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Statistical Bulletin: Crime and Justice Series: Fire Statistics Scotland, 2008-09 Final (2009-10 Provisional)


5. Notes on Statistics used in this publication

5.1 Background

5.1.1 The statistics in this publication are compiled from reports submitted to Communities and Local Government ( CLG) on fires attended by Fire and Rescue Services ( FRSs). Although a variety of Scottish fire statistics are currently published annually by CLG 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 or rescues ( i.e. 'primary' fires) on the 'fire damage report' form FDR1 (94) and since 1 st April 2009 by IRS (Incident Recording System). 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.

5.2 Changes to this publication

5.2.1 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 by IRS (Incident Recording System). 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 may occur, please see paragraph 5.3.3 below.

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

5.2.3 This publication is now produced in financial years rather than calendar years. The ten 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. After this publication, it is our intention to provide ten year trend data at FRS level as additional datasets. This will be added to our website over the course of the rest of the year.

5.2.4 To improve the timing of FRS statistics, this year has seen the introduction of high level summary statistics on provisional data for 2009-10. These are available in Table 1 to 5 and include data over an eleven year trend. Providing data this early means that we cannot produce the remaining tables that have been supplied for finalised 2008-09 data for provisional 2009-10 data. More detailed information for 2009-10 will be included in the next publication when the figures have been finalised.

5.2.5 This publication includes for the first time 'Special Services'. These are non-fire incidents that FRSs perform. The inclusion of this data has been due to the introduction of the IRS collecting this detail at a national level.

5.3 Accuracy of Statistics

5.3.1 The data for this publication is correct as of 20 August 2010. IRS is a live system where FRSs can amend previously recorded information. The data for 2009-10 is provisional and will be subject to revisions. Revision will be handled as per 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.

5.3.2 In 2002-03, there was industrial action by FRSs in November 2002, January 2003 and February 2003. There was no information recorded for the 15 days industrial action took place. Previously an estimate was provided for Scotland by CLG 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 data for 2002-03 is missing approximately 850 primary fires and 1,600 secondary fires due to the industrial action.

5.3.3 During quality assurance of the data collected from IRS, CLG has identified the following two areas of potential discontinuity arising from the switchover from the old largely paper-based Fire Data Report ( FDR) system to the new Incident Recording System ( 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
  • there is no suggestion of difference in completeness of recording of fatal and non-fatal casualties.

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

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 ten 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 large discontinuity compared to data from before the introduction of the new Incident Recording System.

The data provided in this publication for 2009-10 is provisional and it is our intention to investigate non-fatal casualties further to try and determine if the changes in this information are due to data collection methodology or not.

5.3.4 The databases before 2009-10 contain 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 tables may not summate to the total shown, due to the rounding of the sample data within subcategories.

5.4 Glossary of terms

5.4.1 Details of the questions and categories used in the recording of incidents under the new Incident Recording System ( IRS) are available in the document IRS Questions and Lists. This can be downloaded from:

Primary fires include all fires in non-derelict buildings and outdoor structures, non-abandoned vehicles 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 figures for subsequent periods. To date, this cross-checking has consistently resulted in a small net reduction in the number of fatalities caused by fire.

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).

5.4.2 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 attended.

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.

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.

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).

5.5 Symbols

5.5.1 Symbols used in the tables are:

- Nil or less than half the final digit shown.
.. Not available/Not applicable
p Provisional