The purpose of this research paper will be to explore quality standards applied by the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service. The research will largely take a descriptive approach. The research paper will seek to review several quality assurance systems used by the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service. In conclusion, the paper will try to point out a number of recommendations worthy considering after reviewing the systems applied. Moreover, the paper will identify ways in which the research findings can be disseminated.
Quality assurance is an approach taken by organizations to keep aligned to the goal of striving to give the best of service by constantly improving the services offered. Quality is “The level to which a set of integral characteristics measure up to required standards which are pre-determined, generally implied or mandatory” (Hoyle 2007, 106). Quality assurance systems are put in place to constantly or continuously watch and evaluate the organization’s performance. This is done by constantly carrying out researches on service delivery. Quality assurance can also be viewed as a process of gauging a given organization against what other similar organizations are doing. It is done through a set of laid down and recognized guidelines. With quality assurance standards being developed on a continuous basis, it is important to keep conforming to the new set of guidelines (Pfeifer 2002, 442).
Reports from the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service, their Integrated Risk Management Plan were mainly used to compile data in this research paper. Particularly, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service will be reviewed and its systems critically looked at.
Quality Assurance Systems
The efficiency of quality assurance solely depends on the system that is used. Although most systems will have specific areas of interest to focus on, they also have a diverse range of guidelines to be met by organizations. These guidelines tackle issues surrounding areas of an organization’s work and operating environments. In the quest to achieve these quality standards, it is the responsibility of the organization to choose how to meet the standards. This is because these systems do not use any set of predefined methods to achieve the standards. Hence, it is the duty of the organization to define its own methodology.
For an organization to be deemed quality, people from outside the organization must approve these quality assurance systems (Guasch 2007, 187). That means they assess the organization according to the guidelines set by the system and approve conformity to them. A few systems though are internally checked, meaning it is down to the organization to make sure these standards are met to the highest level possible. In choosing which system of quality assurance to use, an organization needs to evaluate what they want to achieve, and how they work towards it. In deciding which system to acquire it is important, that the cost factor be well looked at. This is necessary especially because external evaluation systems will be done at a cost. Standards should be economical, attainable, and applicable and most of all, legitimate.
Incident Recording System (IRS)
Incident Recording System came into being after the Local Government backed by the Department of Communities and in cooperation with the Scottish government directed that all fire and rescue services in the UK put in place an electronic system of incident recording (IRS). Incident Recording System is an event recording system used by fire authorities to collect and confirm data electronically at the source (Green et al 2005, 24). It is an improvement on the manual data collection, which was slow and prone to errors. An advantage of fully automating the system is the high levels of efficiency and accuracy throughout the process starting from recording, verification, and computation of results. In a bid to improve the IRS efficacy, FRSs received technical training on the system use, which they are expected to pass on to others. Using this system, serious fire incidents are collected and documented by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The data collected includes deaths and injuries resulting from fires. Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue moved a step further in a bid to improve efficiency and launched mobile incident command vehicles. These mobile units provide sophisticated control and support with capabilities of linking directly to other institutions like the police and other emergency response service providers. The integrated command support system assists fire officers and other staff in getting real-time data as to happenings taking place throughout the incident. This in turn enables them to make quick and valid decisions.
After data collection, Royal Berkshire uploads the information to a web-based form and the information is verified at the source. This saves time and enhances the accuracy of the data collected that is later used for detailed analysis to allow improvements to be made so that similar incidents can be avoided in the future (Hoyle 2007,57). To ensure quality, the line manager passes the input data through quality assurance procedures. The incident reporting system is used to perform the quality assurance after which the incident is said to be published. Publishing is the same as sending the incident form to the community for local government. From creation to completion, the electronic form remains with the CLG. Using the IRS, it becomes possible to print standard reports that can be used to make valid decisions. Retrieval of copies of the reports is also possible by the fire and rescue service staff and can be used in other systems.
Administrative staff at Service Headquarters uses the IRS system to create and manage the list of users authorized to access the system. The IRS has enormous benefits to the future of fire and rescue services (Smeby 2006, 124). This is due to its robust nature, relevance, and timely data that enhances policy evaluation (Dean 1992, 18). IRS is a major boost to the way firefighting services are designed and delivered, given the simplified data collection procedures with only relevant questions being given to respondents the results publishing will be fast and quality. It will enhance the efforts being channeled to incidents by quantifying the real efforts being put towards incidents. Using the new system, IRS electronic filling of the forms will be fast and easy given the fact that most answers to the questions will be selected from a drop-down list.
The accuracy level of the data collected will be improved. However, inaccurate or poor filling of the forms could lead to the wrong statistics and hence wrong decisions in the future. For instance, the Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service has benefited from IRS in that there is a standardized reporting format, increased amount of data collected meaning that very viable decisions can be made based on the rich information extracted from the data. It is possible to compare service delivery of Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue with other fire and rescue services hence improving its operational performance especially using the special service data.
Using the quality assurance system, Royal Berkshire’s fire and rescue service staff are well equipped with information and can liaise with the chief fire officer on the best methods to deliver Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP). Fire Service Emergency Cover (FSEC) can acquire its needed data from the IRS, with Royal Berkshire fire station able to access and use graphical reports for incidents.
Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP)
Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue covers an area of 125,914 hectares. The population was 800,000. With 600 well-trained staff and 120 other retained staff, the fire authority attended to estimated 12,000 emergency incidents last year as according to (Smeby 2006, 80). Royal Berkshire’s aim is to ensure a safe society by minimizing cases of death, injuries, and destruction of property by fire and other incidents. Using the command system, Royal Berkshire is able to predict the necessary responses, plan for the appropriate resources and training. In the process of analyzing the risks, Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue services have largely adopted the Fire Service Emergency Cover to analyze threats posed to communities.
FSEC processes are continually evolving and refined to take into consideration diverse communities and changing times FSEC was used to evaluate threats in houses, buildings, road traffic accidents, and other incidents considered special(Pfeifer 2002,221). FSEC also maintains lifestyle data. This has been integrated into the risk data system. The purpose of the same is to enhance the capability to pinpoint persons who might be at risk. This allows for the alleviation of risks to individuals. The combination of the risk data and information gathered from the community makes it possible to identify classes of people within the community who are frequently at risk in their homes. This has helped in the development of preventative measures. For instance, the installation of smoke detectors and home safety checks are done to prevent accidents even before they happen. All in all, priority is directed towards the most vulnerable people.
Under statutory obligation, Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service produces an Integrated Risk management Plan. This is a five-year plan on what the service intends to carry out. Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue Service takes these set standards very seriously. These standards depend on property types in a particular place. The Royal Berkshire Integrated Risk Management Planning revolves around saving lives by enhancing the safety of the public and trying as much to minimize incidents. The Royal Berkshire fire rescue and service regularly reviews its plan to ensure that it stays current on risk information contained (Hoyle 2007, 162). Their focus mainly is on a plan that ensures people are put first, evaluating all the dangers posed by fires and emergency happenings. It also covers the possibilities of minimizing and controlling them.
Royal Berkshire’s IRMP has been put in place to assess the risks to life and property. This helps in making decisions on the deployment of resources. It seeks to manage risks involved by focusing attention on people first. Furthermore, its main objective is to prevent fires or similar incidents from happening. This means that there are clear plans instituted beforehand. The plans help ensure that appropriate response is offered to bear in mind characteristics of a location and always in a timely way. The plan is set to work through a number of phases. First, existing risks are identified. Then an evaluation is done to define the best way to counter the risks. Identification of improvement prospects is done and finally setting of policies and guidelines to be followed and allocation of resources. For the past 7 years, it has been a requirement for all fire and rescue authorities to create a local IRMP, that stipulates the strategies laid down by the authority in conjunction with other agencies. This is done in an effort to reduce cases of severe fires, traffic accidents on the road including emergency incidents that occur in the jurisdiction of the Royal Berkshire’s authority.
Integrated Risk Management Plan also ensures there is a reduction in the number of casualties in fires, traffic accidents, and emergency incidents (Hughes and Ed 2009, 488). This plan has seen a reduction in the impacts of the fires commercially, socially, and economically. Besides, safeguarding of the environment is well taken care of. Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue service IRMP details the improvements and plans intended for fulfillment in the future and specifically, over a period of 5 years. This document reflects the local needs in dealing effectively with both existing and potential risks. To achieve this, the Royal Berkshire Fire and rescue service seeks to engage the residents, partners, and all stakeholders.
Projects in Controlled Environments commonly known as Prince2 are a quality assurance standard that’s process-based. It is mainly used for managing projects effectively. As a standard, prince2 has found wide application in the United Kingdom. The government applies the standard, the firms in the private sector and even international actors. Projects that utilize Prince majorly focus on the justification of the business and break up projects into convenient, controllable phases. It is described as an approach that is based on the product and its quality (Bentley 2001, 101). Since its commissioning in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, which has since been renamed to OGC (the Office of Government Commerce), Prince has undergone several changes. Originally, PRINCE was designed based on PROMPT. This is a methodology for project management developed by Impact systems in 1975 (Bentley 2001, 78). These quality standards were used by government information system projects since it was adopted by CCTA in 1979. In 1996, 150 European organizations came together and contributed to come up with PRINCE2.
By using PRINCE2 quality assurance methods, organizations are able to achieve more efficiency in managing the business and assessing project risks (Bentley 2001, 198). There is also superior resource control using this system. PRINCE2 is well known to provide procedures and a common language during project management. This minimizes the chances of errors and gives an opportunity to learn from errors made. It is an easy to learn system that has worked well with most organization’s that have seen its evolution since the early 80’s and saves an organization time, effort and money. The efficiency of this quality system is achieved through its focus on the why, when and for whom. The system defines the whole process and constantly checks the progress against the plan.
Health and Safety standards
Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service needs to invest equal efforts to health and safety guidelines just as it does to other core business operations. This will ensure the efficacy and efficiency in manage risks to avoid harm to people under working environments.
Ensuring that health and safety standards are met, there are key stages to be involved (Hughes and Ed 2009, 124). That is policy, organization, planning, quantifying performance, audit and evaluation. Policies are set for organizations to adhere to hence achieve effective health and safety. These policies help by contributing to organizational performance and form part of proven gradual advancement. If followed to the letter, it ensures that there is a reduction in financial losses due to its systematic approach of conserving human resources. Organization is another stage in ensuring quality health and standards. In this stage, the focus is on firm management structure whereby emphasis is given for workers to not only avoid immediate accidents but also take care of their health for long term. All the shareholders in an organization have a feeling of shared responsibility towards its goals, values and objectives. The management team is encouraged to foster a progressive health and safety culture. “In the implementing health and safety guidelines, planning is crucial” and care has to be factored (Hughes and Ed 2009, 511). To achieve best results, policies must be implemented in a systematic approach. This means putting in place an effective system of managing health and safety standards. The main aim of planning is to ensure that risks are minimized if not eliminated, and in doing so, a positive health culture is cultivated.
Measuring performance tries to uncover the effectiveness of health and safety systems that are implemented through active monitoring. In cases where management fails reactive evaluation of the happenings, accidents or bad health reveals the causes. Regular audits are carried out to “test the functionality and the relevance of health and safety standards” (Hughes and Ed 2009, 417). This involves an orderly review of the conduct of the system based on facts from external audits. Constant review promotes the development of new policies and improves the existing ones, with more emphasis put on methods used to counter risks. Annual reports are produced to show statistics.
Ensuring quality assurance for services offered by Royal Berkshire fire and rescue service requires total commitment to set targets and systems. Constant reviews of the policies that are governing these systems will ensure that positive progress is achieved. Though much effort has been focused on Incident recording system through the command system already in place, implementation and improvement of the Incident Reporting System should be highly emphasized as it will ensure quality service delivery for the Berkshire fire and rescue service. In addition, the health and safety standards should also be enhanced and a positive health culture promoted.
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