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Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Fire Statistics Scotland, 2009-10, (2010-11 Provisional)

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6. Notes on Statistics used in this publication

6.1 Background

6.1.1 The statistics in this publication are compiled from reports submitted to the Department of Communities and Local Government ( DCLG) on fires attended by Fire and Rescue Services ( FRSs). Although a variety of Scottish fire statistics are currently published annually by DCLG in their Fire Statistics United Kingdom ( FSUK), this publication is intended to provide a detailed overview of Scottish fire statistics over the past decade at a Fire and Rescue Service and Scotland level. Detailed information is provided on all fires in buildings, vehicles and outdoor structures and any fires involving casualties on the 'fire damage report' form FDR1 (94) and since 1 st April 2009 by the Incident Recording System ( IRS). Data collected before IRS on 'secondary' and 'chimney fires' are compiled as aggregated information on the FDR3 form; so subsequent analysis of them is limited.

6.2 Changes to this publication

6.2.1 In April 2009, Scotland's Fire and Rescue Services ( FRSs) switched from the paper-based forms FDR1 and FDR3 to a new electronic recording system - the IRS. The benefit of this new system is that the data collection process is more streamlined and allows the statistics to be calculated on census data rather than on sampled data. It broadens the data collected to include all incidents attended by FRS, rather than just fire incidents. As with any new change in collection there are areas where discontinuity has occurred in the number of 10 year trends for: non-fatal casualties, subcategories of other buildings, outdoor primary fires, secondary fires, smoke alarms and spread of fire, please see paragraph 6.3.3 and 6.3.4 below.

6.2.2 Prior to 2009-10, the primary fire data was sampled. The detailed analysis of data other than for fires involving casualties is based on the sampled data grossed to FRSs' totals.

6.2.3 Since the 2008-09 publication the data has been produced in financial years rather than calendar years. The 10 years trend data has been recalculated to this new time span and comparisons to the previous Fire Statistics Scotland series should not be made as the time periods are not aligned. This important change will allow us to compare the fire statistics at UK level and aligns this publication with the rest of Justice Statistical Bulletins. Additional datasets are provided and will be updated after the release of this publication. These cover the key statistics at FRS level for at least the last ten years and can be found at : http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/Datasets/DatasetsFire . This year it is intended that Local Authority level key fire statistics for 2009-10 will be produced in Summer 2011, on the website address above.

6.2.4 To improve the timing of FRS statistics, inclusion of high level summary statistics on provisional data for 2010-11 is included in this publication. These are available in Tables 1 to 5 and include data over an eleven year trend. A more detailed breakdown of this information will be provided in the next publication.

6.2.5 New tables have been introduced and expanded to provide new sub categories, to help FRS with national trends for outdoor fires. Table 7 now has road vehicles and refuse fires split up into subcategories. Table 9b and 10b are new tables that report the nature of treatment for non-fatal casualties Table 13 is a new table that split up secondary fires by motive, this table was requested by a CFOAS 'Scotland Together' subgroup to help inform policies on anti-social behaviour.

6.3 Accuracy of Statistics

6.3.1 The data for this publication is correct for 2009-10 as of 31 December 2010 and for the provisional data 2010-11 as of 13 May 2011. IRS is a live system where FRSs can amend previously recorded information. The data for 2010-11 is provisional and will be subject to revisions. The data for 2009-10 has been revised but the dataset is still not closed. Revisions may still be made and will be handled according to Scottish Government's 'Corporate Policy Statement on Revisions and Corrections' with the following clarifications:

i) revisions due to receipt of subsequent information will be included routinely with every publication until the relevant time period is deemed to be 'closed'. Closure occurs after completion of the death certificates reconciliation exercise, which is currently carried out annually, and thus typically one to two years after the date of any incident.

ii) where revisions are needed for any other reason, notification with explanations will be provided in this and in other relevant publications.

At the time of this publication, we are aware of one firefighter death for 2009-10 that has not been recorded due to awaiting the results of ongoing investigations - this information will be revised in the future, in accordance with our revision policy above.

6.3.2 There was industrial action by FRSs in November 2002, January 2003 and February 2003. There was no information recorded for the 15 days when industrial action took place. Previously an estimate was provided for Scotland by DCLG, but with the move to financial years the datasets are unable to support this manual imputation due to the type of detailed breakdowns used in this publication. It is estimated that for Scotland data for 2002-03 is missing approximately 850 primary fires and 1,600 secondary fires due to the industrial action.

6.3.3 During quality assurance of the data collected from IRS, DCLG has identified the following two areas of potential discontinuity arising from the switchover from the old largely paper-based FDR system to the new IRS questions.

i. The first area relates to increases (typically slight) in the numbers of certain incident types within the data of a handful of Fire and Rescue Services, notably in numbers of primary outdoor fires ( Table 1: Road Vehicles and Other Primary Fires). These are apparently not real increases, but rather the result of a small proportion of incidents in the past having been incorrectly reported as being 'secondary fires' rather than 'primary fires'. The following conclusions can be drawn:

  • it appears that these differences follow from incorrect reporting under the old FDR system
  • the effect on national totals appears to be slight

ii. The second area is the possibility of discontinuity in numbers of non-fatal casualties. This follows from improvements to the way in which non-fatal casualties have been recorded since the introduction of the IRS.

  • The first change is that each casualty or fatality can be marked as 'not fire-related'. This is allowed in the IRS system as it collects information on all incidents, unlike the FDR1 form which was specifically a 'report on fires'. In fire incidents, almost all non-fatal casualties can be expected to be 'fire-related', since very few would have occurred if there had not been a fire. However around 10 per cent of non-fatal casualties for the UK were marked as not fire-related in 2009-10. Due to this concern, those non-fatal casualties marked 'not fire-related' have not been excluded. Furthermore, excluding them would have introduced an even larger discontinuity compared to data from before the introduction of the new IRS.
  • For Scotland in particular, the changes in recording of IRS has affected the trend data for non-fatal casualties and it is recommended that this data prior to 2009-10 should not be compared.
  • Prior to 2009-10, the FDR1 reporting system asked for "nature of injury" only. The IRS system now asks " What is your understanding of the nature of injury?" and a follow up question on "What is your understanding of the severity of the injury?" Whereas precautionary check-ups were included as a category for what is the nature of injury in FDR1 form, it is now the follow up category in IRS. This means that FRS must state the nature of injury before they can enter precautionary check-ups as a recommendation, thus reducing this response for precautionary check-ups between these recording systems.

6.3.4 Further quality assurance performed by Scottish Government has highlighted other discontinuities in trend data:

i. Other buildings prior to 2009-10 were related to standard industry classifications. A decision was made to move away from these when IRS was created. Where possible the 10 year trend has been provided, if IRS and FDR1 definitions are the same.

ii. Outdoor primary fires, except road vehicles, had 27 main category types when recorded in FDR1, with IRS this has increased to 42 types. With the more accurate recording of this information and the introduction of new categories for this table, not all trend data could be aligned. It was felt that new categories in table 7 would better support environmental (woodland and grassland fires) and anti-social behaviour (fires in abandoned vehicles) policies.

iii. Secondary fires were previously recorded on an FDR3 form. There were only 6 sub categories for these types of fires. The information was totalled monthly and recorded on this form. IRS now has over 100 categories for secondary fires. These have been grouped but some of the trends have not matched, especially for refuse fires. Previously, this always exceeded 18,000 fires. Now, with the 4 specific 'Refuse' categories in IRS this has reduced to 12,000 fires, which indicated that the IRS is providing wider and more accurate recording of secondary fires and that some fires that would previously have been categorised as 'Refuse' fires are now more accurately recorded in another category. Overall secondary fires are following the expected trends, but there has been a redistribution of the previously recorded FDR 3 refuse fires.

iv. The smoke alarm question on FDR1 was a 'Yes' or 'No' response, whereas on IRS this option has been expanded to 'Yes', 'No' and 'Don't know'. The introduction of this new category has affected the trend data. It was felt important that the previous trend data be displayed, as this is important information for community fire safety policies. It is advised that 2009-10 is not compared with 2008-09 and earlier.

v. IRS allows for more than one smoke alarm to be reported per fire incident. In order to maintain continuity with previous FDR1 data (where there was only one smoke alarm record per incident) if more than 1 smoke alarm record exists on one IRS incident then any marked 'Present, operated and raised the alarm' have been selected as being the primary reported information for the incident. Further investigation into recording of smoke alarms needs to take place and consultation with UK counterparts on the recording of this will be undertaken in the future.

vi. Before IRS the type of damage created by a fire was calculated from a grid where the percentages of damage were written against the 4 topics: fire, heat, smoke and other. If smoke and/or heat were the only categories marked, the damage from the fire was considered as 'Heat and/or smoke damage only' and the spread of fire was not applicable. IRS now asks 'was there heat and/or smoke damage only?' as a specific question. If 'Yes' is answered to this question, the spread of fire is not applicable. Prior to 2009-10 heat and/or smoke damage never exceeded 6 per cent of all dwelling fires. With the introduction of IRS this has jumped to 45 per cent. It is felt that further investigation is needed and it may be the case that another variable in IRS may be used in the future to estimate size of damage (measured in square metres) which includes smoke and/or heat damage. Further analysis and consultation with UK counterparts on the recording of this will be undertaken in the future.

vii. In IRS, the motive of fire is reported as 'accidental' or 'deliberate'. The cause of fire also has 'deliberate' as a possible option. In FDR1 the 'deliberate' motive was the same as the 'deliberate' cause. This is not the same in IRS. In the IRS data, there is a small percentage of building fires where the motive and cause are different. The cause has been reported as 'Other' or 'Unspecified' although the motive was 'deliberate'. To maintain trend data, when the motive of fire is 'deliberate', the motive over-rides the cause of fire.

6.3.5 The databases before 2009-10 contain details of all fires with casualties but only a sample of other fires. The data have all been weighted to agreed Fire and Rescue Services' totals. The detailed analysis of data other than for casualties, or fires involving casualties is based on the sampled data grossed to Fire and Rescue Services' totals. The data in the pre-2009-10 tables may not summate to the total shown, due to the rounding of the sample data within subcategories.

6.4 Additional Information

6.4.1 UK comparison figures are published by DCLG - comparison figures for 2009-10 and 2010-11 (provisional) should be available in the Fire Statistics Monitor - October 2010 - March 2011, at the following link: http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/researchandstatistics/firestatistics/firestatisticsmonitors/

6.4.2 As part of our data review of fire and rescue statistics, a key recommendation is that a stakeholder consultation is held on this publication in the latter part of 2011. If you have an interest in fire statistics and would like to take part in this data review, please register with Scotstat. This is a website that allows you to register an interest on topics that Scottish Government produces statistics on; it also provides email alerts to the publishing of statistics bulletins in areas you have marked of interest. To register an interest in fire, please tick this topic under the Justice heading. The link to this website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/scotstat or send an email to: justicestatistics@scotland.gsi.gov.uk requesting to be added to the fire data review.

6.5 Glossary of terms

6.5.1 Details of the questions and categories used in the recording of incidents under the new IRS are available in the document IRS Questions and Lists. This can be downloaded from:
www.communities.gov.uk/publications/fire/irsquestionslists

Primary fires include all fires in non-derelict buildings and outdoor structures or any fires involving casualties or rescues or any fires attended by five or more appliances.

Secondary fires are the majority of outdoor fires including grassland and refuse fires unless they involve casualties or rescues, property loss or if five or more appliances attend. They include fires in derelict buildings but not chimney fires.

Fatal casualty: A person whose death is attributed to a fire is counted as a fatality even if the death occurred later. There are also occasional cases where it transpires subsequently that fire was not the cause of death. The figures for fatalities are thus subject to revision, following cross-checking of the information supplied by Fire and Rescue Services against the cause of death that appears on the death certificate, which may be subject to Procurator Fiscal's proceedings. Uncertainty as to whether fire was the cause of death is most common in road traffic collision fatalities. This publication contains finalised death figures up to the end of March 2008, and provisional or revised figures for subsequent periods.

Precautionary checks: A precautionary check is when an individual is sent to hospital or advised to see a doctor as a precaution, having no obvious injury or distress.

Special services:Special Services are non-fire incidents requiring the attendance of an appliance or officer. The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 placed a statutory duty on FRS to attend fires and road traffic accidents. It also included an additional function order that covers non-fire incidents such as rescues from collapsed buildings or serious flooding ( Table 5 for the special service categories included in the publication).

6.5.2 The following list shows the definitions used on the fire report form FDR1 (94):

A reportable fire: (no specific definition prior to 1994)
a reportable fire is an event of uncontrolled burning involving flames, heat or smoke and which the FRS

Late fire call: (no specific definition prior to 1994)
A fire known to be extinguished when the call was made (or which no call was made, e.g. a fire which comes to the attention of the FRS as a result of a press report or inquest) and the FRS attended. - - last fire calls are included as fires in this publication.

Heat or smoke damage incidents (no specific definition prior to 1994)
These are reportable 'fires' where there is no fire damage. The damage reported may be due to any combination of heat, smoke and other which will include any water damage. - all heat and/or smoke damage incidents are included as fires in this publication..

Location: The type of premises, property or countryside in which the fire started. This is not necessarily the type of premises in which most casualties or damage occurred as a result of the fire.

Cause of fire: The defect, act or omission leading to ignition of the fire.

Deliberate: Includes fires where deliberate ignition is merely suspected, and recorded by the FRS as "doubtful".

Accidental: Includes fires where the cause was not known or unspecified.

Source of ignition: The source of the flame, spark or heat that started the fire.

Spread of fire: The extent to which fire damage (as opposed to heat, smoke or other damage) spread, for example, beyond the room of origin.

Buildings: All buildings including those under construction, but excluding derelict buildings or those under demolition. Prior to 1994 'buildings' were referred to as 'occupied buildings'.

Dwellings: Buildings occupied by households, excluding hotels, hostels and residential institutions. Mobile homes are specifically included in the dwelling count. In 2000, the definition of a dwelling (for FDR1 purposes) was widened to include any non-permanent structures used solely as a dwelling, such as caravans, houseboats etc. (amounts to 0.3 per cent of the total number of UK dwelling fires). This change brings the definition of a dwelling more in line with that required under Best Value legislation. All analyses prior to 1998 relating to dwellings were retrospectively revised to include the new categories of dwelling. Caravans, boats etc. not used as a permanent dwelling are shown according to the type of property (caravan, vehicle etc.).

Chimney fires: These are reportable fires in occupied buildings:

- where fire was confined within the chimney structure
- that did not involve casualties or rescues
- attended by four or fewer appliances

Outdoor fires: The term 'outdoor fires' used in this publication refers to primary and secondary fires in road vehicles, other outdoor property, derelict buildings and derelict vehicles and more minor refuse, grassland and intentional straw/stubble fires.

Non-fatal casualty: Non-fatal casualties consist of persons requiring medical treatment beyond first aid given at the scene of the fire, and those sent to hospital or advised to see a doctor for a check-up or observation (whether or not they actually do). People sent to hospital or advised to see a doctor as a precaution, having no obvious injury, are recorded as "precautionary check-ups".

Non-Fire and Rescue Service casualty: Refers to fatal or non-fatal casualties involving persons who are not members of the FRS.

Fire and Rescue Service casualties: Refers to fatal or non-fatal casualties involving FRS personnel.

False Alarm: A false alarm is defined as an event in which the FRS believes they are called to a reportable fire and then there is no such incident. False alarms are categorised as:

- Malicious - the call was made with the intention of getting the fire and rescue service to attend a non-existent fire-related incident. This includes a 'deliberate' and 'suspected malicious' intentions.

- Good Intent - the call was made in good faith in the belief that the FRS really would attend a fire.

- Due to Apparatus - the call was initiated by fire alarm and fire fighting equipment operating (including accidental initiation of alarm apparatus by a person).

6.6 Symbols

6.6.1 Symbols used in the tables are:

- Nil or less than half the final digit shown.

.. Not available/Not applicable

p Provisional

r Revised

* Trend data not compatible