Safety and Wellbeing Plan 2022 consultation response

The following is a summary of the full report (PDF, see page 115) on the response to our Safety and Wellbeing Plan 2022 consultation.

Our new Customer Safety Plan and strategies

The first question asked respondents to review the strategies agreed by authority members at the meeting held on 22 July 2021 and to comment on whether they felt we have missed anything you think we should have considered; if there are additional changes respondents think are likely to happen in Kent and Medway we haven’t considered; or if we have missed an action respondents would expect us to be taking. Comments are reported below, with a management response where appropriate.

Respondent comment Management response

One respondent asked if home visits to fit smoke alarms for the vulnerable were to continue.

Safe and Well home visits will continue, focused at those most at risk in the community.

One respondent was concerned that we are seeing in the media about more house fires and would like to see [more information] about safety planning [go] out to the public in the media.

We would encourage anyone worried about their safety at home or when travelling through Kent and Medway to visit our website which has lots of information and downloadable resources.

Home visits can also be arranged for those that need more detailed support.

One respondent asked if there is “a chance to visit more schools…. Best way to educate on the service you provide”. Following COVID, the number of schools visits is returning to more normal levels.
A number of comments were received which felt the risk assessment was unduly pessimistic and questioning how past data can be used to predict the future. For example, one said “Seems to take a very pessimistic view of the future without taking into account high and low case scenarios. Lacks any meaningful records regarding service efficiency i.e., actual hours of work versus time on shift.”

The risk assessment draws from a wide range of sources from across local and national government. Whilst the respondents may view the risk assessment as pessimistic, we feel it is realistic.

We may not be able to predict with absolute certainty, but we can certainly use global climate predictions produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to get a best estimate of future patterns. That is what we have done in the risk assessment.

Productivity in terms of hours worked on specific tasks is not something we record. We record outcomes such as the number of incidents attended, number of home safety visits by firefighters were completed and training completed.

One respondent commented that “Success to me looks like receiving a fire engine which is fully crewed with trained and more importantly experienced firefighters, as soon as possible, when someone calls 999. Other than contractual obligations, anything else involved in the day to day running of a fire brigade is just a nicety in my opinion.” Another felt we needed more fire engines generally, and another encouraged us to focus on public safety as our number one priority. We agree – maintaining our statutory duties in all their forms is our number one priority, but this is a much wider role than operational response.
The use of the word customers caused some feedback. One commented “[Yet]… we are not customers as we have no choice but pay the bills with increasing population the reduction in cover per head of population and the rise in attendance times is extremely worrying” This comment reflects some of the feedback received on the Facebook post promoting the Plan. Kent Fire and Rescue Service is unique in using the phrase “customer” to describe the people it delivers services to, and we continue to believe it is the right phrase. It is however not appropriate at an incident and the phrase is never used there.
Several positive comments were received such as “I feel the work you do is unmeasurable and to maintain such high standards is or should be enough in these hard times” and “Keep up the good work” and “I’m so grateful for the fire retardant bedding supplied by the fire brigade for my partner”. We are grateful for the positive comments.
Looking at the tomes of information we, the respondent, is meant to read - to complete this survey - suggests to me that this mode is the wrong approach. There is always a balance between making a document accessible whilst also trying to convey complex information. The use of infographics and simplified language in the Plan was intended to balance this. But we can always improve in this area.
New housing developments caused several comments. One asked specifically about a development in Maidstone currently going through planning, and another commented on parking on new build developments.

We are aware of the development plans for the Lidsing area.

New build developments will comply with the appropriate regulations to allow access, not only for emergency vehicles but other equally critical services like refuse trucks. The difficulty identified really is the well-known issue on some developments of behaviours of residents once a new development is being lived in, and how cars are then parked.

Our planning assumptions

The next question followed text which described how we assess what resources we need to meet foreseeable risks in the community, and the planning assumptions that are then derived from these risks.

When planning how we meet our day to day need for fire engines, to what extent do you agree that our planning assumptions are correct?


Comments are reported below with a management response where appropriate.

Respondent comment Management response

"We used to plan for two significant incidents"?

"In is unusual for two of them to occur at the same time." Is this not the same as saying 'fingers crossed'? Not ideal for an emergency service.

Having between 32 and 44 fire engines available at any one time doesn't seem a lot for the entire county of Kent.

We disagree it is the same as “fingers crossed”. Availability of 32 to 44 fire engines, with an ability to flex this upwards quickly if we need it meets our day to day requirement.

Access in residential areas again raised comments. One respondent said “KFRS should have a much more pro-active input into new developments, and should regularly patrol older residential areas where on-street parking has become so prevalent that it is doubtful that equipment could be deployed quickly enough to an incident because of densely and poorly parked personal vehicles.”

Another respondent complained about the laying of fibre optic cables in their area.

Parking issues are an enforcement issue for the local authority in the area or may be outsourced to the private sector in places. If parking is an issue at an incident, we have the capability to pump water over longer distances.

We do run social media campaigns periodically to encourage considerate parking.
Cable laying and other works on the highway is a function for the local authority in the area. If roads are closed for a period of time, we factor this in to our mobilising decisions.

One respondent commented that “getting people out alive [in] 15 minutes is a long time” Traffic congestion is an issue we consider in our risk assessment, as are plans for new roads and local traffic calming measures [as discussed elsewhere in this report].
One respondent felt “a full engine is not needed so you should look to motorcycle or car-based units with basic kit for fast response and assessment”.

We disagree. Incident volumes that this kind of smaller unit would attend are not high enough in Kent and Medway. In more urban metropolitan areas like London and the West Midlands, it is a model that could work well.

A respondent commented that “the assumption that serious incidents usually only occur as single entities is a dangerous planning assumption. KFB [sic] may not have experienced this in recent times, but multiple serious incidents have occurred on many occasions in the past.” This may be true in the past, but the last 15 years data suggests that multiple smaller incidents is a bigger risk to our availability than two concurrent large ones.

A respondent commented that our “assumptions are [deliberately] vague to the extent they are meaningless it is a concern that in over 30% of incidents you arrive in over ten minutes you should set clear target attendance times so the public can fully access the quality of your service your current attendance times are far too slow” and said “How many fire engines should be on at one time should not be determined by call data, fire engines are needed when they are needed and should be available, fire stations should be staffed not attended to from a home address those 5 minutes extra on response time could be someone’s life”.

Another felt all fire stations should be crewed 24/7.

We believe this comment is harsh. The response standards set are clear in our opinion and are reported every year in this Plan, and to the Authority, and can be the subject of a freedom of information request at any time.

We are acutely aware of issues of disparity between urban and rural areas in terms of access to public services. However the vast majority of incidents do happen in urban areas hence the concentration of immediate response fire stations there.

In a rural county such as Kent and Medway a model where all fire engines were crewed 24/7 would be prohibitively expensive and not a good use of taxpayers' money.

M2 motorway accidents often take up crews. Motorway incidents can take up significant resources if people are trapped. But the roads most likely to have a serious collision with injuries a single-lane fast A roads.
One very informed respondent commented “Research indicates increasing numbers of vulnerable persons living alone with dementia or other vulnerabilities including hoarding. These need to be identified by working with local agencies including GPS, hospitals, social care.” A really important comment. Hoarding is an issue our firefighters and customer safety teams are trained to recognise the signs of and know how to report any concerns via the safeguarding process.
One respondent asked “What is the cost of maintaining a fire engine that is unavailable?”

The cost is essentially the national non-domestic rates we pay for the building, and the depreciation of the fire engine itself.

Small fires in the home

The next sections asked respondents if they have you ever had a small fire in their home but not dialled 999 and asked for the help of Kent Fire and Rescue Service? 9% of respondents indicated that they had and indicated that they dealt with it themselves as they felt confident to do so or did not “want their home interfered with unnecessarily”. Only one respondent wished to be involved in follow up work with the Authority on this issue. Primary research will therefore be required to explore this issue further.

Value for money

The next question asked for responses to the statement “the average Band D property pays just over £1.55 per week in Council Tax (£80.82 per year) to help run Kent Fire and Rescue Service - do you think this provides good value? Respondents were asked to rate us, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is good value and 1 is not good value. The results for public respondents is shown in Graph 3 below and is a very pleasing result, in line with previous Plans.


Concluding comments

Response rates to this Plan represent a significant improvement on last year. Comments were mixed [as Members can see]. However overall there is support for the strategies, the planning assumptions and positive comments for the work of the Authority to reflect on.

Arising from this consultation, the planned availability of 32 to 44 fire engines as set out in the Plan will be adopted, and performance reported to Members at future meetings. In addition to achieving between 32 and 44 fire engines at all times, the concept of flexible resourcing as outlined in the Plan will also be adopted. The way this will be done is by utilising firefighters detached for a short period from their usual place of work, and able to form either a complete crew, travelling to the nearest spare fire engine, or by mobilising them individually to fill gaps on their fire engines across Kent and Medway whilst continuing to perform their primary role. Research indicates this could give us the equivalent of between five to 10 additional fire engines per weekday over and above the base requirement of 32 to 44, and has historically been used to good effect at a number of incidents as part of our dynamic resilience arrangements However, as this is used in dynamic resilience it not something we have ever factored into our standard resourcing models to date.