Independent Inspection of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service
The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) was established (as the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade) in 1973, following a decision to amalgamate the two Brigades that had previously operated within the country. It is a Service with a long, and very distinguished, history. It is a Service that has protected the communities of Northern Ireland through challenging times and with great integrity and honour. The NIFRS is, quite rightly, held in high regard across all sectors and across all communities in Northern Ireland and the staff who serve within it display a genuine pride in their organisation.
As Chief Inspector of HM Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland, I was honoured to be invited to lead this inspection and it is my pleasure to present this report, which I hope will assist the Service on its journey of continuous improvement.
Every member of the inspection team involved in drafting this report has been impressed by the willingness of those interviewed, to engage and speak openly across a wide range of issues. We have tried our best to reflect their views and opinions and have considered these fully when drafting this report.
Whilst it may appear when reading this report that the inspection team has been critical of some areas of business, I must emphasise that these observations are offered in a constructive manner. It is our desire not to apportion blame or to reflect unnecessarily on the past. Instead we hope that this report will act as a catalyst for improvement where the opportunity to improve exists.
I must also emphasise to all those who read this document that the NIFRS has provided, and continues to provide, a vital and professional service to the communities it serves. We believe that the time is right for the NIFRS to consider the disposition of assets, the training provided to personnel and the nature of the equipment required to match the risks faced today, and in the future, by communities in Northern Ireland. However, the commitment of its workforce is exemplary, and we believe this commitment will be a crucial element in the delivery of change.
The issues identified within this report are not unique to the NIFRS. These issues will indeed be evident in many other Fire and Rescue Services across the UK. Nor are the challenges identified insurmountable. With sound leadership, political support and financial investment I believe that each of the issues highlighted in this report can be fully addressed.
Finally, I must commend the leadership demonstrated by the Department of Health, and the Board of the NIFRS. In identifying, commissioning, and supporting, this independent inspection they have sought to proactively identify opportunities for improvement in a bid to provide the best service possible to the people of Northern Ireland.
Robert D Scott QFSM
HM Chief Inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service