The Covid-19 epidemic has brought into sharp focus the need for the emergency services to have resilience plans in place in the event that they need to manage with significantly reduced capacity to respond to incidents. A Degradation List helps fire and rescue services place their assets in optimal locations as their available appliances reduces, enabling the optimal fire cover to be provided.

How does a degradation list differ from business as usual

Fire and Rescue Services are structured in a manner that allows them to deal with constantly changing demand. Each Fire and Rescue Service has a planning document, known as an IRMP (Integrated Risk Management Plan) that outlines how the organisation is going to meet the risk within the county.

However, IRMPs tend to be built with an implicit assumption that the majority of the service’s resources would be available to respond to incidents. We know for experience that this is not always the case. Whether it is having to deal with several prolonged incidents; sharp reductions in On-call availability or losing a proportion of Firefighters to self-isolation in a pandemic; there are situations that organisations face which sit outside of the scope of a normal IRMP process.

Rather than planning for every eventuality, Fire and Rescue Services need to have the ability to adapt their response capability to ensure that they are providing the best possible coverage consistent with the risks at hand. One method of doing this is through having a degradation list demonstrating the impact on coverage and performance if individual stations or appliances are not available.  

Degradation List for Optimal Locations

Process Evolution has worked with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to determine the optimal locations for fire stations and appliances, depending on the level of resource available. The Degradation List tool takes into account such factors as geography, mobilisation and travel times as well as response standards to provide an evidence-based view of the optimal choices of stations.

The dashboard within the tool also demonstrates the following information:

  • The proportion of incidents which would be served within a given response standard
  • Maps the county showing the areas that would be in and out of target response, catchment areas and drive zone from chosen bases
  • High-level statistics on average and maximum response times
  • Information by catchment areas as to demand served, performance and appliance utilisation

Adding constraints to the Analysis

There are several reasons why an organisation may wish to add constraints to the solution. It may be due to Specialism or strategic importance that certain stations have to be crewed and thus would be ‘enforced’ within the model. Conversely, specific stations may not have the facilities to maintain a Wholetime appliance, and as such would not be considered as appropriate locations. Applying criteria specific to the Fire and Rescue Service helps to build more realistic solutions to the degradation problem

An exploratory tool to make operational decisions

Accounting for any and every possible scenario is not practical. However, the exploratory tool gives the user the ability to interact with the model and understand the impact that changes would have.

For example, if a FRS was currently running with 5 Wholetime appliances but knew that overnight crewing levels meant that this would have to drop down to 4 appliances. In this situation, a user could select the available stations and test the impact of removing each of them. The exercise would take a matter of minutes but would provide Fire Officers with the evidence-base to support sound decision making.

Summary

When situations arise, and there are far fewer resources available than planned, it is vital to take a risked based approach in allocating resources. The degradation tool complements the professional judgement of Officers by providing useful and timely management reporting capability.