Published 10 February 2023

Culture in the fire and rescue service

NFCC Logo image

Responding to reports regarding culture in the fire and rescue service, the National Fire Chiefs Council has reiterated that the behaviours outlined are wholly unacceptable, making it clear there is no place for harassment, bullying or discrimination in any workplace.  

NFCC is committed to working with all fire and rescue services to support open and inclusive workplace cultures. 

Responding to the reports, NFCC Chair Mark Hardingham said: “I am appalled by the recent reports into behaviours and culture in some fire and rescue services. These shocking behaviours have no place in a modern fire and rescue service. 

“They need to stop – and stop now.  

“Everyone has the right to go to work feeling safe, supported and respected in an organisation that values diversity, aspiration and fair challenge.  

“As leaders across the fire and rescue service, we need to lead by listening and learning – in particular, from the voices of those who have lived experience of discrimination and harassment within fire and rescue services. We need to ensure that the policies and process in place are fair and transparent. When issues are reported we need to act in a timely way to ensure investigations happen as expediently as possible. Only by ensuring these things will we build more inclusive and welcoming organisations where everyone feels valued. We also need to ensure people have independent reporting lines where they can report incidents confidentially, confident that action will be taken. We are committed to making this happen.  

“Now is the time to act; to ensure there are clear standards, behaviours and development in place underpinned by strong consequences if these are not met.  

“NFCC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead, and Cornwall Chief Fire Officer Kathryn Billing said, we have never been so committed as leaders to ensuring we are and have inclusive services. Cultural reform is required and as fire services transform their cultures, those working within them must see and feel the benefits. However, we humbly acknowledge across the fire sector this is a watershed moment and change has been too slow and inconsistent. We must and will do more, much more, at pace, with integrity and consistently, to lead reform across our services at every level.  

There are excellent examples of inclusive firefighters, leaders and fire services that have transformed their cultures. To build from this and sustain the improvements needed we will be forming an independent external advisory group to inform and steer our work. The group will be made up of key external stakeholders and organisations who can provide challenge and support and we will be drawing on the voices and views of those staff who have lived experience. “

We are bringing fire leaders from across the UK together at an event next month to hear from people inside and outside the fire sector. We will use this event and the ideas that emerge from it to inform our action plan, which we will publish.  

This is a critical priority for us in the year ahead and for the future of the fire service.