03, 2020
Fire and Rescue services are no different from the rest of society; they must adapt and thrive because the collisions between technology, business and society are far-reaching and happening at pace. Emerging successfully from this will require organisations to face this future head on. Together with Ben Brook of Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service we’re exploring how fire and rescue services can both do their ‘day job’ and achieve the state of readiness they need to be effective in ten years’ time.
Things have changed for communities and so they must for firefighters; to become a ‘change-ready organisation’ less focused on specific job functions but more on the results they achieve and the trust that they create. Responding to emergency incidents represents between 5% and 10% of the activity of a typical fire and rescue service – and is vital to public protection. The remaining capacity is focused on preventative activities, preparing to respond to incidents and protecting the business communities. Digital technology can make a significant impact on the effectiveness of the role of the fire fighter – both in terms of emergency response and prevention.
‘Digitally enabled’ public services have different responses available to them; through prevention, protection and response. This, though, means mastering a range of new skills to keep up with the pace of change in individuals’ and communities’ lived experience. Fire and rescue services will need to have their ‘ear to the ground’ in whole new ways. Doing this will include developing and deploying means of forecasting future changes in vulnerability. It will also mean increasing the diversity of the workforce to better reflect and understand the communities they serve.
As we’ve noted above, risk and vulnerability has changed. For example, the impact of terrorism, climate change, and the understanding of the wider determinants of health and wellbeing have changed dramatically in recent years and will continue to change at pace. These are not agendas that can be addressed by a single service or agent. Therefore, collaboration across organisational- and disciplinary boundaries has become essential. That requires a different role for fire and rescue services, not just at an incident – but before, during and after.
In the face of multiple demands and stretched resources, it might be tempting to make only incremental changes to fire and rescue services, or to choose to be a late adopter. However, we believe this would be practically, socially and ethically reckless. We want to explore and answer questions about the role of fire and rescue services, and firefighters, in the face of such radical change. For example:
- What if innovation-enabled other parties were to enter the fire and rescue space? What might that look like and how should fire authorities proceed?
- What would the impact of increasing community power over funding and decisions mean for the fire service? How could this make delivering the mission easier?
- As public services embrace an ever-increasing digital mindset, what would that look like for fire and rescue? And how could such a culture change be successfully made?
We hope to provoke further conversation about what the future could and should look like across fire and rescue services and potentially all local public services. But in doing so we have to recognise that we need to talk about how to turn them into tangible actions.
Download our article to find out more.