Annual Fire Related Research Event 2019

This year’s research event was as stimulating and eclectic as ever, with topics spanning the broad spectrum of fire. Dr Rowena Hill and Dr Anne Eyre hosted RE19 at West Midlands Fire Service HQ in Birmingham, which is a great setting for this annual gathering.

With so much going on in the fire and rescue service it was inevitable that the inspection process would be on the agenda. Academics from Nottingham Trent University shared their thoughts about the new process from HMICFRS. Without the benefit of the third and final tranche of reports or the State of Fire Report, the researchers confined themselves to the findings from the early inspections.

Changes to governance that have seen the creation of four Police Fire and Crime Commissioners was also a topic for discussion. Academics from Cardiff University provided some comparative analysis of governance models. Alongside this, the topic of integrated risk management planning was covered – it’s been 14 years since IRMPs were introduced and this review of approaches was fascinating as it showed the variation in practice and the impact of localism on this vital aspect of service delivery.

Complementing the discussion about risk management planning was a paper from ORH about response times. Graham Holland used data from the Home Office’s Incident Recording System to ask an interesting question: if services are taking longer to respond, but the number of fatalities and casualties has decreased, does the response time to fire incidents actually matter? He concluded his paper by suggesting that it may be time to update the economic cost of fire, where the economic case is a driver for response times.

Two papers focused on prevention activity. How to evaluate this type of fire and rescue service work is notoriously hard to do, so it was good to hear about the approaches being made by academics from Essex University working with Essex Fire and Rescue Service on the impact and effectiveness of their safe and well offering.

Behaviour change was a clear theme running through the day. Whether it came from the approaches to dealing with juvenile fire setting or responses to chemical incidents and how firefighters learn from experience. It was interesting to hear all the different perspectives on this topic.

Learning from incidents is the subject of great interest at a national level with the recent introduction of the National Operational Learning system managed by the National Fire Chiefs Council. Along with the IFE’s Firefighter Safety Incident database, these resources help with training and ultimately with policy change that can have far reaching long-term changes.

With a theme focused on building fire safety, RE19 included papers on fire spread in residential buildings, carbon monoxide emissions and post-construction fire safety considerations. The variety of papers in this area at a time when the spotlight is firmly on building safety is really encouraging and as more research develops as a result of the Hackitt Review this part of the research event is likely to evolve greatly in the future.

RE19 was a great success and is a very special part of the fire calendar, having been running for more than twenty years. The organisers are always on the lookout for new research topics and welcome papers from researchers who are early in their careers as well as those who are more established. The call for papers for RE20 will be published in spring 2020.