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Fire and Rescue Statistics User Group

18th Meeting
of the
Fire & Rescue Statistics User Group
held on
Tuesday 7th March 2006 at 10:30 am
Allington Towers - Conference Room 5D


Mr. G. Evans

Chair, FBU

Prof. G Stevens

Polymer Research Centre, University of Surrey

Mr. A. Paish

World Fire Statistics Centre

Mr. S. Emery

English Heritage

Ms. S. Pantry

Fire Information Group

Mr. G. Gower-Kerslake

Buildings Division, ODPM

Mr. I. Evans

Fire Control, ODPM

Mr. M. Coull

Historic Scotland

Mr. M. Rowan


Ms. L. Avery

Fire Statistics and Research Division, ODPM

Mr. S. Kidd


Mr. Dave Pember-Finn

Hereford and Worcester FRS (CFOA)

Mr. N. Bason


Mr. D. Pearson


Ms. K Bosley


Mr. D. Champion

Fire Statistics and Research Division, ODPM

Prof. A. Everton

University of Central Lancashire

Ms. S Wright

Fire Statistics and Research Division, ODPM

Mr. A. McCormack

Secretary, ODPM

1 Chair's Introduction

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially our guest speaker Professor Gary Stevens from the Polymer Research Centre of the University of Surrey.

2 Apologies

Mr. M. Robinson


Dr D. Rae

Fire Service College

Ms K. Helm


Mr. T Wilmot

World Fire Statistics Centre

3 Minutes of the 17th Meeting

3.1 There were a few minor corrections to the minutes of the previous meeting.

4 Matters Arising from the Minutes.

4.1 Stewart Kidd referred to the point raised in the last meeting about keeping data and reports on major fires for an appropriate period of time, which had been raised as part of the Warehouse fires study. He had experience of cases where court action had taken place up to six years after a fire, and that data relevant to such an incident would be lost.

4.2 The Chair replied that he shared this concern, but it was clear from recent research he had conducted into fires in warehouses that the time fire reports are kept varied depending on the individual FRS, as a result useful data on fires in buildings was undeniably being lost. It also appeared that there was no central archiving facility for fires of special interest. A means of addressing this important data loss should be sought.

5 Presentation: The Benefits of Fire Counter-measures in the UK and Europe from a consideration of UK and international Fire Statistics - Prof. G Stevens

5.1 The Chair introduced Professor Gary Stevens, the head of the Polymer Research Centre, University of Surrey, who had completed an EFRA-funded study on the effectiveness of various fire prevention measures such as the 1988 Furniture Fire Safety Regulations, increased uptake of smoke alarms and the reduction in numbers of smokers on fire casualties.

5.2 Professor Stevens gave a short summary of his background. He had worked for the central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and after privatisation National Power where he had been involved with the fire safety case for Sizewell B, developing test methods for cable fires, and human and other fire risk analysis and prevention for the CEGB.

5.2.1 The work presented here was an update of work for the DTI on the effects of the 1988 furniture regulations, and a study of fire statistics and other factors that may be responsible for the fall in fire deaths.

5.3 There were many good points made in the presentation, but the main points included the following.

5.3.1 One of the key variables in measuring the effect of the introduction of safer furniture is the rate of replacement of furniture, and how this may differ depending on the social-demographic group. A possible scenario is that the least-safe furniture remains in use, possibly being used by, or passed on to, the people considered to be most at risk.

5.3.2 It has been estimated that the time a room can be safely escaped from has fallen significantly in recent years, as new materials and changes in lifestyles have changed the fire load. The estimate is that this has fallen from 7-8 minutes to nearer 2 minutes.

5.3.3 The number of homes with a smoke alarm had reached a plateau since a sharp rise from the low base of the late 1980s, but the effectiveness of the smoke detectors in raising the alarm has continued to increase.

5.3.4 The number of fire deaths in the UK, and particularly the number of fire deaths from smoke inhalation have declined more rapidly after 1988, but the number of deaths caused by burns has declined at the same rate as before the furniture regulations were introduced. In the US, fire deaths from furniture fires have fallen in line with (but no better than) total fire deaths.

5.3.5 The benefits of the reduction in fire deaths and injuries from 1988 to 2002 (while not all directly attributable to the furniture regulations) were still very large - over four hundred million pounds per year, and this benefit would continue to grow.

5.3.6 A full copy of the report is available on line at

5.4 The report naturally led to a great deal of discussion about fire safety, and the importance of presenting the benefits of measures like the furniture regulations to encourage future initiatives and protect those currently in place.

5.5 The Chair rounded up discussion by thanking Professor Stevens for a very interesting and illuminating presentation. He said that it was comforting for those around the table who had had some small hand in creating the Furniture Regulations in 1987/88 to know that their endeavours had paid off in improving the safety from fire of the general public. He invited Professor Stevens to stay for the remainder of the meeting if he wished. This invitation was accepted.

6 Group Website

6.1 The Secretary reported that the website was progressing very slowly, but he hoped it could be launched using the Statistics User Forum website as a home

Action - Secretary

7 Definition of Fires for FDR1 Returns (Dick Pearson, FBU)

7.1 Dick Pearson highlighted a concern the FBU had about the ODPM Circular asking FRSs to provide data for Neighbourhood Statistics (NESS). The circular was worded to eliminate double-counting of a fire casualty and rescue. While accepting the intent of this Circular was clear, he felt the wording might lead to under-reporting of the true numbers by brigades.

7.2 Kirsty Bosley agreed to discuss this further outside of the meeting. She felt the Circular was reinforcing the agreed definition of a casualty or rescue from the FDR1 guidance, and that the Circular was primarily aimed at reducing double-counting for special service incidents where there is little guidance available.

ACTION Kirsty Bosley to contact Dick Pearson for further discussions

7.3 The other FBU worry was the variety of classifications (many not part of the Fire statistics) that were applied to fire deaths such as accidental dwelling (not contentious) and preventable. The FBU felt they have been used in IRMPs and action plans as a way of reducing the headline figure for fire deaths. The union felt some guidance from ODPM would make this clearer. If preventable deaths were to be used as a measure, a standard definition such as that on the FBU website would be useful so that figures could be accurately compared. They felt all fire deaths should be reported equally.

7.4 David Champion confirmed that all fire deaths were reported in the Fire Statistics UK bulletin, but the PSA target was related to accidental dwelling fires.

7.5 Dick Pearson agreed this was so, saying this was how the use of other figures in IRMPs - which added up to considerably fewer than the Fire Statistics bulletin - was how this issue had been identified in the first place. He repeated he was entirely happy with the Fire Statistics UK figures for fire deaths and casualties, and was seeking a more defined approach to the use of other terms to classify fire deaths.

7.6 Kirsty Bosley agreed to include this in a discussion as actioned in point 6.2.

7.7 The Chair felt that there was a role in defining sub definitions or categorising for fire deaths, but the breakdown of figures that such definitions might provide should in the final analysis add up to the overall total of fire deaths or fire injuries in a brigade area and be presented in that manner so that the full statistical picture can be identified.

8. Update on the Information Recording System (FDR1 Replacement) (David Champion)

8.1 David Champion confirmed a report on the data collection system and the ODPM response to the submissions about the work was available on the department website at:

8.2 A contractor had been appointed (Informed Solutions) and 12 pilot FRSs had been selected and informed. The full list would be circulated. It was planned that the new system would be running by December, but that not every FRS would be using it at this time.

9. Update on Heritage Sites fire and Rescue Information (Secretary)

9.1 The investigation of using FSEC incident data to measure heritage loss had used two pilot FRS's to detail the difficulties in using FSEC to acquire fire and other incident rates affecting heritage properties had lead to two approaches - one that was relatively straightforward providing the location of the heritage sites was known (but labour intensive for this first step), and the other more complex using the lists provided by English Heritage. The latter was still causing difficulties, but instructions for gathering information for the former were in preparation. This should provide some historical data on heritage loss.

10 Sources of Data for Fire and Rescue Statistics (Secretary)

10.1 A simple database of fire statistics information available on the web and some other sources would be sent round as part of the preparation for the next meeting, and comments and suggestions for extra sources would be welcome.

11. Fire Statistics Publications (Lyndsey Avery)

11.1 There were three new statistics publications available on the ODPM website. These were;

  • Fire Statistics UK 2004,
  • a new quarterly update, and most significantly
  • the new Economic Cost of Fire 2004.

These are available at:

11.2 The Economic Cost of Fire will have to be prepared in-house or by contractors next year as the compilers of the current document will not be involved in fire-related work in future. The Group may wish to take a role in keeping this document going. The economist would only be available for consultation about the methods used for a limited time.

11.3 The Chair recalled that a Cost of Fire Sub-Group had previously been created which included business, insurance and fire service interests and this would be useful in promoting the document and ensuring its continuation. Stewart Kidd supported this view.

11.4 Incident data coded by census super-output areas was being made available on the NESS website.

12 Re-organisation of ODPM Fire-related Divisions (Secretary)

12.1 The Secretary gave an update on the dispositions of staff and themes within the ODPM. This re-organisation is now under review following the demise of the ODPM and creation of DCLG.

13 Any Other Business

13.1 The Chair observed that one of the points identified in their study of warehouse fires had been the incorrect classification in the FDR1 returns of some shop or retail premises as warehouses. This could have serious implications, as warehouses were generally storage buildings with low numbers of trained staff present who would be familiar with the building and were unlikely to be at risk from a fire for these reasons. A number of the buildings classed as warehouses in the FDR1 returns studied were in fact shop or retail premises which would have larger numbers of the public present in them, some of whom may not be as capable of rapid exit. This defective classification of premise types within the FDR1 system had potential issues for FSEC, the RRO and other fire safety legislation, and ways of improving the correct classification building types should be considered

13.2 This was the final meeting for Aidan McCormack, as Secretary of the Group. The Chair said that he was extremely grateful to Aidan for all his support both for himself and the Group and also his enthusiasm for the work of the Group. He thanked Aidan for that help and support and enthusiasm. He wished Aidan every success with his new job and every good wish for the future. Aidan would like to thank everyone who has put time and effort into the Group over the last four years, and wish everyone well in the future. Samantha Wright was introduced to the as new Secretary to the group

14 Date of Next Meeting

14.1 Wednesday 7th June commencing at 10.30am in Eland House - Room LMR 3ABC.