Read more about our work to benchmark knowledge and understanding of operational procedures among staff at an English fire service.

The Challenge

As parts of its programme to identify and address gaps in their staff's knowledge and understanding of operational procedures, processes and guidance when responding to emergency incidents in complex buildings, such as hospitals and high-rise flats, the NSMC were appointed to carry out a baseline study of current levels of knowledge and understanding amongst operational staff at the fire service. 

What We Did

Staff Survey

The NSMC set up and administered an online survey for over 700 operational staff at the fire service, which included sets of questions around a number of key operational topics. In addition to the specific questions to understand the current knowledge levels, questions were also asked to determine the respondents’ confidence around the topic areas and their perceived ability to look for further information on these areas. 


Results from the completed surveys were analysed by the NSMC using the statistical computer program SPSS. Survey responses were tabulated and presented separately for each question asked using descriptive statistics and bar/line graphs to show clearly the proportion of responses in each category. Write-in responses were also reported to the fire service team leading the study.


The survey provided the fire service with a good baseline from which to build upon and improve their training offer and staff knowledge. However, there remained a number of unanswered questions, such as why low knowledge levels remained after training for certain topic areas but not for others. To answer these and other key questions, a series of follow-on focus groups were proposed by the NSMC with operational staff. 

What We Achieved

The online survey results helped the fire service to gauge existing levels of knowledge and understanding of operational procedures, processes and guidance amongst its operational staff and to make plans to resolve any shortcomings identified. However, this quantitative research also raised a number of further questions. These questions could not be answered using another online survey, so in-depth qualitative focus groups were held to explore these questions with staff. This is a very common approach to research - the quantitative research shows the extent of the challenge being addressed while the quantitative research tells us why the challenge has arisen.