A zero fire deaths target.

The 1936, 1958 and 1985 Standards of Fire Cover effectively set measurable targets for the fire & rescue service to achieve in terms of the time taken for all fire appliances sent as part of the initial response to reach emergency incidents after receiving an alarm of fire. In addition the Standards of Fire Cover laid down minimum crewing levels for fire appliances and introduced a 'confidence factor' to measure the number of occasions on which the recommended crewing levels (the number of Firefighters on fire appliances) were met.

For fire appliances sent as part of the initial emergency response to a fire, the required crewing levels were 5 Firefighters on the first fire appliance and 4 Firefighters on the second fire appliance. This was expressed as a percentage of the overall number of emergency responses a fire & rescue service made in any one year. The crewing standard had to be met on 75% of occasions. However the 1995 Audit Commission report into value for money in the fire & rescue service (In the Line of Fire) stated that it could see no logic in this 75% confidence factor, particularly given the problems of dealing with a property fire with fewer than even a crew of five.

Historical Targets and Standards

These simplistic, but accurate measures of the efficiency of a fire & rescue service were linked precisely to the delivery of the emergency response role. A range of 'Performance Indicators' were developed by Government in the 1990's to measure each authority's performance in meeting the:

* speed of response (how quickly the fire & rescue service got to fires); and the

* weight of attack (number of fire appliances and Firefighters sent to a fire)

requirements of the 1985 Standards of Fire Cover. This was in line with the Government requirement that public services should strive to provide 'Best Value'.

An historical failing of the National Standards of Fire Cover has been that by concentrating the recordable duties of fire & rescue authorities upon the intervention role of the service, any prevention role was initially seen as peripheral. A series of multi-casualty fatal fires which occurred from the late 1950's until the mid 1980's demonstrated to politicians and the public alike the need for a greater investment in the service's prevention role (Section 1).

Current Government Targets

In 1997 a Community Fire Safety Task Force was appointed by the Home Secretary. Its remit was to recommend a five-year strategy to reduce fires and fire casualties in the home.

As a result of the Task Force's report 'Safe As Houses' (the FBU's 1990 discussion document was called 'As Safe as Houses'--Section 2) the Home Secretary set key performance targets for the fire & rescue service. These 5 year targets set from 1998 were:

* to reduce the number of accidental fires in dwellings by one third

* to reduce the number of accidental fire deaths by 40%

* to reduce serious non-fatal casualties by 5% year on year

* to achieve measurable annual improvement in fire safety awareness, attitudes and behaviour.

Effective April 2001 the Westminster Government recommended that fire & rescue authorities in England and Wales enter into Public Service Agreements (PSAs) setting out what the fire & rescue authority aimed to delivery to the public in return for their money. The recommended PSAs for fire were:

* a 10% reduction in the number of building fires;

* a 20% reduction in the number of accidental fire related deaths;

* a 30% reduction in the number of deliberate fires. …

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