Challenges Facing Estate Managers in the Fire and Rescue Sector

Matthew Perriman
Under continued pressure to streamline and save money, fire and rescue authorities have a tough time ahead.

Ken Knight's publication of his 2013 independent review (PDF, 705 KB) of efficiencies and operations in fire and rescue authorities in England ignited a time of change for these services. Despite the report making no firm recommendations, it listed several ideas for future debate. These included the introduction of more collaboration between fire and its complementing emergency services, alongside the possibility of a single fire service for England. The review suggested that fire and rescue services (FRS) in England need to be transformed to become more efficient and effective.

There is a clear move to rationalise assets to generate financial savings and operate more cost effectively.

The role of fire stations is changing; rationalising assets in order to enable greater efficiencies has become an immediate response to changing demographics and public sector cut backs. There is a clear move to rationalise assets to generate financial savings and operate more cost effectively. This is in addition to adapting dated buildings to keep pace with the ever demanding needs of a modern fire service.

FRS buildings range from small rural retained premises to larger urban fire stations, headquarters and major training facilities. In addition to the current pressures detailed previously, keeping abreast with current building legislation coupled with extra pressure to more effectively utilise these facilities will likely be at the forefront of any estates managers’ mind. Examples of which include:

  • Accommodating advances in technical equipment, for example Aerial Rescue Pump (ARP) vehicles

  • The Equalities Act 2010 requiring building adaptations to avoid discrimination

  • Ageing buildings invariably having to be retained and adapted to support the demands of an ever evolving Fire Service

  • Financial pressures to achieve more with a lower budget

  • More public-facing facilities in order to engage with the communities they serve

  • Necessary works to accommodate a 24-hour operational environment

In addition to continued efforts to become more involved and open to the communities they serve the service seeks to engage with fire prevention work, initiatives such as the youth fire fighter training, as well as pursue partnerships with other services on issues such as crime prevention. Existing and future FRS buildings must therefore support and promote continued interactions with the public.

Addressing and facilitating changes/challenges

FRS estate managers rely on the effective implementation of any one or a combination of the following which can support and promote effective facilities management:

  • Strategic asset management

  • Condition surveys

  • Energy efficiency and retro-fitting

  • Whole life costing

  • Planned / reactive maintenance

Faithful+Gould possesses specific expertise in supporting fire and rescue authorities with maintenance and capital projects. My own experiences as a building surveyor in a large FRS authority has enabled my understanding of the pressures facing the sector, including the need to achieve best value without increasing risk. In order to facilitate service critical building environments it is crucial that works be sensitive to the nature of the activities being carried out on site. These activities include:

  • Navigating the works in relation to the changing shift patterns of staff and ensuring that operations are kept nominal and undisturbed

  • Communicating the building project objectives to all staff and stakeholders

  • Imparting sympathy towards all site needs and requirements

Faithful+Gould is well placed to surpass these challenges and successfully deliver the constructive expertise necessary to maintain optimal FRS service levels and increase efficiencies throughout operation.