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Local fire service achieves high scores when measuring its effectiveness

Prevention is better than cure is an old saying that is very fitting for Kent’s modern day fire service, which strives to prevent fires and other emergencies from happening in the first place. 

In the past two years alone, the Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) Safe and Well Team has visited more than 20,000 homes across the county, supporting residents to live safely and independently at home. The free Safe and Well home visit service is an opportunity for eligible residents to receive vital fire safety advice and have smoke alarms fitted, relocated and tested. Safe and Well officers identify potential fire hazards and work with residents to help them live more safely – judgement-free. 

Safe and Well Officer Helen Kyte said: “When I tell people I work for KFRS, they initially think I fight fires – but when I explain to them that my role as a Safe and Well officer is to prevent fires in the home from occurring in the first place, they realise it’s actually a really important aspect of the service.

“We’re here to make sure those we are visiting are safe and to answer any questions they may have. Visits usually take around 45 minutes, and by the end, the aim is to ensure the person has peace of mind that their home is fire safe.”

The service has been adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic so residents can continue to seek fire safety advice in way that protects both KFRS staff and customers. Phone consultations have replaced what would normally be more simple visits, and face-to-face visits have continued in high risk cases and where smoke alarms need to be fitted, but with officers wearing full PPE and maintaining social distancing. 

Helen said: “Home really is a safe place – something that has certainly felt more evident for everyone during lockdown, so it’s our job to ensure homes stay that way in terms of fire risk.

“We provide advice tailored to the individual’s property and lifestyle to help prevent fires, including escape plan and electrical safety advice. We also work closely with other local services so we can arrange further support for anyone who needs it.”

To find out more, to book a free visit or to discuss any home fire safety concerns, call the team on 0800 923 7000 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm). The friendly team will check your eligibility and arrange a time and date for a call or visit that suits you.

Meanwhile, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) has achieved record scores for customer satisfaction, following an independent survey by the UK’s customer service professional body.

Results of the survey completed by Kent and Medway residents, and conducted by The Institute of Customer Service, revealed KFRS is providing an exceptional level of customer service across the board – including emergency response, Safe and Well home visits and building fire safety inspections.

When benchmarked against other public services in the institute’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), KFRS’s high scores stood out in all areas measured; experience, customer ethos, emotional connection, ethics and complaint handling.

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The service also compared very well against the all-sector UKCSI average, which includes private sector organisations.  

For overall customer satisfaction, KFRS achieved a score of 95.3 out of 100 in the survey of its customers, compared to the public service UKCSI average of 75.3, and the all-sector average of 77.

Ann Millington (left), chief executive at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Where the private sector offers choice, we recognise that KFRS as a public sector organisation is the only fire and rescue service on offer, so it’s even more important we consider all the needs of our customers. 

“We have undertaken the Institute of Customer Service’s Business Benchmarking survey to help us understand how we can keep improving.

“We’re really pleased with the outcome of the survey as it shows that the hard work of our staff is paying off. This result does however only provide us with a snapshot of how we’re doing, so we will always keep striving to provide the best possible customer service across all areas of our organisation, which extends far beyond fighting fires. We are particularly focused on ensuring everyone in our community can access all our services.

“Our customers are at the centre of everything we do, and at KFRS we genuinely care about the people we serve, and believe every interaction matters, no matter how big or small it may be.”

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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