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Why take the risk? Privatise your fire and rescue services

5 minutes
Jonathan Bass Fire and Rescue Services Operations Lead, Serco Middle East

Outsourcing is nothing new, particularly in the Middle East, a market saturated with a variety of companies that deliver a whole host of piecemeal service elements to a granular level. Firms across the region outsource anything from procurement to business process optimisation, cleaning, security, IT, financial accounting and even recruitment. Why then, are there so many companies willing to take a considerable risk by in-sourcing a much more critical service – fire and rescue?

Why then, are there so many companies willing to take a considerable risk by in-sourcing a much more critical service – fire and rescue?

In-sourcing of fire and rescue services affords businesses the maximum level of command and control of fire safety across their property portfolios. It allows them to micromanage fire prevention, training and systems whilst utilising a level of subject matter expertise – either internally or on a consultancy basis – to ensure that their fire and rescue service remains complaint.

Whilst this approach does work, it also places an immense amount of risk and accountability on a business whose primary activities are not fire and rescue services. This lack of internal focus could impact the fire and rescue service’s ability to efficiently respond to an emergency and, more importantly, to save lives.

Off-set the risk, enhance your capability to protect lives

A major element of fire and rescue is that of risk. There is a considerable amount of controllable risk that with the right training, certification and operational management, can be mitigated professionally. Mitigation of risk not only reduces the likelihood of an emergency occurring, but can also influence improvements the responsiveness and the capability of those responding to an emergency through finely tuned policies and operational procedures, better access to equipment and clearer communication frameworks.


A red fire truck at a Fire Training Centre
Above all, outsourcing the fire and rescue service goes beyond the reduction of risk, instead off-setting key risks and their associated accountabilities to another company, one that is a dedicated fire and rescue services organisation with the tools, processes, policies and procedures to better handle those risks.

Optimise the cost, improve your competence

Running your own service inherently can mean the overall cost of doing so is sub-optimal as you miss out on the benefit of re-tendering services every 3-5 years and seeking out new innovation at a more cost-effective price point. In addition, components such as training and certification costs as well as vehicles and equipment maintenance may lead costs to spiral out of control when considering the high level of compliance required in the fire and rescue industry.

Whilst these costs are unavoidable whether in-sourced or outsourced, transferring the responsibility to a specialised fire and rescue service provider means that they can capitalise on economies of scale as well as strong relationships within their own network of partners to deliver the most cost-optimal and compliant service.

This is even more relevant when considering the level of training compliance imposed upon fire and rescue service providers, coupled with the limited availability of training centres in the region – capitalise on the expertise, knowledge and networks of specialised service providers to optimise cost, improve quality and remove the headache of internally pursuing these heavily regulated requirements.

Drive quality, access innovation

A focus on fire and rescue service has the capacity to drive innovation, compliance and service quality. If you’re an airport operator or in the oil and gas industry, the perpetual requirement to maintain a level of regulatory compliance, staff competence, equipment and vehicle standards is a huge undertaking, one that would be better placed with a private sector service provider.

Such a service provider would also be focused on continually improving their competitiveness whilst remaining price relevant, meaning their drive to innovate will only benefit your business in both the short and long term.

Harness the expertise that exists in the global market

The breadth of fire and rescue services often means that those who provide it operate across multiple regions and industries. Doing so challenges those businesses to acquire and retain internal subject matter expertise to ensure that they can offer their clients the latest innovations, global compliance standards and knowledge.

Utilising a specialist service provider will give you access to all of that information, spanning geographical regions and industries and resulting in the provision of a fire service that dynamically learns from its operations across other contracts. In addition, the presence of these subject matter experts affords you the opportunity to transfer knowledge into your own business, enhancing your capability to support the operations of your own fire and rescue service and to better collaborate with your private sector partner.

For example, when appointing Serco as your partner you get access to its International Fire Training Centre which holds one of the most advanced fire training grounds in the world, is the only CAT 10 Aircraft CAA-accredited fire training college in Europe and has been awarded Approved Training Organisation status by ICAO.

Reduce risk, optimise cost, grow together

Ultimately, outsourcing of service delivery to a specialist partner will spearhead the optimisation of cost, the enhancement of training and overall competency and allow you to harness subject matter expertise on a global scale. Companies such as Serco that operate fire and rescue services throughout the globe, as well as the International Fire Training Centre in the UK, bring more value to your service than just an optimised cost. And all of these benefits are delivered in addition to the initial driving force behind outsourcing in general – reducing the operational headache of an in-housed service.

Fire and Rescue Services Operations Lead Jon Bass