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NFCC issues detailed response to latest Home Office statistics on Fire and Rescue Service call-outs

02 February 2021

THE LATEST Home Office statistics, which put non-fire incidents under the microscope, reveal a 6% increase in fatalities and call-outs during the period from April 2019 to March last year. That increase, in fact, stands at 37% when calculated over the last five years.

Responding to the statistics, Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), observed: “I’m saddened to see this increase in fatalities. We need to see this figure reduce. We will continue to work with our partners with a keen focus on the areas in which these deaths are happening.”

Wilsher added: “It’s also disappointing to see an increase in call-outs across a range of areas. However, the figures truly reflect what I’ve always known. In essence, that the Fire and Rescue Service is on hand to assist where and when it’s needed the most and that its work isn’t solely focused on fires.”

As far as Wilsher’s concerned, the increase in assisting other agencies is a clear example of how the Fire and Rescue Services respond to requests from their partner organisations. This has arguably never been more apparent than during the response to the pandemic, with Fire and Rescue Services being involved in more than 400,000 requests, the majority of them in support of other organisations.

“This is one area I expect to see rise in the next set of statistics, showing precisely how dedicated Fire and Rescue Service staff are always available to help,” continued Wilsher. “The pride shown by Fire and Rescue Service staff undertaking work in the heart of their communities is humbling. Everyone can see the difference that it’s making.”

He went on to state: “This particular set of statistics is always disappointing for me, as it clearly highlights the positive impact the emergency medical trials had following their introduction in 2015 and the reduction in numbers following their subsequent withdrawal in 2017. This work had agreements in place with ambulance trusts to undertake health and care-related work. We have seen in recent months how the Fire and Rescue Service is well-placed to support this work. Centrally collated statistics show firefighters have carried out a shift for the ambulance service more than 93,000 times since March.”

Three key areas

83% of the increase in incidents attended was accounted for across three areas: assisting other agencies (24%), flooding and rescue or evacuation from water (22%) and effecting entry/exit (6%). The increase in flooding response shows yet again that England lags behind Wales and Scotland on firming up the role of Fire and Rescue Services.

The number of road traffic collisions remained largely the same and there’s reference within the Home Office figures as to how the first COVID lockdown impacted them. The Home Office also collated pandemic statistics which went past the usual reporting date range.

Wilsher suggested that there are still too many people dying on the roads and that this trend must change: “Firefighters attended more than 31,000 road traffic collisions in the past 12 months and there were 628 deaths. The tragic loss of life on this scale is devasting to see. The NFCC will continue to work with its partners in this area through our dedicated road safety and prevention work. While the current figure shows a reduction on previous years, there were less people on the roads due to the first lockdown, which is likely to have had an impact.”

Wilsher added that the increase in the number of false alarms is disappointing to see. Fire and Rescue Services attended 231,500 call-outs to such alarm episodes. That’s time which could be spent on other vital – and often life-saving – activities.

2019-2020 statistics in full

*2,618 fatalities in non-fire incidents (representing an increase of 6% compared to the previous 12-month period)

*38,022 non-fatal casualties in non-fire incidents (decrease of 3%)

*171,959 non-fire incidents showing an increase of 6% from the previous year (162,253) and an increase of 37% from five years ago (125,239)

*Road traffic collisions show 31,088 incidents, which is virtually unchanged compared with 2018-2019

*Effecting entry/exit: 26,339 incidents (a 6% increase compared with 2018-2019)

*Assisting other agencies: 18,330 incidents (a 24% increase compared with 2018-2019)

*Firefighters were called upon to attend suicides and attempted suicides, which rose in number from 1,910 to 2,035.

*7,459 non-fire false alarms representing a 3% increase compared with the previous year (7,272) and an increase of 42% compared with five years ago (5,241)

*17,505 flooding and rescue or evacuation from water incidents representing an increase of 22% compared with the previous year (14,381) and an increase of 32% compared with five years ago (13,215)

*Fire false alarms increased to 231,500, thereby showing a small increase compared with the previous year (231,224), but a 19% decrease when compared with ten years ago (285,368)