Who we are
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority (the Authority) is responsible for ensuring that the communities of Somerset and Devon, including Plymouth and Torbay, are protected and supported by an effective and efficient fire and rescue service.
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (the Service) is the organisation put in place by the Authority to deliver its duties and responsibilities. We are the largest non-metropolitan fire and rescue service in England, covering almost 4,000 square miles. We protect 820,000 households, 74,000 businesses and a further 1.1 million visitors a year. Our Service area has a network of over 13,000 miles of roads, 90% of which are smaller, rural roads and country lanes, and 659 miles of coastline. We have 332 emergency response vehicles and 1,915 dedicated staff.
Keeping people safe is what we do and we have a proud history of this.
We know that risk in our communities has changed and we now face different challenges than in the past.
It is great to see that the number of deaths from fire is falling. This is a result of years of prevention work and we have come a long way from being seen as just an emergency response service. But incidents still occur and we are ready 24/7 to respond.
Preventing fire and other incidents is an important part of our work. We aim to support and educate communities to take steps to protect themselves.
We believe that prevention is better than cure. We aim to stop fires and incidents happening in the first place. By doing this we not only reduce the suffering caused but also save money, for ourselves and our partners, such as the police, ambulance service, local councils and the National Health Service.
We provide home fire safety advice so that you can keep yourself safe. For most people, this is through targeted social and traditional media to influence behaviour. We also:
- deliver free home safety visits to people most at risk of fire
- deliver home safety visits, education and campaigns
- work with partners to deliver road safety advice, education and campaigns
- work with partners to deliver water safety advice and equipment.
Our prevention and protection teams will increasingly use community partnerships as well as internal and external learning to identify trends and emerging risks to enable us to target prevention activities. We plan to better understand local risks to help us focus our activities on those most at risk of fire and high-risk locations, taking a prevention first approach. We will develop local risk management plans, involving staff, partners and communities, to help us shape and improve the service we provide.
We work with our partners to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable people by signposting appropriate help, advice and services, and helping them with basic crime prevention measures. Reducing the potential for slips, trips and falls, and reducing the likelihood of a fire, means that vulnerable people can carry on living independently in their homes.
More people are killed and seriously injured in road traffic collisions (RTCs) than in fires. With roads such as the M5, A30, A38 and A303 in our Service area, road traffic collisions form a significant part of our emergency response and we aim to educate drivers.
One in four of our residents are aged 65 years or over1, and 60,000 of those are over 85 years. As the population ages, we expect to see greater numbers of older people living with some form of impairment, many of whom will be living alone and in relative isolation given the rural nature of much of our area. 54% of the victims of fires in the home live alone, making living alone the most common factor in dwelling fires.
Employment levels are relatively high and there are many affluent areas across the two counties. However, the average hourly rate in Devon and Somerset is £9.15, significantly lower than the national average of £14.002. Those on a lower income tend to live in areas of deprivation, where the likelihood of a fire in their home is higher than those living in less deprived areas.
1 Office for National Statistics mid-year population estimates
2 From NOMIS labour market statistics
We carry out risk-based fire protection activities guided by a risk-based approach, completing fire safety checks (lower risk business premises) and fire safety audits (higher risk business premises) at business premises. We work with partners to ensure fire safety in high-rise buildings and to ensure that public events are safe. The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London raised several significant questions over building regulations, how fire safety regulations are enforced in such premises and how the fire and rescue service respond to fires in high-rise residential premises.
There are 163 buildings in our service area with six floors or more. We continue to focus our protection resources on the inspection of high-rise buildings and protecting buildings and the area around them. We will continue to adopt recommendations from the Grenfell Public Inquiry.
We are also involved in influencing the safety of buildings even before they are built. We work closely with architects, planners and owners, advising them how to maximise the safety of occupants, the public and our firefighters through technical solutions and building design. This work includes encouraging the use of sprinklers in higher-risk buildings like high-rise properties, schools and residential care homes.
We work hard to support local businesses to help them reduce fire risk and be compliant with their legal responsibilities. We are the enforcing body for fire safety prosecutions and continue to take action against those who break the law. Fire protection laws are there to keep people safe whenever they enter a public building or business. We are here to help those responsible for these buildings meet the legal standards and to help them protect businesses from fire. We undertake fire safety audits based on our risk-based inspection programme.
Our response to emergencies is designed to get the right equipment to the right place as quickly as possible. It requires highly trained firefighters, with modern equipment, supported with risk information to respond safely. We have about 1,600 frontline operational staff and 83 fire stations across Devon and Somerset.
Our Emergency Response Standards enable us to monitor how often we arrive within our target attendance time to dwelling fires and road traffic collisions.
Our aim is for a fire engine to attend dwelling fires within 10 minutes of the emergency call being answered, and road traffic collisions within 15 minutes.
The rural nature of Devon and Somerset means that this isn’t always going to be possible, so our target is to achieve the Emergency Response Standards for at least 75% of this incident type.
On average, we arrive at an emergency in about nine minutes from answering the call.
- 12 wholetime fire stations (crewed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by immediately available wholetime firefighters, often supported by on-call firefighters)
- 69 on-call fire stations (crewed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by firefighters who are on call and respond to the fire station within five minutes of a call being received)
- two volunteer fire stations (crewed by on-call firefighters).
As well as responding to fires and road traffic collisions we also undertake a wide variety of specialist rescues, working with the police, HM Coastguard, Environment Agency and many other organisations.
- rescuing people from height or below ground
- rescue of extremely overweight people or supporting the ambulance service
- rescuing people trapped within or under structures or large vehicles
- rescues from difficult locations (like from lifts, cliffs, mud)
- rescuing large animals that are trapped
- response to flooding incidents
- chemical and hazardous response
- marine firefighting.
All our firefighters are trained in casualty care. This is vital and means that when we are the first to arrive at an emergency we can provide immediate, and potentially lifesaving, first aid.
We also operate medical co-responder schemes at 20 of our fire stations, where trained firefighters attend medical emergencies at the request of the ambulance service. More recently, we have supported the ambulance service with firefighters driving ambulances during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We have a statutory duty to assess and plan for threats and risks to our communities. All fire and rescue services maintain a response capability to ensure that we can respond with our partners to foreseeable risks, such as those identified at a national or regional level.
We have specialist rescue capabilities and additional specialist vehicles at various locations that will support incidents where a higher level of intervention is needed, such as mass public decontamination. We also have two specialist teams prepared to help mitigate the impact of terrorism.
Fighting fires and attending other emergency incidents are inherently dangerous. We need to ensure that we assess the risks faced by our staff and introduce control measures to reduce the risks as much as possible. We will continue to carry out operational assurance and learning to understand significant risks, providing our firefighters with access to a suite of guidance and risk information when attending incidents.
Our Fire and Rescue Plan sets out how we will respond to our communities' current and future risks as set out in our Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP).
We need a different, flexible and more cost-effective operating model to meet those challenges. Our improvement plans will support us to adapt to the changes around us.
"Together, we will work to end preventable fire and rescue emergencies, creating a safer world for our communities."
We will do this by:
- involving communities and colleagues in designing our services
- innovating, using new technologies and approaches to reduce or remove risk
- influencing behaviour, design and legislation, to make living and working environments safer.
There’s a great team ethos across the Service – likened by many to a strong family.
We know the importance of what we do. And we’re all pulling together to make our communities safer.
Inclusion is our passion – we are resolved to improve the diversity of all kinds in our workforce. We are making steps forward but our gender and Black and minority ethnic diversity is a long way from where it needs to be.
We are proud of our people and their dedication to the safety of the communities in Devon and Somerset and all those who visit our counties. They dedicate much of their lives to making a difference – especially as the vast majority of operational staff are on call.
We want to ensure that the people who deliver our services are supported to have a better work-life balance, have more opportunities to develop new skills and progress, are more empowered, and are involved in shaping better services for the community.