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Fire and Rescue Statistics User Group

Minutes of the 40th Meeting of the
Fire and Rescue Statistics User Group
5th June 2014, Eland House, London

1. Attendees

Kirsty Bosley

Chair – Scottish Government

David Townsend

IFIC Forensics

Sheila Pantry

Fire Information Group UK

Stewart Ross

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

David Wales

South East Fire Investigation Group

Nicola Harryman

Kent FRS

Elsa Alonso

Kent FRS

Andy Mobbs

London Fire Brigade

Ciara Holland

Building Research Establishment

Gareth Bradbury

IRS Review Group

Nadia Al-Sabouni

Buckinghamshire FRS

Dennis Davis

Fire Sector Federation

Julia McMorrow

University of Manchester

Rob Gazzard

Forestry Commission

Adedayo Akinfolajimi

DCLG

Nazneen Chowdurry

DCLG

Steve Emery

English Heritage

Gavin Sayer

DCLG

Simon Flood

Avon FRS

Heidi Jones

DCLG IRS review

Daniel Walker-Nolan

Electrical Safety Council

2. Apologies

Graham Ellicott

Fire Industry Association

Bob Bantock

National Trust

Graham Holloway

Vulcan Fire Training Co Ltd

Richard Johnes

Fire Service College

Dave Berry

UK Timber Framed Association

Dave Sibert

Fire Brigades Union

Jeremy Fraser-Mitchell

Building Research Establishment (Ciara Holland to deputise)

Richard Hall

Fire Brake Wales

3. Minutes of 39th Meeting

Accepted as a true record apart from typos and acronyms which will be amended by the secretary and published on the FRSUG website.

4. Matters Arising

ISO has a consultation on moving to a better standard for reporting fires – Gavin to circulate link

Heidi to share the IRS web link

The group requested a glossary of abbreviations used in the meeting. This is now attached as Appendix C to these minutes and members are asked to update these where necessary.

5. FRSUG proposed Action Plan 2014-15 including…

a. Constitution

The chair asked the group’s views on:

  1. Members – the group is limited by room capacity. The constitution says that membership of the Group shall be:

    1. by application, nomination or invitation,
    2. approved by the Group, and
    3. reviewed periodically by the Group

    Views will be sought via correspondence rather than at the meeting.

  2. Chair/succession planning

    The chair has now been in post for 3 years, the constitution states that the chair is a 3 year fixed term. Views were sought in this point. The views in the meeting were that the chair should continue, though again this will be followed up in correspondence.

Action: consult members on membership and the chair.

b. Dissemination activities, website updating and other publicity

All members were asked to provide Sheila with any information on events, documents or updates to contact details for the website.

Members asked for a glossary of acronyms related to FRSUG.

Action: Gather and circulate a list of acronyms and post on the website.

c. Fire Information Group UK

FIG have a “Mind the Gap” Seminar on Fire on 11 June 2014 in Russell Square, London. This is an update of last year’s seminar and also some new speakers.

d. Economic cost of fires

Dennis reported on progress – FBU carried out an enhancement phase to ensure the specification for the work was complete. They received few tenders for this and were not happy with those they did receive. Dennis is now re-energising the original spec and Dave Sibert is to meet some of the potential contractors to discuss options.

The FBU/FSF group wrote to Gavin Sayer at DCLG asking whether he would be able to accept some funding to be able to develop the model in DCLG.
DCLG have had data issues with updating the model – the incident categories pre and post 2009 have changed and so it’s difficult to be consistent.
Note – DCLG now have a new head of fire research – Catherine Barham

Action: Dennis/Dave Sibert to approach DCLG about resourcing to support the cost of fire work

Nadia asked about platforms available for disseminating information such as the Electrical safety recall information. She noted the SOCIAM – Southampton University site which can be used to fish for and link similar datasets. It also contains a web observatory to link analytical labs. http://sociam.org She also explained that the Knowledge Network is not just about collecting, but also applying networks and asked about how the DCLG Fire Research Programme is developed. Gavin explained that the work is primarily to inform ministers. Jason Thelwall as CFOA research lead should be the FRS link to DCLG’s programme.

When FRSs carry out research they would appreciate peer reviews of the work. Kent FRS is working with Nottingham Trent University to write a guide to help FRSs work with academics. And Julia McMorrow, as an academic, pointed out that they are always under pressure to explain the impact of the research.

These issues will be explored further at the next FRSUG meeting.

e. Publications since last meeting

World fire stats from Tony Paish – this was circulated prior to the meeting.

Action: Dennis to establish the future of the World Fire Statistics

Scottish Government Data consultation publication – to be discussed in a later agenda item
www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/06/9317

Life Bid – Human Behaviour in Accidental Dwelling Fires – David Wales introduced this Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between University of Greenwich (UoG) and Kent Fire & Rescue Service (KFRS)
http://fseg.gre.ac.uk/fire/lifebid.html

DCLG published Fire statistics Great Britain 2012 to 2013 in May 2014.
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fire-statistics-great-britain-2012-to-2013

6. National reports

a. Scottish Government report

Kirsty reported on activity in Scotland:

b. Scottish Fire and Rescue service report

Stewart Ross noted that DCLG had queried a notable decrease in the Scottish dwelling fire statistics, 8% down from the previous year. This was apparently similar in London. The figures have been checked and seem to be reflecting a genuine decrease, though there is no obvious explanation. He will be considering analysing, for example, links with home fire safety visits, but is keen not to claim knowledge of the explanation without proper evidence.

c. Welsh Assembly Government report

Written report attached as Appendix A at end of these minutes.

d. DCLG research and statistics report

Gavin is setting up a data transfer system for FRAs and some non-FRAs. Around 15 are currently using it.

Burns consultant – A data base of casualty details was provided to the head of the national burns data base and leading burns treatment consultant Ken Dunn. He had already set up a secure IT infrastructure in order to also access health episode patient data. Ken Dunn will be approached to see if he will provide a presentation on the subject at a FRSUG meeting.

The issue of releasing more data at a more detailed level was discussed, particularly in light of Avon’s data publication system. Manchester University looked at the risks of publishing various datasets and levels of data. It is still possible to get unique combinations of data and therefore to risk disclosure. Julia pointed out the value to academics and researchers of access to the data, though currently Gavin would encourage them to approach him each time.

7. Presentations

a. IRS review

Heidi reported that there has been considerable progress on the IRS review. The business case has been approved and the design of the new system has been started. SciSys are the contractors.

They are using ‘Agile’ project management – a method of working with users and developing the system as they go along. A completely new application is required, though in the first instance it will replicate what already exists.

They have completed the ‘Discovery phase’ and are now on a ‘Mini-alpha stage’ where they get into practical details, including passing data and user administration.

The new IRS is expected to be delivered around November, with around 3 months from that to ‘go live’. This will look the same as the old system, and only after this will changes to the system start to be implemented.

Rob Gazzard noted that it would be useful for him to present his wildfire related work to the IRS review group to ensure his requirements are covered. Heidi felt that there was time for this to happen as amendments to the data questions will come later.

Members of the group asked about how to follow progress of the review, particularly as the existing web hub is swamped with low level detail.

Action: Heidi will look into FRSUG members’ access to the IRS website.

A government ‘data scientist’ has been looking into the value that could be added to IRS and has suggested some prototype dashboards and visualisation with maps and benchmarks. Kirsty pointed out that some of these suggestions sounded like a reinvention of FSEC and that there would be merit in ensuring that the data scientist is aware of what is already in existence.

b. DCLG Fire Statistics – User engagement

Gavin gave a presentation on the data produced by DCLG and how it is presented and used. He wanted to find out whether members of the group liked the format, the graphics and the content.

He talked about:

  • the monitors – published twice a year,
  • response times analysis – published twice
  • the annual Fire Statistics GB
  • some analysis on the impact of drugs and alcohol on fire casualties.
  • operational statistics bulletin – Annual statistics about fire and rescue authorities’ staff, numbers of injuries to firefighters, fire safety audits of buildings and community fire safety.

DCLG have plans to release record level data and interactive source of ignition tables, though these are not yet implemented.

Action: Gavin to circulate his updated presentation to the group.

Sheila requested that any press releases regarding stats are shared with her for the FRSUG website.

c. Avon Fire & Rescue Service – Publication of incident data

Simon Flood presented Avon’s approach to releasing incident data on their website. www.avonfire.gov.uk/our-performance/incident-data

On the Avon FRS website, under ‘About Us’ – ‘Our performance’ they publish monthly tables of all incidents attended with the first 3 digits of grid references. They hoped that an initial benefit would be a reduction in time spent on Freedom of Information requests. However, the interest raised by the release of the data had increased the volume of requests even while the time spent on each may have reduced. Nonetheless the data has been heralded as a valuable and interesting source by users.

Members felt this was an excellent development and one that others, including DCLG, SFRS and Scottish Government would also like to build upon.

d. FSEC update – Transition Group and future plans

Kirsty reported on activity related to the future of FSEC. Bob Cherry of Kent FRS has taken on an application to DCLG for development of FSEC and transfer to a new platform. Group members were keen to hear more about the work.

Action: Kirsty to chase up and share information about progress

e. Forestry Commissions recent analysis of wildfire data & NERC-funded scoping project on wildfire threat analysis

Rob Gazzard reported on his work using Land Cover Map (LCM 2007) and Forestry Commission maps to look at the numbers vs area of fires and the duration of fires. For his analytical purposes, polygon data about fire areas would be a useful addition to the size.

He also reported on the need to inform the EU of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that are burning each year.

Action: Rob to share his presentation

Julia McMorrow’s team at Manchester University and the Forestry Commission have been developing a risk assessment approach for forest fire at the rural-urban interface: potential of the Wildfire Threat Analysis (WTA) framework https://connect.innovateuk.org/documents/2906271/14928424/ForestryCommission_Manchester_presentation?version=1.0

The research took a risk assessment system from New Zealand and applied it to a UK forest-urban interface (places where people live next to forests) centred on Crowthorne/Swinley Forest at the Berkshire-Surrey border. They wanted to test the applicability of this framework to the UK. The system looks at wildfire threat as the combined effect of three GIS modules: the risk of ignition; hazard of fire spread; and values (assets) at risk. It uses multi-criteria evaluation and expert stakeholder knowledge to select the criteria of most importance and how best to present the results from the risk analysis. It targets areas where wildfire prevention and risk reduction are required.

The executive summary of this work is attached as Appendix B to these minutes

8. Any Other Business

Steve Emery noted that groups of FRSs are interested in heritage and each is developing policies and mobilising systems in isolation.

9. Date of Next Meeting

Now scheduled for November 24th at LFB HQ in London.

Appendix A – Welsh National Report

Firebrake Wales: Update

June 2014

This paper has been produced by Firebrake Wales, the Welsh fire safety charity, to update and inform the FRSUG with regard to fire incidents, FRS statistics and relevant developments in Wales.

1. Update from Claire Davey, Welsh Government

The detail in this first section has been provided by Claire Davey of the Welsh Government:

1.1 Developments in Welsh Government/Knowledge and Analytical Services

  • Reorganisation of Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS) and cover for maternity leave has meant that I’m now also the lead for crime statistics.
  • We will also (within the team) be reviewing our StatsWales tables (both for operational and incident data) to ensure we are covering topics which customers want. For instance we intend to extend casualties tables to show more data ‘excluding precautionary checks’ and possibly publish data at Local Authority level.
  • We’ve begun an exercise trying to reconcile our fatality data from the PI (Performance Indicators) data collection with those from FDR forms/IRS, and agree numbers with the Welsh FRSs. These have differed due to timings of recording.
  • In February I sent each of the Welsh FRSs a list of Quality Assurance queries (based on the dataset received in January) relating to incidents from 2012-13 and the 2013-14 data we had so far. The queries were based on those previously devised by Lindsay Benison in the Scottish Government and relate to possible miscoded data, contradictions (utilizing free text fields) and anomalies. Later in the year we plan to discuss the value of the exercise, whether it had the right focus, the balance of burden against usefulness and whether we should repeat in the future.

1.2 Data supplied in response to queries

We’ve supplied data for a number of queries including:

  • data at electoral division level, for Firebrake Wales
  • grassland fires in Neath Port Talbot, so that this can be linked to Air Quality data by National Resources Wales
  • electrical fires in Wales, for the Electrical Safety Council
  • fire and casualty data for Powys (Council)
  • analysing fire data in relation to the Welsh Index for Multiple Deprivation which could feed into the current WIMD review, thereby ensuring the best measure of fires in terms of community safety is used.

1.3 Planned outputs

Our planned outputs include:

  • Fire Statistics Monitor Wales, April to September 2013 (headline and StatsWales tables) (published January 28th)
  • Fire Statistics Monitor Wales, October 2013 to March 2014 (headline and StatsWales tables)
  • Fire Statistics Wales, 2013-14 (bulletin and StatsWales tables)
  • Fire and Rescue Service Operational Statistics for Wales, 2013-14 (headline and StatsWales tables)
  • Fire and Rescue Service Performance 2013-14 (bulletin and StatsWales tables)
  • Possible ad-hoc bulletins (resource and interest dependent)
  • Grassland fires 2012-13 (bulletin) (published February 26th)
  • Deliberate fires 2013-14 (bulletin)

Claire Davey, Community Safety Statistics, Welsh Government, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ | Tel: (029) 2082 6699 | E-mail: claire.davey@wales.gsi.gov.uk | Web Site: http://gov.wales/statistics-and-research/?lang=en

2. StatsWales

The Welsh Government provides a useful online resource, ‘StatsWales’, which contains a wealth of statistical data for Wales. This regularly updated service is of particular interest and value for Firebrake Wales, particularly the fire incident data (from IRS) presented within the Community Safety and Social Inclusion section.

StatsWales is the Welsh Government’s free-to-use online repository for detailed statistical data for Wales. StatsWales allows users to view and manipulate datasets on-screen, including the ability to produce charts. Data can be downloaded in a variety of formats and can be saved and shared. The system covers nearly 1,000 datasets, including key information on Wales’ population, economy, government spending and performance as well as the environment, education, transport and health. [1]

For more details, please visit: https://statswales.wales.gov.uk/Catalogue

Fig. 1 – StatsWales screen-shot

Fig. 1 – StatsWales screen-shot

3. The Welsh Fire and Rescue Services

With a population of approximately 3.1 million people, Wales is served by 3 Fire and Rescue Services:

  • North Wales FRS – 687,937 people / covering approx. 2,400 square miles
  • South Wales FRS – 1,481,570 people / covering approx. 1,047 square miles
  • Mid and West Wales FRS – 893,949 people / covering over half of the total area of Wales [2]

The Welsh FRSs recently established the National Issues Committee (NIC), to further improve collaborative working and service delivery between the Welsh FRSs and across Wales. The Mission of the NIC is:

Our Mission is, without compromising local autonomy and identity, optimise collaborative working to identify savings, efficiencies and economic benefits, keeping the communities of Wales safe and the Authorities able to meet the prevailing economic challenges. [3]

Further details about the NIC can be found on the NIC website, here: www.nicwalesfire.org.uk

Fig. 2 – Welsh FRS Service Areas, by Unitary Authority

Fig. 2 – Welsh FRS Service Areas, by Unitary Authority

4. Reported fires in Wales

  • As with the UK more generally, Wales has seen an overall downward trend in accidental dwelling fires, and resultant casualties, in the last decade.

    Fig. 3 – Number of reported accidental dwelling fires in Wales: 2003 – 2012/13

    Fig. 3 – Number of reported accidental dwelling fires in Wales: 2003 – 2012/13

    Source: FDR1, Fire Incident Data collection forms. IRS data after 2008. 2011-12 data revised. 2012-13 data provisional.

  • As with accidental fires, the incidence of deliberate fires in Wales continues to fall over time. The table below clearly shows the overall downward trend in deliberate fires which we have seen in recent years in Wales. This in turn is a continuation of a longer term overall downward trend.

    Fig. 4 – All deliberate fires in Wales: 2007/08 – 2012/13

    Fig. 4 – All deliberate fires in Wales: 2007/08 – 2012/13

    r = revised; p = provisional

  • However, the majority of fires attended by the fire services in Wales are deliberate [4]. In 2012-13, the fire services attended a total of 11,420 fires, of which 56% were deliberate (6,394). In the previous year (2011-12) the percentage of all fires attended which were deliberate was 65% (10,647 deliberate fires of 16,454 attended).

  • Purely in terms of the number of incidents, arson in Wales is predominantly an ‘outdoor’ issue. The vast majority of deliberate fires in Wales are secondary fires [5] and these are predominantly made up of ‘grassland, woodland and crop’ fires along with ‘loose refuse’ fires. Traditionally, Wales has a particular problem with deliberate grassland fires and, when populations are taken into account, some areas of Wales have the highest rates of these fires (per 100,000 population) in the UK.

  • The nature and scale of arson in Wales is not evenly distributed across the country. So this all-Wales data does not show-up the distinct regional variations or the significantly higher levels of some arson types in certain Welsh communities. This is made clear in the following diagram, showing the distribution of ‘grassland, woodland and crop’ fires across Wales in 2011-12.

Grassland, Woodland and Crop Secondary Fires across Wales, 2011-12

[1] Welsh Government, StatsWales website, accessed May 2014

[2] Regional data for population/area covered, sourced from respective FRS websites.

[3] National Issues Committee website (www.nicwalesfire.org.uk), accessed May 2014.

[4] Deliberate fires – include fires where deliberate ignition is merely suspected, and recorded by the brigade as ‘doubtful’.

[5] Secondary fires – reportable fires not classified as primary fires, not in chimneys, not involving casualties or rescues, and attended by 4 or fewer appliances.

Appendix B – Developing a risk assessment approach for forest fire at the rural-urban interface: Potential of the wildfire threat analysis framework

Julia McMorrow, Jonathan Aylen, Aleksandra Kazmierczak (University of Manchester)

Executive summary

The report covers a scoping study on risk assessment for forest fire at the rural-urban interface undertaken by the University of Manchester, working alongside Forestry Commission England and Forest Research. The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) under the Probability Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment (PURE) Associates Programme.

The scoping study tests the applicability of the Wildfire Threat Analysis (WTA) technique from New Zealand to a UK context and at a local scale. WTA treats wildfire threat as the cumulative combination of three aspects: ignition potential (risk of ignition), potential fire behaviour (hazard of fire spread), and values put at risk as a result (assets, including life and well-being). These are represented by three GIS modules, each comprising a set of layers of geographical information.

The threefold WTA framework mapped reasonably well onto existing conceptual models of risk used in the UK. In the National Risk Register framework, risk is a function of likelihood and impact. Risk here equates to threat in WTA.

Appropriate spatial information was collected for an 11 km by 12 km case study area on the Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire borders, centred on Crowthorne Wood and Swinley Forest. The Fire and Rescue Services have attended nearly 1000 vegetation fires in four years in this area, including a major, politically significant fire in Crowthorne Wood in Spring 2011 (the ‘Swinley Forest’ fire).

Two of the three GIS modules, that is, risk of ignition and values at risk, were developed using a 25 m cell size, which is appropriate to the local scale at which management is undertaken. The hazard module could not be constructed due to lack of fire weather data at the time, but simulations of fire spread for the Crowthorne 2011 fire were done by King’s College London. Values at risk from wildfire spread were grouped into three sub-modules: human health and wellbeing; property and infrastructure; and ecosystem services.

The UK’s Incident Recording System (IRS) records vegetation fires attended by the Fire and Rescue Services, and was an extra source of information used in the risk of ignition module. A panel of experts were consulted through two stakeholder meetings on the appropriateness of the WTA framework and the choice of layers. The experts were asked to evaluate individual GIS layers within each of the three modules and to assess issues such as the variation in risk of ignition with land cover type. Opinions were also gathered on how to threshold layers, for instance, into classes representing distance from access points.

The expert panels were then asked to weight the relative importance of the resulting layers within each module. The weights were applied and the resulting maps were presented for further evaluation and feedback. An overall risk of ignition map was established for the study area. In combining the three values at risk sub-modules, maps showing values at risk for human life were weighted more heavily than infrastructure, which, in turn, was given greater weight than ecosystem services.

The outcome of the wildfire threat analysis exercise was a set of agreed maps showing risk of ignition and values at risk across the study area. These had been refined through intensive discussion with groups of end-users during follow-up meetings. Potential applications of the maps include: for Local Authorities, guiding local development plans; and for Fire Services, informing Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs), including the deployment of emergency services in the event of a fire. For the Forestry Commission, MoD and other land managers, it targets resources for public fire awareness and other fire prevention measures and fuel management measures such as thinning or replanting.

Work remains to be done on development of a hazard module showing potential fire spread at this local scale. Kings College London recently developed 2 km Fire Severity sub-indices for the Met Office under a parallel PURE Associates grant. This is still too coarse for a 25 m local WTA but would be appropriate at the national scale. The Fine Fuel Moisture Code 2 km data could be incorporated into a regional or national risk of ignition module to give the more meaningful probability of sustained ignition. The other fire severity sub-indices could be used with other layers to create a national or regional scale worse-case wildfire hazard map. A nested approach may be the most appropriate, developing a coarser scale WTA to identify national wildfire hotspots, where a more intensive local finer scale WTA (as here) is required.

Further ecosystem services should also be added to the values at risk module. Finally, work is also required to test whether WTA works at the coarser regional and national scales appropriate to strategic risk assessment by national agencies. For risk of ignition, this is likely to require replacing stakeholder weighting with mathematical modelling. More accurate risk of ignition models will be possible, however, if the geo-reference recorded in IRS is standardised to the estimated point of ignition.

Appendix C – Acronyms used in this minute

BRE

Building Research Establishment

CFOA

Chief Fire Officers Association

DCLG

Department for Communities and Local Government

FBU

Fire Brigades Union

FIG

Fire Information Group

FOSI/IOSO

Fires of Special Interest / Incidents of Special Interest

FPA

Fire Protection Association

FRA

Fire and Rescue Authority

FRSUG

Fire and Rescue Statistics User Group

FSF

Fire Sector Federation

IFE

Institution of Fire Engineers

ISO

International Standards Organisation

OSH

Occupational Safety and Health

SEEWIG

South Eastern England Wildfire Information Group

SFRS

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

WTA

Wildfire Threat Analysis