arsonThe latest report from the Arson Prevention Forum has warned that while the number of deliberately started fires and associated fatalities have fallen over a 10-year period, they still account for 45% of all fires attended.

The ‘Arson: State of the Nation’ report highlights the impact that the 628,900 annual incidents of arson to society in the UK including the annual £1bn cost to members of the Association of British Insurers because accidental fires continue to fall at a much more significant rate than the deliberate fires.

Commenting on the report, recent QFSM recipient Lee Howell, the Independent Chairman of the Arson Prevention Forum, said: "Whilst deliberate fires, like accidental fires, are decreasing – the number of deliberate fires and associated deaths and injuries are all down over a ten year period – accidental fires are falling at a much more significant rate. Whilst the number of deliberate fires is reducing, the cost to business, the government, the public and the insurance industry is not.

"This clearly emphasises that more needs to be done. Collaboration is the key. Working together to improve the effectiveness of prevention, protection, investigation and diversion activities will help reduce the incidence of fires and the associated cost.

"Deliberate fires not only endanger life, but also cost a vast amount of money. The Association of British Insurers state that their insurers pay out over £1bn in fire related claims each year and the larger loss fires are in non-domestic buildings. At the same time, the damage to property, business interruption and inconvenience arson causes is significant. The approach towards arson reduction is not as joined up as it could be, and the level of investment directed towards tackling arson is limited, to say the least."

Challenge current arson reduction activities
The report aims to challenge stakeholders to not only consider the effectiveness of their current arson reduction activities, but also to explore what more might be done to drive down the number of arson incidents and the associated costs and societal impacts of arson.

When investigating what is currently taking place to combat arson, a range of examples of fire and rescue services’ work were highlighted by the APF, some of which involved the police and other agencies but examples of the work of other partners were harder to come by. The report concludes that there is a need for all the various agencies with a responsibility and interest in arson to work better together; pooling resources and funding as well as expertise and knowledge.

It is recommended that:
- The insurance industry play a leading role in arson reduction interventions, working with police and fire and rescue services and use partnerships with other agencies
- The insurance industry commissions research to enable a better understanding of the risks and collating good practice with respect to arson reduction arrangements
- The RISCAuthority, working with the Association of British Insurers, should ensure that data required to inform the scale of the problem is presented - specifically, a figure for the cost of arson as this is currently not separately recorded from the total cost of fire
- The insurance industry to consider the role sprinklers may play as a means of protecting properties and reducing the impact of arson.
- The Arson Prevention Forum should continue to coordinate learning from local arson reduction programmes and the Crown Prosecution Service should share lessons learnt from successful and unsuccessful prosecutions.
- Discussions should be encouraged at Central Government level to enable greater emphasis and awareness on arson reduction arrangements.

The Arson Prevention Forum, supported by the effective engagement and contribution from the ABI, FPA as well as Zurich and AXA, will coordinate improvements and the report will be presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services later this month [Jan 15].