High rise buildings - firefighting arrangements: report

HM Fire Service Inspectorate (HMFSI) report assessing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's (SFRS's) arrangements and readiness to fight fires in high rise buildings in Scotland. It contains areas of good practice and recommendations where there is scope to improve performance.

Appendix B

How this inspection was carried out

The purpose of this inspection is to examine aspects of the SFRS's arrangements for firefighting in high rise buildings. Firefighting cannot be considered in isolation, a number of issues are interrelated to firefighting. In particular we also considered issues related to:

  • risk
  • fire safety features
  • building checks
  • risk information.

An inquiry by the Inspectorate can be self-directed or can be subject to direction by Scottish Ministers. This inquiry into the SFRS is self-directed by the Chief Inspector, Robert Scott QFSM. The following persons also contributed to the Inspection and to the report:

Brian McKenzie, Assistant Inspector

Graeme Fraser, Assistant Inspector

Rick Taylor, Assistant Inspector

Martin Riach, Inspection Manager

Richard Gorst and Steve Harkins, who left the Inspectorate prior to the inspection concluding, were also participants in the inspection fieldwork.

A quality assurance check on a draft of the report was carried out by Assistant Inspector John Joyce QFSM who had no previous participation in the inspection process and external assurance was provided by Wayne Brown, Deputy Chief Officer, West Midlands FRS.

The decision to carry out this inspection was intelligence-led and risk-based, influenced by the importance of the subject area and by our interest in the risks associated with this area of work.

The progress of this inspection was impacted by staff turnover, and the timescale and engagement methods have been influenced and impacted upon by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.


This inspection has involved a number of different methods of evidence gathering and analysis:

  • a desk top data review of documents and data supplied by the SFRS. We undertook a sense check and assessment of the content of procedural documents;
  • a number of face-to-face and virtual interviews with SFRS staff who are responsible for the development of policy and training and their implementation;
  • examination of SFRS records of risk information held about high rise buildings;
  • visits to seven different LSO areas. During these visits we:
    • spoke to staff at 14 fire stations and sampled the extent to which SFRS firefighting staff had knowledge of procedures and had discussion of resulting issues and practices
    • accompanied crews on five visits to inspect different domestic high rise buildings
    • spoke to fire safety enforcement staff and flexi duty managers;
  • observed two role play exercises in an empty high rise block in Scotland and observed the incident support arrangements at the Operations Control during a role play incident;
  • engaged with one local authority which had installed communal fire warning systems in all of its high rise domestic blocks;
  • a number of virtual interviews with Scottish Government policy staff who are responsible for the development of policy and its implementation;
  • visited two large UK Fire and Rescue Services outside of Scotland to discuss their approach to high rise issues. During one of these visits observed a role play exercise in a domestic tall building, and
  • we compared SFRS firefighting procedures against UK National Operational Guidance (NOG), which is issued by the NFCC Fire Central Programme Office and with procedures in place in three other UK FRSs.


Email: HMFSI@gov.scot

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