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We’re after your views on Cornwall’s fire risk

How does Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) assess fire safety risk, and allocate its resources to inspect premises, maximise safety and minimise fire?

The people of Cornwall are being asked by the Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee (NOSC) to take part in a review of this vital subject, and provide views in writing by 13 November 2020. Cornwall’s Fire Authority comprises of all 123 elected Cornwall Councillors, overseeing the policy and delivery of Cornwall’s fire and rescue services. Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection has portfolio responsibilities relating to CFRS. But scrutiny of the CFRS Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) is provided through NOSC which holds CFRS to account on behalf of the Fire Authority.

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As part of its statutory scrutiny responsibilities, the Committee reviews a CFRS Annual Statement of Assurance for each year covered by the IRMP, which is a backward looking document aimed at providing assurance that CFRS is delivering an efficient, effective and value for money service and is working within the financial parameters set out in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan.

The requirements for assurance are set out in the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England. This document also states that Fire and Rescue authorities must make provision for promoting fire safety, including fire prevention, and have a locally determined risk-based inspection programme in place for enforcing compliance with the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in premises to which it applies.

CFRS has a Risk Based Inspection Programme which highlights high risk non-domestic properties which are identified through CFRS’s evidence profile. Premises type, history of incidents, occupancy and use are all key to assessing the risk of fire across Cornwall.In holiday seasons our population can swell from the resident half a million to over 850,000.

In Cornwall high risk is defined as:

• Premises that provide sleeping accommodation where people would find escape in an emergency difficult due to a lack of mobility and/or a lack of familiarity with the building layout - includes hospitals, residential care homes, hotels/ B&Bs and hostels

• Premises that have had a fire and CFRS has attended

• Premises where CFRS has received a complaint or concern from a member of the public.

Working with businesses and supporting the economy is key to CFRS’s programme of work. However where non-compliance with fire safety continues, CFRS will take enforcement action in line with their statutory duty. In order to meet the Government inspection guidelines CFRS should review its Risk Based Inspection Programme (RBIP). It is going through this process now and as part of the process, NOSC is undertaking its review, gathering evidence from witnesses representing a wide range of organisations to build an evidence base from which it will make recommendations to the Council’s Cabinet.

The committee is also seeking the views of the public to help with its work. If you have any views you would like to share on this subject, the Committee would be grateful to hear from you.    

Cllr Carolyn Rule who chairs NOSC and who is also chairing its review  said: “The cornerstone of a successful Risk Based Inspection Programme across a large and complex geographical area like Cornwall is ensuring that Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service personnel are appropriately trained in fire safety, are based in the right locations and are provided with efficient and effective processes and equipment to target risk.”

“But risk can change, being affected by factors such as national events, new industrial development, change of building  use and the storage of flammable and hazardous materials. So CFRS must continually assess, review, and adapt.”

“NOSC is responsible for the oversight and scrutiny of CFRS and therefore for this important inspection process. By undertaking our ‘deep dive’ into the current arrangements and where change may be needed, we will hear evidence from our witnesses and carefully study the responses from members of the public. I hope people will contribute to this vital process, in order to help to keep Cornwall safe.”

If you have any views you wish to share on how well CFRS is currently assessing fire safety risk and how Cornwall’s fire safety resources might be better allocated or improved, your contribution could be invaluable, and ultimately lifesaving. The risk-based inspection process is less focused on domestic properties and more on Cornwall’s commercial sites and traffic including short term letting accommodation.

If you wish to take part please get in touch in writing by 12 noon on Friday 13 November 2020, by contacting:  neighbourhoodsosc@cornwall.gov.uk