In May 2018, Kent Fire and Rescue Service began a project to review the collection, storage and sharing of all risk information, including site specific risk information (SSRI) with their staff. The vision was to create one system, providing a single source of truth that is seamlessly shared across the organisation, readily available to staff and shared in the right way depending on the task or event. Steven Flint AIFireE, Station Manager, details the project and progress made to date.
Prior to the project, Kent FRS used three separate Microsoft Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for different areas of the business which dated back to 2011 for storing building, people and risk information. Each area of the business (Operations, Building Safety and Customer Safety) used its own CRM system which was largely independent to the others, meaning Information could be recorded in one system but not easily or routinely shared. To improve information sharing and to slimline the systems used, the project team began a detailed review process. Over the course of eight months, process maps for all existing procedures were created, this covered all areas such as incident response, building safety audits, and customer safety activities, with a further 42 maps produced that identified potential new and innovative ways of working, considering new technology. This stage was key to the success of the project and involved constant engagement with staff at all levels from every area of the business. The next step was to appoint an IT partner and following a G Cloud tender process, the contract was awarded to Hitachi Solutions UK.
The project delivery followed the values of agile methodology rather than the alternative waterfall methodology, this enabled the development to be broken down into manageable 3 week blocks, known as sprints. After each sprint the work could be reviewed, tested and accepted prior to moving on to the next sprint, allowing changes and improvements to be made throughout the phase. A flexible approach divided into phases was key due to the amount of work and development that was involved. Phase 1 focused on operational response and SSRI which was completed in May this year. Phase 2 is now underway which focuses on building safety and will be followed by customer safety in the third and final phase. Each area takes approximately nine months to develop, test, provide training and roll out to staff. There were several reason for splitting the project into three phases, firstly to make the workload manageable, secondly to start seeing the benefits of the new system quickly, thirdly to replace the oldest CRM system first. Training the system users has been more manageable by focusing on a just one area of the business rather than trying to train everyone at once. There has also been the opportunity to learn valuable lessons following the successful completion of phase one, looking at what worked well for both the organisation and developer, this has helped improve how we approach the next phases to ensure we continue to build the best possible product whist achieving value for money.
In addition to a new way of working a central Risk Information Team has been created who are responsible for identifying sites and gathering SSRI. This is carried out in the new Dynamics 365 CRM system via a desktop device or in the field services mobile application whilst on site via tablet devices. Dynamics 365 was chosen because it met the needs of the business, such as mobile working, and allows for a seamless sharing of information across all areas of the business, it provided best value for money with many ‘out the box’ functions used, meaning less development time and costs whilst allowing the system to benefit from regular security updates. Alternative IT systems were looked at by the project team but Dynamics 365 proved to be the best option not only for operational requirements but for all the business. This new system will replace all the existing individual CRM systems. Introducing the central Risk Information Team has upskilled staff to a level where they can confidently complete every stage of the process, using knowledge and skills obtained from additional training and receiving recognised qualifications.
The introduction of Dynamics now allows risk information to be shared on a wide range of sites such as wildfire areas, bodies of water, transport and areas at risk from flooding, as well as buildings. This new functionality gives staff access to very specific information identified through National Guidance such as launch sites for the organisation’s boats, safe entry points to flood risk areas and tidal information, as well as additional information such as changes due to events at identified sites and environmental impacts.
The SSRI page is broken down into eight separate headings covering;
Further details are provided under each of the eight headings giving the user the option to drill down into a specific area for more information. For example, within construction details the user has the option to select different types of cladding and insulation from a stored list, such as sandwich or insulated panels, asbestos, concrete, metal, glass or to enter their own. Once the option has been selected, further detailed information can be added such as technical advice and substance flammability. This is obtained during close joint working with the building owners and our building safety inspectors. This process is repeated for each area under all eight headings.
With every risk site there is an attached document library designed to store additional information such as floor or site plans, evacuation information, salvage and water plans, photographs, video clips or other information that the site may provide. There is also the option to link each risk site directly to National Operational Guidance scenarios should the user require that information. This development now means the process for SSRI is fully compliant with the recommendations set out in National Operational Guidance.
Once each SSRI has been published by the Risk Information Team it is made available to all staff to support planning and training. The information is available on desktop devices, appliance mobile terminals and on a second removable device now being fitted to each fire appliance for use during operational incidents.
Activities that operational staff carry out are recorded against that site including on station activities, reviewing SSRI information, tactical assessment visits and exercises. This provides an informative log of activities which support staff and develop skills and knowledge in the right areas.
Very quickly into the project, feedback indicated that incident commanders do not always have time to read a published SSRI in its entirety (which can be as long as 18 pages for complex sites) at the time of being mobilised to an incident. This has been addressed with the introduction of a single page summary which is automatically pushed to appliance terminals at the time of mobilising, giving commanders’ key information in an easy to read format whilst still providing an option via simple toggle switches to interrogate the full SSRI, identify risks and hazards and view any associated documents. This change addresses one of the key objectives of the project which is to share information about people, buildings and risk with all our staff in the best way which supports the task or event they are carrying out.
The introduction of Dynamics 365 has better equipped Kent FRS and resulted in significant improvements in the sharing of information across different areas of the organisation. The project is now progressing through phase 2 with phase 3 due to start in January 2021 and will build on the system’s successes to date, enabling the operational crews to use information from other teams. For example, customer information captured through safe and well visits such as person housebound, unable to escape without assistance or details of hoarding, will be invaluable to operational staff. Similarly building information captured during audits such as defective firefighting facilities or the issue of prohibition notices will be extremely useful at the time of an incident. When staff from these teams collect building and people information in Dynamics using portable devices, the information will be automatically updated ready for operational staff to review. All information is time and date stamped to ensure it is as up to date as possible whilst showing the user its currency and validity to help support decision making.
Substantial improvements have been made over the past 18 months and Kent FRS is already seeing the benefits now that the first phase has been completed, such as remote working at risk sites, allowing for information to be gathered and shared much more quickly than before. The biggest gain is the ability to now provide operational staff with more up to date information at the time of responding and making them aware of building issues such as firefighting features and facilities, hazards, or people in certain parts of a building that may require assistance evacuating, we have also started carrying out joint visits with the new Risk Information team and building safety teams which reduces the impact on premises and businesses. There are benefits for the people of Kent too; our customers, by working closely with building owners, responsible people and partner agencies we become aware of what’s important to them and understand their business. Guidance and information within the SSRI reflects this to help us deal with any incidents more effectively, for example; understanding salvage plans which exist for many of our heritage sites, sharing these with operational staff and allowing them to practice and plan for an incident with the site will undoubtedly benefit everyone. Whilst a lot of progress has been made, there are at least 9 months development in phase 2 (building safety) and a further 9 months in phase 3 (customer safety) before the organisation reaps the full rewards.