Contingency Planning Arrangements for Industrial Action in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
The Development of Safety Advice for the Public
75. Effective communications with the people of Scotland would have been vital in ensuring that appropriate safety messaging and information about the impacts of IA were understood. Recent strike action by Ambulance staff in England, which was preceded by targeted safety communications, coincided with a reduction in demand of up to 40% on the days of IA. Effective communications and messaging, regarding how members of the public could have used services 'wisely' during the Ambulance strikes, appears to have had a positive demand reduction impact.
76. We observed SFRS testing and exercising sessions as part of the field work for the IA inspection. During these sessions there was a clearly expressed need from participants for a comprehensive communications campaign to raise public awareness of the potential impacts of IA upon normal service delivery. Strong information messages explaining steps that the public (and business) should observe during IA could have assisted in reducing demand for non-urgent 999 calls and assisted with the maintenance of emergency operational response capacity.
77. The SFRS developed an intelligence led IA Communications Plan using the UK Government' best practice OASIS planning model framework. An IA Communications Cell was formed and met each week following the SFRS IATAG. This group ensured that any communications requirements generated by the IATAG were considered and acted upon in a formal governance environment. The Communications Cell would have been stood up and remained active during periods of IA.
78. A senior SFRS Communications Team manager participated as part of the NFCC Communications Group. All advice from this group was considered and integrated into the planned SFRS public and business safety messaging. The aim for the SFRS was to deliver a live and responsive communications campaign that considered issues in advance or as they occurred, and which was nimble enough to address any safety issues effectively during the IA period.
79. The SFRS had a series of communications that were planned for release as part of an overall campaign in the run up to and then during any IA. The view held by communications professionals within the Service was that these communications needed to be timed for release to ensure maximum impact. A range of communications channels would have been used for delivery, including social media platforms, other digital platforms and TV, through the support of the Scottish Government.
80. We considered that an effective communications campaign, delivered in advance of and during any IA, would be critical to reducing demand for SFRS services. The delivery of the communications campaign was viewed as a priority by the SFRS.