Quality & Standards
Quality Assurance Systems
Conclusion and Recommendations
Quality management 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 guide according to Pfeifer (442). 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 organizations 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 don’t use any set of predefined methods to achieve the standards. Hence, it is the duty of the organization to define its own methodology. According to Guasch, for an organization to be deemed quality, these quality assurance systems must beapproved by people from outside the organization (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 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.
Reports from the fire and rescue service, theintegrated Risk management Plan were majorly used to compile data in this research paper. Particularly, Northumberland fire and rescue service will be reviewed and its systems critically looked at.
Incident Recording System came into being after the Local Government backed by 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). Green, Agent and Pigman state that Incident Recording System is an event recording system used by fire and rescue services that collects and confirms data electronically at the source (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. Data collection is done from all the fire and rescue services.
After data collection the fire and rescue service than uploads the information to a web based form and the information is verified at source. This saves time according to Hoyle (57) and enhances accuracy of the data collected which is later used for detailed analysis to allow for improvements to be made so that similar incidents can be avoided in future. To ensure quality, the input data is passed through quality assurance procedures carried out by the line manager. Incident reporting system is used to perform the quality assurance system after which the incident is said to be published. Publishing is the same as sending the incident form to the community for local government. During 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. This is due to its robust nature, relevance and the timely data which enhances policy evaluation as indicated by Dean (18). IRS is a major boost to the way fire fighting 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 Hampshire fire and rescue service will benefit from IRS in that it will standardize the reporting format, increase the amount data collected meaning that very viable decisions can be made based on the rich information extracted from the data. It will be possible to compare service delivery with other fire and rescue services hence improve its operational performance especially using the special service data.
Using this quality assurance system, fire and rescue service staff will be 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) will be able to acquire its needed data from the IRS, with fire stations able to access and use graphical reports for incidents.
Northumberland County Council’s Fire Authority covers an area of 1941 square miles.The population was 311,329. The fire authority attends to estimated 5,000 emergency incidents every year. The fire service carries out risk assessment in accordance with the Civil Contingencies Act, which requires production of a Community risk register. This register categorizes the risks that can potentially harm the community and the report is made public on a yearly basis. This does not necessarily mean that the risks will materialize but they are just used by the fire service as a worst case situation to plan ahead. That’s means they are able to predict the necessary responses, plan for the appropriate resources and training. In the process of analysis the risks, Fire and rescue services has largely adopted the Fire Service Emergency Cover to analyze threats posed to communities. Pfeifer notes that FSEC processes are continually evolving and refined to take into consideration diverse communities and changing times (221). FSEC was used to evaluate threats in houses, buildings, road traffic accidents and other incidents considered special. FSEC also maintains lifestyle data. This has been integrated into the risk data system and enhances 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 are frequently at risk in their homes. This has helped in the development of preventative measures. For instance, 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.
For more than forty years now, the fire and rescue service has been providing services in accordance to set standards. These set standards depended on property types in a particular place and can be dated to as early as 1947. Integrated Risk management Planning is majorly concerned with saving lives by enhancing the safety of the general public and trying as much to minimize incidents. According to Hoyle, the Northumberland fire rescue and service regularly reviews its plan to ensure that it stays current on risk information contained (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. IRMP has been put in place to assess the risks to life and property. This helps in making decisions on deployment of resources. It seeks to manage risks involved by focusing attention onto people first. Furthermore, its main objective is to prevent fires or similar incidents from happening. The plan is in place to ensure the services rendered have the correct level of response directed to the right places and are timely. 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 fire and rescue authorities to create a local IRMP that stipulate 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 fire service authority. Integrated Risk Management Plan also ensures there is a reduction in the number of casualties in fires, traffic accidents and emergency incidents as stated by Hughes (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. Northumberland Fire and rescue service IRMP details the improvements and plans they intend to carry out in the future. This document reflects the local needs in dealing effectively with both existing and potential risks. To achieve this, Northumberland fire and rescue service seeks to engage the residents, partners and all stakeholders.
Projects in Controlled Environments commonly known as Prince2 is a quality assurance standard that’s process-based. It is mainly used for managing projects effectively. It is a standard that is extensively used in the in the UK both by the government and the private sector and also by international bodies. According to Bentley (101), projects that utilise Prince majorly focus on justification of the business and breaks up projects into convenient, controllable phases. It’s described as an approach that is based on the product and its quality. 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 as noted by Bentley (71). These quality standards were used by government information system projects since it was adopted by CCTA in 1979. In 1996, 150 European organisations came together and contributed to come up with PRINCE2.
Bentley further argues that by using PRINCE2 quality assurance methods, organisations are able to achieve more efficiency in managing the business and assessing project risks (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 minimises 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 organisations that have seen its evolution since the early 80’s and saves an organisation 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.
Organisations need to invest equal efforts to health and safety guidelines just as it does to other core business operations. This will ensure the organisations effectively and efficiently manage risks to avoid harm to people under working environments.
Hughes and Ed argue that in ensuring that health and safety standards are met there are key stages involved (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. Organisation 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 not only to avoid immediate accidents but also take care of their health for long term. All the shareholders in an organisation 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. Hughes and Ed clearly state that "in the implementation of health and safety guidelines, planning is crucial” (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 minimised 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. In addition, Hughes and Ed (417), state that regular audits are carried out to "test the functionality and the relevance of health and safety standards”. 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 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. The implementation and improvement of the Incident reporting System should be highly emphasized as it will ensure quality service delivery for the 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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