2. Strategic Priority 1 – Prevention and Protection
The overriding purpose of SFRS remains to improve the safety and well-being of communities. A priority for SFRS is preventing fires and reducing their human, social and economic impact. SFRS should use an evidence-based approach to target groups and individuals according to risk, and universal population wide activities, to improve fire and wider community safety. These should contribute to reducing inequality and encouraging sustainable and inclusive growth. SFRS should work with public, private and voluntary organisations; communities and individuals where they can add value and contribute to outcomes.
Keeping communities safe from harm is a core principle of SFRS. Fire safety is therefore a priority. The ambition is to drive the incidence of fires, casualties and fatalities towards zero.
There is a continuing commitment by the Scottish Government and SFRS to act on the learning from the Grenfell Tower fire that resulted in the death of 72 people on 14 June 2017. Given the scale, background to, and impact of the fire and the work of the Public Inquiry, addressing the implications will remain a priority for SFRS and the Scottish Government.
Building on the 2016 Framework, SFRS should continue to contribute to the wider safety and well-being of communities in Scotland. This should make most effective use of firefighters and other staff, using evidence to learn what works and inform improvements.
Continuous improvement is integral to all Prevention and Protection work, including fire safety, for the effective use of resources and to achieve impact. This will involve, in partnership, on-going data gathering, analysis and use, to drive improvement to reduce fatalities and casualties and to swiftly identify new risks and trends which need addressed.
Approach to Fire Safety
Effective fire safety comprises measures to prevent fires and to reduce and mitigate risk. It requires individuals, communities, businesses, services, government and SFRS to work together and take action. SFRS has a key role in continuing to fulfil its statutory duty to promote fire safety and as an enforcing authority for fire safety legislation.
The 2005 Act, and associated regulations, provide the legislative basis for SFRS’s fire safety work. It establishes the duty to promote fire safety and appoints SFRS as an enforcing authority for relevant premises. It comprises:
- The requirement to promote fire safety by providing information, publicity and encouragement to prevent fires and protect life, as well as giving advice on fire prevention, restricting fire spread and means of escape.
- Enforcement of fire safety legislation, that generally applies to non-domestic premises (“relevant premises”), to protect employees, residents and the public (“relevant persons”). Responsibility for compliance in these premises is with employers and others with control of the premises (known as the Dutyholder).
- Informing and encouraging people to be responsible for fire safety in their own homes on a voluntary basis, since domestic premises as defined in the 2005 Act are not “relevant premises”.
Promoting Fire Safety
SFRS should continue to work in partnership to prevent fires. The priority is to protect people most at risk from fire whilst also contributing to reducing inequalities. In particular the longer term effects of fires can worsen people’s social and economic situation where it causes homelessness that prevents continuing in employment.
The rate of dwelling fires and fire related casualties are strongly associated with deprivation. According to the Fire safety regime for existing high rise domestic buildings - review: Fairer Scotland Duty summary, domestic fires are 4.2 times higher and fire related casualty rates are 4.9 times higher in the 20% most deprived areas compared to the 20% least deprived. As evidenced in the SFRS Strategic Plan 2019-22, increased risk of harm, including from fire, is related to such factors as poorer health, lower education attainment and disability. By continuing to take a risk-based approach, to prioritise communities and individuals, inequalities can be reduced. This targeted prevention should happen in conjunction with proportionate and impactful population wide prevention activities.
Partnership working with individuals, families and friends, other public, voluntary and private organisations is essential, so that individuals and households at risk of fire are identified.
SFRS should continue to use and develop a range of tools and initiatives for community-based fire prevention. The aim is to improve people’s knowledge and understanding so positive fire safety behaviour is embedded. It is likely it will incorporate information, publicity campaigns, guidance, bespoke advice and, where necessary, enforcement action. Central to this is SFRS’s work with communities and organisations to produce and disseminate information effectively. This should be informed by evidence and learning from activities to drive improvement and ensure the intended impact is being achieved. Learning from what does and does not work should be shared across the organisation.
The longer term ambition should be for individuals, communities, organisations and businesses to be confident and capable in taking responsibility for fire safety for their homes, premises and environment. Only when this is achieved, as demonstrated by evidence, can SFRS apply a lighter touch focused on maintaining this, with less direct active involvement in education, supporting and enforcement activities.
SFRS should continue to contribute to the strengthening of general Prevention and Protection policy and practice. This includes contributing and advising Scottish Government on policy developments to maintain and strengthen fire safety via building standards and housing policy, notably prompted by the consequences of the Grenfell Tower fire and the associated Public Inquiry.
Improving Wider Community Safety
SFRS already contributes to the wider safety of communities. SFRS should continue to work with partners, as under Strategic Priority 7, for targeted, integrated public safety campaigns that raise awareness of fire, water and road safety, and other community safety matters, that also contributes to reducing inequalities.
By gathering and sharing information on other community risks with relevant agencies, more can be done to address those risks. SFRS can, with other public and voluntary services, build community capacity to respond to changing risk profiles (for example aging population and climate change) utilising a broad assessment of safety and wellbeing. SFRS should expand its contribution to improving wider community safety, for example the prevention of avoidable injury of older people at home, to minimise avoidable demand on SFRS and on health and care services. SFRS should continue to prioritise support involving young people from care and other disadvantaged backgrounds, to reduce inequality.
SFRS should continue to work to progress the Scottish Government’s commitment to building safer communities with partners and develop a co-ordinated and strategic approach to reducing unintentional harm. This should prioritise understanding the risks and support the wide range of initiatives and actions that are already taking place locally across Scotland and to share good practice as enabled under the 2005 Act. This will prioritise groups most likely to experience unintentional harm: people in Scotland’s most deprived communities, those aged over 65 and children under 5 (Scottish Government Unintentional Harm website). SFRS should continue to support delivery of the ‘Scottish Government’s Action Plan on Fireworks’ to ensure they are used safely and handled with care, and do not cause harm, distress or serious injury.
Fire Safety Enforcement for Relevant Premises
SFRS should deliver its statutory duties by providing information, guidance and advice and fire safety audits of relevant premises.
SFRS is an enforcing authority for the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 Part 3 to ensure the Dutyholder complies with legislative requirements. In line with the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice, SFRS should continue a positive enabling approach in pursuing outcomes; facilitating compliance where possible but using formal enforcement where necessary. This involves working collaboratively with the Dutyholder and other regulators.
The findings from fire investigations should be used to enhance community and firefighter safety, to inform community safety engagement initiatives, fire safety enforcement strategies and inform improvement. SFRS should work with Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and those affected where required.
Where audits need to be prioritised, this must be based on evidence where the risk to life is greatest. By reducing the number, and severity, of incidents in premises SFRS should contribute to reducing the economic and social impacts of fire.
SFRS should ensure that relevant information from Prevention and Protection and Operations functions is shared in a timely way. This should be two way and includes, for example, Prevention and Protection staff notifying operational personnel of operational risk information which could impact on firefighter safety or operational crews informing Prevention and Protection staff of potential fire safety concerns.
Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals
SFRS should continue to pursue effective action to reduce the number of Unwanted Fire Alarms Signals and the weight of SFRS resources that respond to them. Automatic Fire Alarm systems (AFAs) are a vital fire safety measure in many premises, providing early warning of fire for occupants, but they can be susceptible to false alarms. In 2020-21 false alarm attendances from detecting apparatus comprised 41.8% of all incidents attended by SFRS, a significant use of resources. Driving down these unwanted actuations is beneficial to all those involved by, for example: avoiding disruption to businesses and the public, and maintaining confidence in automatic fire alarm systems. Reducing the occasions fire appliances have to mobilise under “blue light” conditions, will decrease the risk to fire crews and other road users.
SFRS should gather and publish data on the outputs from these activities, including via its Performance Management Framework, and use it to track and report on progress on improving outcomes.
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