Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
146. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if a review of the fire service is to be carried out by the national directorate for fire and emergency management similar to the one carried out by an external validation group in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19362/20]
147. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if the report on the fire service published in 2016 by an external validation group, entitled "Local Delivery – National Consistency", is to be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19363/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.
Over the course of 2014/ 2015, an External Validation Group (EVG) commissioned by the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM), visited each of the 27 fire services in the country. External validation was a new feedback/ review process, introduced by the “Keeping Communities Safe” policy document in 2013. In April 2016, the NDFEM Management Board published the first EVG Report titled “Fire Services in Ireland - Local Delivery - National Consistency”. The Report is available on my Department's website at the following link:
This first EVG report was a welcome benchmark of local authority provision of fire services in Ireland, and reviewed a number of themes. For the first time, it reported on the matching of provision of fire services with assessed fire risk. It reviewed fire safety work and undertook an assessment of the impact of national guidance on safety, health and welfare of staff in fire services. The Report concluded that the public are served well by the locally authority provided fire service arrangements and can retain confidence in the integrity and professionalism of those with responsibility for managing and delivering fire safety and fire services in Ireland.
In May 2019, the Management Board of NDFEM authorised a proposal for a second round of external validation, or EVG II. Stakeholder engagement was undertaken in preparation for a thematic review process, which was scheduled to commence in Q1 2020. However, due to Covid-19, the Board made a decision to postpone this process.
As an alternative, the Board mandated staff in the NDFEM to undertake a review of the impact of Covid-19 on local authority fire service resilience and response, as well as on fire safety work and to look at fire services roles in supporting Covid-related emergency management. The objective is to capture lessons, issues arising and good practice which worked during the first phase of Covid-19 response, so that essential services can continue to be maintained if there are further surges.
This review is currently under way by means of ‘virtual visits’ (i.e. by Webex link) to each of the 27 fire services and three Regional Communications Centres. This ‘virtual’ process is being undertaken by an NDFEM team, working in association with Chief Fire Officers and their staff and local authority executives. Fourteen of the thirty ‘virtual visits’ will be complete by 31 July 2020, and the remaining virtual visits are scheduled for completion by the end of September 2020. A composite report on themes related to of the impact of Covid-19 on fire services will be compiled and presented to the NDFEM Management Board in Q4 2020.
The position in relation to EVG II will be kept under review by the NDFEM Management Board following completion of this virtual process and in light of the evolving Covid-19 situation.