“Notable progress” has been made by Cornwall Fire and Service – although further work is needed to make sure “reliable, accurate and consistent information is recorded and given to firefighters.”

This was the finding of a revisit to the fire service by inspector Wendy Williams following a ‘cause of concern’ ruling in 2021, involving problems with collecting and sharing risk information.

In December that year the service was told it needs to make decisions about its resources "on risk, not on savings" after the service was rated as ‘requires improvement’ at an inspection into its standards.

READ MORE: 'Base decisions on risk not savings': Fire service told it 'requires improvement'

Between January 16 and 19 this year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) paid a return visit to review progress on an action plan put in place.

It found that the “comprehensive” plan set out how the causes of concern and subsequent recommendations would be addressed, with a realistic timescale to do it in.

Governance Inspectors found there were clear arrangements in place to monitor the improvement plan and progress, both internally and by Cornwall councillors receiving updates.

While the plan was “largely complete,” some elements of the recommendations had not been fully addressed.

Progress on the cause of concern The service was found to have made a “determined effort” to address the cause of concern, including a new team to manage the risk inspection process and complete some visits, as well as new electronic reports.

Inspection backlog The service had prioritised clearing the backlog of overdue site inspections and had met its target to finish this by the end of March 2022, said inspectors.

However, because of the size of the backlog and the extent of its area, the service decided to complete some assessments by telephone review rather than physically visiting all sites – and staff weren’t given guidance about which sites should be visited in person, so the service could not be certain it has accurate information for its highest risk sites.

It had started to check the backlog sites and will be making further visits where required to make sure it has accurate information.

Updating risk information on mobile data terminals The service had set “clear timescales” for each stage of its inspection programme to make sure inspections were loaded on to mobile data terminals promptly. Extra staff had been trained to avoid future delays.

However, while the process had “improved considerably”, more work was needed to make sure the latest correct information was consistently available on all terminals, with found different records for the same site on two different units – and one record was nearly ten years out of date.

It said the service had since started to check its records to make sure they were consistent.

Sharing risk information between departments An online form is used to record and share risk information between the prevention, protection, operations and risk departments and was declared a “notable improvement.”

However, inspectors found that some information recorded using this system wasn’t being shared with firefighters sent to an emergency.

Plans for future risk inspections The service now had a “robust and well-resourced plan” for site inspections to collect risk information, and had created a team to makes sure inspections were completed and risk data managed better.

Inspector Ms Williams concluded: “Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service has recognised the problems with its risk information collection and sharing process. It has committed to resolving these and is improving the risk information it provides for its firefighters.

“The revisit team was pleased to see the notable progress the service has made. The inspection backlog was cleared, and a new team is managing the inspection programme. Staff we spoke to knew about our concerns and welcomed the new approach to collecting and sharing risk information.”

However, she went on to add: “While the service has made positive progress overall, we found some areas that need further attention to make sure reliable, accurate and consistent information is recorded and given to firefighters.

“We will continue to monitor progress against the cause of concern through updates from the service and during our next scheduled inspection in 2023.”

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service told the Packet: “Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service welcomes the re inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS). The outcome is a fair and honest reflection of how far the service has come since 2021.

“As the HMI has stated there has been significant progress in relation to the areas previously identified and the service will continue to make the final assurance improvements required.”