National evaluation of Fire and Rescue Service pandemic response

The University of Liverpool’s Dr Sara Waring has been commissioned by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to conduct a national evaluation of the fire and rescue service response to COVID-19.

Sara is a co-author on an initial report produced alongside Catherine Levin (Communications Adviser and freelance consultant to the NFCC) and Jim Owen (independent consultant and previous Deputy Chief Fire Officer).  Available on the NFCC website, this report captures the experiences of Chief Fire Officers from across the UK, and partners and stakeholders from the Home Office, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, fire unions, and national employers, as they responded to the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara said: “The findings in our initial report capture an important point in Fire and Rescue service history. It provides a timely overview of the activities fire and rescue services undertook to respond to the initial phases of the pandemic, what worked well and why, and challenges that emerged as a result of facing this unique and dynamic event. The commissioning of this national evaluation indicates a commitment by the NFCC and fire and rescue services across the UK to learning and strengthening their response to complex incidents of national significance. ”

The project is set to continue into 2022 and will see Sara leading on process and outcome evaluations.

The process evaluation will focus on the role of the NFCC in strategic coordination of arrangements during the pandemic, including internal governance, communication, and providing guidance. This will involve interviewing key representatives from the NFCC and Home Office.

The outcome evaluation will focus on measuring key outcomes, identified in consultation with stakeholders, which demonstrate how well the Service has responded to the pandemic. This will  include considering national data capturing methods to ensure that decisions being made are based on robust data.

The findings of this project will help to identify what worked well and why, challenges and how these were overcome, good practice and lessons for responding to the ongoing pandemic, recovery, and future events of national significance.

Sara said: “I’ve been in consultation with various stakeholders and beneficiaries to make sure that the process and outcome evaluation frameworks I’m developing are focusing on issues of relevance, are credible, and will have practical utility.”

Dr Waring is also supervising two students studying on the MSc in Investigative and Forensic Psychology to undertake some of this evaluation work. This will provide them with a unique opportunity to develop their professional skills, engage with national leads in the Fire and Rescue Service and Home Office, and gain experience of producing research with impact.

Dr Sara Waring is a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychological Sciences. She is Research Coordinator for the Critical and Major Incident Psychology research group, working in partnership with law enforcement, emergency, security, military and government agencies to study decision making, information sharing and leadership in risky and uncertain environments. She is also a member of both the Risk Institute and the Centre for Autonomous Systems Technologies, research groups that focus on solving complex problems through interdisciplinary collaborations.