The Changing Tides of FRSs

With the changing landscape of the fire industry, Chris Gannon, Managing Director, Gannon Emergency Solutions offers expert insight into the recent HMICFRS inspections 

Given the recent release of the HMICFRS inspections of FRS findings, Rebecca Spayne, Managing Editor of International Fire Buyer speaks exclusively with Chris Gannon of Gannon Emergency Solutions to discover what the outcome means for the future of UK fire services. In this interview Chris divulges his thoughts on the culture associated with fire departments, and the solutions needed to curate a more inclusive and safer place for firefighters. This in turn can help better the industry, foster innovation, dissolve the recruitment and skill gap and protect the mental and physical health of first responders.  

Please introduce yourself and give us a brief background of Gannon Emergency Solutions? 

I have been in the Emergency Management industry for over 30 years as a former national Fire Chief, Government Adviser, and as CEO of Gannon Emergency Solutions – consultant to clients in over 40 countries on 5 continents.   

Most consultants retire from a background in one national system and make recommendations based on that experience. Having retired from public service early and worked on projects all over the world, GES has developed a reputation for reform by bringing a unique collection of knowledge to the table and sharing global experience to help improve organisations. 

Could you provide a brief overview of the recent HMICFRS inspections of FRS in England and their findings? 

The HMICFRS remit is to:examine the service’s effectiveness, efficiency and how well it looks after its people’. Earlier this year it examined and reported on the values and culture of all 44 fire and rescue services (FRS) in England focusing specifically on topics such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, diversity, fairness, and handling of concerns. The negative results made national headlines. 

What was your initial reaction to the results of the HMICFRS inspections? 

The findings came as no surprise to me or anyone that has served in an English FRS,
bullies and bigots have plagued the profession for decades. 

What is frustrating is that these cultures have been allowed to continue for so long despite comprehensive inspections since 2018 and hundreds of confidential complaints. 

Essex FRS commissioned an independent review as far back as 2015 that found a toxic culture of bullying and discrimination that should have been a precursor to a wider national study, but whistleblowers were ignored and have suffered as a result of inaction. Recent media investigations seem to have significantly ramped up public attention and pressure.

How do these results reflect on the current state of fire and rescue services in England? 

If you canvassed the public on speed of emergency response and professionalism on arrival, there would be a very high level of satisfaction.  But internally, the FRS in England has some serious problems. I think the report findings reflect societal change in general and the FRS is the latest institution to come under scrutiny. The FRS has always been revered by the public and strongly supported during industrial disputes which makes the findings even more disappointing and damages both its reputation and public confidence. 

Can you elaborate on any specific areas of the fire service that are being re-evaluated in light of these findings? 

I am waiting to see what the reaction is to the lengthy list of recommendations and directives given to Chief Fire Officers and the NFCC, but don’t expect sweeping reforms anytime soon. The findings confirm that the current system of recruitment and professional development does not groom enough people who were hired to fight fires and carry out rescues to effectively manage complex, modern organisations and handle issues like these.

Not one firefighter I know applied for a job with aspirations to manage finance, admin or HR. It is time to accept that uniformed officers should be restricted to non-executive roles and professional business managers actually run fire services.  

To read the full exclusive article and other latest news, see our last issue here.

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Media Contact
Rebecca Spayne Managing Editor, International Fire Buyer
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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