Fire and rescue sector launches landmark communications standards
Professional standards for communication and engagement have been launched in the fire and rescue sector.
The Communication and Engagement Fire Standard is a major step forward in professionalising communications as a strategic function in a high-profile area of the public sector.
FirePRO, the membership body for communications professionals working in fire and rescue, developed the standards working with the Fire Standards Board and engaging with industry leaders within the Chartered Institute for Public Relations and the Local Government Association.
It is the second set of standards to be produced in the public sector, following on from the Government Communication Service’s Functional Standard.
Fire and rescue services cover wide area of communications practice. As a category one responder, there is a requirement for fire and rescue services to have crisis and emergency communications arrangements.
Communications practitioners in the sector also cover a wide range of activities from media relations and internal communications through to behaviour change marketing campaigns that aim to keep people from needing an emergency call out.
The fire standard also covers engagement, which includes the duty for public sector bodies to consult around changes to services.
Combined together, it puts a strategic approach to building relationships with the many stakeholders that fire and rescue services need to communicate and engage with.
Paul Compton, who was Chair of FirePRO between 2019 and 2022 and led on the development of the standards, said:
“It’s fantastic to see the standards launched. When I became Chair of FirePRO with responsibility for supporting improvements in practice across the sector, the one thing that was missing was the standard to aim for. We now have that firmly in place.
“Communicators in fire and rescue achieve a huge amount, often with little resource and tight budgets.
“The reach and impact fire and rescue has within communities across the country is huge, and often proof that communications can be an intervention that saves lives.
“This fire standard will give an even bigger focus on where strategic communications and engagement can benefit services, encouraging consistency across the sector, reaffirming that good communications and engagement is everyone’s responsibility.
“The strength of this fire standard is down to great work of the FirePRO committee and the input from everyone who was involved in the engagement exercise and formal consultation.
“I also want to thank the Fire Standards Board for recognising the importance of having these standards in place and for work alongside us to make sure the standards are realistic and achievable for services to implement.
“I have no doubt that the benefits of these standards will be felt not just among communications practitioners in the sector, but across communities too.”
Jack Grasby, who is the incoming Chair of FirePRO, said:
“The new standards are the culmination of years of work, and it’s brilliant to see them published. Hopefully they will provide much needed clarity on what ‘good’ looks like, when it comes to fire service communication, and I hope they are welcomed across the sector.
“However, this is very much just the start. As with any strategy, document or plan, they need to be taken off the page and put into practice for our services, colleagues and communities to reap the rewards of first-class communication and engagement.
“As a committee, our priority now is therefore to support our members in delivering against these standards. We’re preparing the supporting guidance as we speak, and will be on hand to provide any necessary clarity to fire services around the document’s contents.
“We have also shaped our training programme for this year around the standards, and they will underpin the agenda at our up-coming annual conference.
“Together, we are very much looking forward to working with colleagues, from up and down the country, to implement these standards over the next few years. We want to show just how brilliant fire and rescue communicators can be, and what good work they can do with the right resources and support.”
Chair of the Fire Standards Board, Suzanne McCarthy said: “The launch of the Communication and Engagement Fire Standard is a significant step forward in helping services deliver the right communications, behaviours and values across fire and rescue services. It builds on our increasing suite of standards, which together support and enable services to drive continuous improvement.”
“I want to thank all the individuals and services for their contributions towards the content and development of this Standard. Like the others published, these have been developed by the service for the service, acknowledging and incorporating what good looks like.”
Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, Chris Philp, said: “I am delighted to see the launch of the Communication and Engagement and Fire Control Standards, to support all fire and rescue services in ensuring community and efficiency is at the heart of their work.
“These Standards demonstrate that continuing to improve the quality of service and communication provided to the public is of the highest importance, as well as supporting professional development of fire and rescue employees across the country.
“We expect all fire and rescue services to review and implement any changes needed to deliver consistent excellence to the public”.
NOTES TO EDITOR
- FirePRO is the membership body for communicators working in fire and rescue. It run through a national committee made up of communications professionals from within the sector
- The aims of FirePRO are to set a standard for communications and engagement practice, support practitioners to meet the standard through training and development, and act as a the industry voice for the sector
- The Fire Standards Board oversee the identification, organisation, development and maintenance of professional Standards for fire and rescue services in England
- The Board is responsible for approving Standards and the approach to their development. It will set the priorities for Standards development work. It will commission work based on proposals from third parties, monitor progress with ongoing work and approve completed work
- Paul Compton is Head of Communications and Engagement at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
- Jack Grasby is Campaigns Manager at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service