Neil Odin, Chair, National Fire Chiefs Council Prevention Committee, reports on targeting those most at risk.
The stark reality remains that the majority of fire fatalities and serious injuries happen in the home. Therefore, it is essential that the importance of fire and rescue services’ prevention work is recognised by government – and remains at the heart of the UK FRS response.
The reality of the current Covid-19 pandemic is people are spending more time in their homes, creating additional – or different – risks and exacerbating areas such as social isolation, which can have a major impact on people’s wellbeing and risk profile.
Recently, I, along with members of NFCC’s Prevention Committee, met with the English Fire Minister.
We wanted to raise awareness of the continued importance of prevention work, discuss NFCC’s current priorities and national initiatives underway. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss our ‘person-centred’ approach. By putting the person first, we can target those most at risk.
NFCC strongly believes such an approach is key to identifying and addressing the underlying causes of fire fatalities and injuries. This approach was endorsed by government in 2019; which we are continuing to develop.
I wanted to drive home the message that prevention work should include risk reduction measures developed around the wider needs of the individual; not solely the type of premises people live in. By reflecting the needs of the most vulnerable individuals and communities we can reduce incidents, reduce risk and change behaviour.
To make this a reality, there must be a consistent approach. Everything we do must be driven through the sharing of relevant information and data to deliver wider social and public value.
Through national standardisation of data collection – with some local deviation – we can further develop prevention work, ultimately leading to a reduction in injuries and fatalities.
The first State of Fire report outlined: ‘The long-term decrease in the number of fire incidents is due to many factors, including prevention work by services for which they deserve great credit. Services have expanded the role into broader areas health and wellbeing’.
This national recognition of prevention is vitally important, and we must continue to further develop and evolve this work to build on our successes.
By continuing to create and develop new and existing partnerships we can ensure we are reaching the most vulnerable in society.
It is imperative prevention remains a key focus for fire services. To make this a reality, we need the continued support of the Home Office with sustained funding. This will ultimately reduce injuries and fatalities, while driving work to identify emerging trends.
NFCC made this clear in its Spending Review submission; in the last year, FRSs have carried out 581,917 home fire safety checks, which is testament to the focus placed on targeted interventions.
Yet fire services have the capacity to deliver significantly more; for example, directing three per cent of wholetime capacity to prevention interventions could lead to an additional 65,000 home safety checks per year.
NFCC’s Prevention and Protection committees will also be working more closely with National Operational Learning. This has the strategic aim to provide UK wide learning about fire deaths and injuries by interrogating this data. This will lead to prevention, protection and response tactics saving more lives and protecting property more efficiently.
The core of NFCC’s national prevention work is the explicit aim to reduce fire risk; yet it is further reaching than this. We are promoting and supporting a range of areas to tackle social issues and lead to safer, healthier and more resilient communities.
Our work also centres on road safety, children and young people initiatives, water safety, health, carbon monoxide and smoke alarms and initiatives to reduce arson.
In its next step, the NFCC’s Prevention Committee will be launching a Prevention Programme, supported by the Central Programme Office (CPO), which will greatly assist this approach through targeted project work, with a focus on data, evidence and evaluation. It will ensure increased connection with the CPO national programmes of work – such as data and digital, protection and community risk – we will see huge benefits not only to the sector, but the people we strive to support.
Moving forward, some of NFCC’s Prevention Committee work will be delivered by the CPO, which will greatly assist this approach through targeted project work, with a focus on data and evidence.
By linking in more closely with the CPO national programmes of work – such as data and digital, protection and community risk – we will see huge benefits not only to the sector, but the people we strive to support.
“Through national standardisation of data collection – with some local deviation – we can further develop prevention work, ultimately leading to a reduction in injuries and fatalities”
 State of Fire and Rescue. The Annual Assessment of Fire and Rescue Services in England (pg. 24) 2019