Managing risks and strengthening confidence in your operations

For the emergency services, the risk landscape is complex and evolving. Therefore, identifying and managing your risks effectively is vital.

Moving out of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the challenges that it presented remains a feature of the operating environment. While risks such as the cost-of-living-crisis, rising energy, food and material prices, inflation and geopolitics are all part of the risk management landscape, the focus on climate change, equality, diversity, mental health and wellbeing has also increased.

Challenges around the inability to plan financially for the longer term remain. This is magnified as budgets are stretched, and despite government reviews there is some uncertainty regarding how government may take forward key proposals.

Cybercrime is also a continuing threat with communication related issues remaining. This is linked to delays in the emergency services mobile communications programme, which also has a significant cost and means it is critical for boards and management to ensure they have effective risk management procedures.

We have been publishing analyses of police and fire risk registers periodically for eight years now, allowing us to trace movement in risk profiles over time. This publication is our first cross-sector analysis, reviewing the police force, office of police and crime commissioner (OPCC), office of police and fire crime commissioner (OPFCC) and fire service strategic risk registers. Our report allows emergency services organisations to consider how our risks compare and to assess whether we are missing any significant risks.

We reviewed 38 emergency services strategic risk registers incorporating 540 individual risks.

Key findings:

The top three most prevalent risk areas were:

  1. operational risks, accounting for 102 risks in total (or 19%);
  2. workforce risks, accounting for 87 risks in total (or 16%); and
  3. financial risks, accounting for 70 risks in total (or 13%).

New and evolving risks

Key areas across emergency services where we consider risks to be emerging or evolving include the below.

  • Economic environment – economic uncertainty, inflation and having to pay more for goods and services are all evolving risks.
  • Public procurement – new UK Public Procurement Legislation will be effective from late 2023/early 2024 and will fundamentally change the way all public procurement is conducted.
  • Environmental, social and governance (ESG) – ESG will continue to evolve. Equality and diversity strategies, equal pay, ethical investments and sustainability are just some of the areas where services will need to do more.
  • Cybercrime – IT and cybercrime risks will continue to evolve in their complexity, highlighting the need for network and secure configuration controls.
  • Tax – the trend continues for legislation and HMRC to focus on tax risk governance, with a greater onus on larger organisations to help enforce compliance across their supply chains.
  • Human capital, diversity and talent management – In its 2023 Risk in Focus report, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) noted that 50% of survey respondents cited human capital, diversity and talent management as a top five risk. Related risks have arguably intensified in this area.
  • Culture – Organisational culture is in the spotlight and receiving greater focus. In its latest assessment of fire services, HMICFRS stated that ‘many services need to improve how they promote their values and culture’, while in its annual assessment of policing, HMICFRS noted recent reports ‘have contained highly alarming evidence of toxic behaviour and attitudes among some police officers’.

Download our Emergency Services Risk Register survey results