Avon Fire and Rescue Service faces ongoing issues with mobilisation system, says HMICFRS


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Mobilisation system concerns

As reported by HMICFRS, the Avon Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is still experiencing issues with its mobilisation system.

The system, which records information and dispatches resources to emergency incidents, has been found unreliable and prone to crashes during emergency 999 calls.

This causes delays in mobilising resources, leading to slower responses to emergencies.

On 16 August 2023, HMICFRS issued an accelerated cause of concern and recommended improvements.

Avon FRS submitted an action plan on 19 September 2023, outlining how it would address these issues.

Initial progress reviews were conducted between 4 and 8 December 2023, with findings published on 19 January 2024.

A second review took place between 19 and 20 March 2024, revealing some improvements but highlighting ongoing concerns.

Technical faults persist for Avon Fire and Rescue Service

Despite improvements, the mobilisation system is still not free from technical faults.

HMICFRS reported that the diagnostic tool used to collect data logs and assist with fault investigation had been identified as a cause of some crashes.

The tool was removed, which improved system reliability, but an unrelated issue caused a delay in dispatching the nearest available fire engine during a recent emergency.

The incident was attributed to human error, with a fire control operator unknowingly holding back fire engines, causing confusion and delay.

Avon FRS is working on preventing such issues from recurring.

Plans are in place to reinstall and test the diagnostic tool on two consoles before reintroducing it to the live system.

Staff have expressed both confidence and reservations about the system’s reliability.

Communication and welfare improvements

The inspection found that Avon FRS had established a control user group to facilitate communication between fire control staff and managers, allowing for the reporting and addressing of issues.

Staff responded positively to this initiative, noting regular meetings and effective communication channels.

However, the service has not provided welfare support to all fire control staff.

While the health and safety and well-being team has visited and provided training, not all staff have received this support.

HMICFRS recommends that Avon FRS ensures all fire control staff, including managers, receive appropriate support and training and that refresher training is made available.

Next steps and ongoing monitoring

HMICFRS acknowledged the efforts of Avon FRS, particularly under the leadership of the chief fire officer, in responding to the accelerated cause of concern.

Significant steps have been taken, such as updating the consoles to Windows 10 and improving staff feedback mechanisms.

However, concerns remain about the diagnostic tool and the overall reliability of the mobilisation system.

HMICFRS will continue to monitor Avon FRS’s progress and plans to revisit the service in September 2024 to assess further improvements.

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