About two years after a scathing report questioned the basic operational and management competencies at the Cayman Islands Fire Service, the department is facing another consultant study aimed at “ensuring the overall effectiveness” of local firefighting.
The government Ministry of Home Affairs has hired accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers “to help develop an appropriate standard of operations for fire services, and to reshape the overall organizational structure,” according to a statement released last week.
The cost of the latest fire service review is $65,000, according to ministry officials. The review began in June after PwC was awarded the contract following a public tender process.
“Our fire officers often work under dangerous conditions and risk their own lives to ensure the safety of others,” Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers said. “This review gives those brave men and women a voice, We want to know what can be done to help all staff members perform at their best and how we can provide the agency with the support needed going forward in order to achieve this.”
The ministry noted several meetings have been held with fire service staff where feedback has been offered through confidential surveys. One-on-one meetings with fire officers will also be held in the coming weeks as part of the review.
Although he has generally received top marks for firefighting efforts during his tenure, Chief Fire Officer David Hails has struggled with some internal department disputes. Within recent weeks, internal communications sent to fire service staff members by departing officers have expressed some disgruntlement and have alleged that a number of firefighters have chosen to leave the service.
Mr. Hails was contacted by the Cayman Compass over concerns that firefighters were leaving, but he has not made any public comments regarding the situation.
It was the 2015 fire service review, also done by the Ministry of Home Affairs, that eventually led to Mr. Hails’s hiring in early 2016.
The study, by England’s Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor Peter Holland, found major staffing, operational and training problems in the fire service. The report was kept under wraps until a Compass open records request revealed it.
The review led to observations that the department was overstaffed to meet the Cayman community’s firefighting needs. Meanwhile, areas such as building safety inspections and emergency medical services were lacking resources.
“Improvements and recommendations detailed in this report are unlikely to be implemented successfully unless there is a significant improvement in the performance of the management team,” Mr. Holland said at the time.
Acting Deputy Governor Gloria McField-Nixon said the civil service supported the PwC review.
“As a first responder, it is crucial that the fire service is structured to meet its mandate, and I commend the ministry for taking this necessary step,” she said.