Knowledge equals power: Dennis Davis looks at how the 'knowledge gap' creates problems within the Fire and Rescue Service, and how this gap can best be bridged.(Risk Management)

THERE IS AN OLD STORY THAT SOME years ago US and UK scientists were collaborating to study the impact of various materials on human tissue in weightless environments.

Each group was working in their own national laboratories and the question arose as to what to use as the test tissue sample. The US scientists advised that they had found frozen chickens from the local supermarket were a reliable and cost-effective substitute for human tissue. The Brits dully followed this idea but found over several weeks that they could not replicate the US experimental results. After many miss-starts and e-mail exchanges one US scientist asked: "You are defrosting the chickens before you use them, aren't you?" The Brits instantly realised their mistake and the project was soon back on course. A simple problem solved by the bridging of a knowledge gap.

Today in the business of the UK FRS we appear to have evolved to using complex propositions combined with extensive management to meet all sorts of perceived service demands. But with an increasingly informed population in what is now the extraordinary world of public policy performance monitoring, are we not at risk of losing sight of the essential function of the FRS? Are we in fact not moving on but away from best practice in operational competency? Certainly innovation as to how we deliver operational services is not under question here--rather what is being asked is a more fundamental question about the 'what' of fire and rescue intervention.

Achilles Heel

These are legitimate questions for a service that may well have been criticised for limited acceptance of change but not for the quality of the emergency response performed by its staff. After all Bain recorded that 'localised responses to emergencies are working well', adding 'the Fire Service should have specific responsibilities for: emergency response ... where it is best fitted to act as the primary agency'. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.