The recently published Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) sets the future direction of fire services in a way that aligns fire services and fire safety in Ireland with international good practice. KCS was developed by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department following a review of relevant international literature which is referenced in Appendix D of the document. A collaborative process was used between central and local government in developing KCS, including expert input by Chief Fire Officers and fire services personnel; stakeholder consultation and engagement by the National Directorate with relevant technical organisations to ensure the best fit between up-to-date thinking and Ireland’s needs. The document was recommended for adoption as national policy by the Management Board of the Directorate.
KCS is based on the systems approach to safety management in set ting out the guidance and core standards for fire authorities to achieve the objective of keeping communities safe from fire. The systems approach is recognised internationally and is applied in many safety spheres. The Risk Management approach, which is described in Chapter 2 of KCS, is generally seen to involve five stages including identifying hazards and evaluating the risks these hazards pose, mitigating these risks by trying to reduce the probability of the event and/or its consequences if it does occur, planning and preparing to deal with the risk, responding to an event, and reviewing events with a view to learning for the future.
A common understanding in relation to terminology in risk management is important, hence the inclusion of relevant definitions in Appendix E of KCS. In particular, the term “Risk Assessment” as used in KCS is one stage of the risk management process outlined above. The National Directorate prepared a series of ‘Task Analyses’ to show how the recommended initial ‘Pre -determined Attendance’ (PDAs) responses may safely undertake tasks normally associated with the common range of fire scenarios set out in Appendix A to the document.
Under Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 , the phrase ‘risk assessment’ has a particular meaning, and requires employers to carry out risk assessments of their work activities. Guidance on relevant aspects of risk assessment for fire services, and meeting this legislative requirement, is provided through a number of approaches. The concept of ‘Dynamic Risk Assessment’ at fire service operations is embedded in the National Incident Command System introduced in 2007. The Fire Services Ancillary Safety Statement, also from 2007, developed generic risk assessment processes for fire services, and the Fire Service Standard Operational Guidance (SOGs) developed specific situational risk assessments for fire services activities. It is expected that individual fire services will prepare any additional risk assessments, which may be necessary to comply with their statutory responsibilities as employers on foot of changes arising from implementation of KCS, based on the Task Analyses referred to above. A Fire Services Safety Management System (SMS) support document is being developed as part of the KCS implementation process to ensure that occupational health and safety in fire services is fully aligned with recently adopted local government SMS policy.