Fire

The Intervention Window.

Effective integrated risk management planning is potentially a detailed and complex process. A large number of apparently conflicting factors have to be taken into account. However as the IRMP process (as any risk management process) is essentially about reducing risk, there is a simple test that can be applied to each and every proposal in a local IRMP which will measure whether the proposed strategy increases risk or decreases risk--the INTERVENTION WINDOW.

The Intervention Window model allows a very simple assessment to be made of the effect of each and every integrated risk management planning proposal on both public and Firefighter safety at fires and other emergency incidents. It also assesses the potential effect of these proposals on property loss and the environment.

The Intervention Window formula is grounded in both Qualitative Assessment (expert judgement--the experience of front-line workers) and Quantitative Assessment (numerical assessment using data). This combination of qualitative and quantitative assessment is critical to the outcome of a complex risk assessment such as an integrated risk management plan.

The Philosophical Approach to fire risk management (Section 2) adopts prevention as the starting point. This approach has much to commend it--it is clearly better to prevent the fire starting in the first place rather than having to deal with the consequences of a fire that has already occurred. The Intervention Window takes a more pragmatic approach to the problem of fire deaths, fire injuries and fire property loss and environmental damage. It assumes that efforts to prevent fires occurring in the first place will not be completely successful, and that for the foreseeable future fires will continue to occur and so pose a risk. This assumption is based on current statistical evidence of fire occurrence and fire trends. The fact remains that people do not die in the fires that we manage to prevent; they die in the fires that still occur. The Intervention Window highlights the risk control measures necessary to minimise the effect of these continuing events.

The Intervention Window model assists in making outcome-based predictions of the effect of wider preventative and emergency intervention strategies. Prevention is not considered in the context of preventing the fire (or other emergency) occurring, but rather on minimising the effect of the event when it does occur i.e. reducing the likelihood of the event causing fire deaths and injuries and also reducing the likelihood of extensive property and other losses.

The inclusion of the Critical Attendance STandard methodology in the Intervention Window model assists in overcoming many of the shortcomings of earlier emergency response standards. Former National Standards of Fire Cover set output-based targets which measured the level of emergency response planned by fire & rescue authorities for different risk areas (A-risk, B-risk, etc.) in the authority's overall area (Section 3 page 27). However the 1985 Standards of Fire Cover report also recognised that there was a clear link between output (how many fire appliances were sent and how fast they got to fires) and outcome (how good or how bad things would be when the emergency response arrived). The full 1985 report stated:

"... the longer travelling times in the lower risk category areas generally implied that fires in these areas would be more fully developed by the time the first attendance appliance(s) arrived."

The 'lower' risk category areas referred to above were areas categorised as C-risk, D-risk and Remote-Rural-risk. The outcomes of fires in these areas (in terms of life and property loss) were anticipated as being worse than the outcomes of fires in former risk areas which had been set larger and faster emergency response standards.

Interestingly the full 1985 Standards of Fire Cover report recommended that fire & rescue authorities should review attendance policies for areas categorised as C risk to determine whether, and if so to what extent, parts of the C-risk area should attract an 'enhanced' attendance of two fire appliances with the second fire appliance aiming to arrive as soon as realistically possible after the first. This recommendation did not however extend to D-risk or Remote-Rural risk areas.

The single fire appliance emergency response level and minimum attendance times set for former C-risk, D-risk and Remote-Rural-risk areas have always been of concern to fire & rescue crews, particularly those crews who are routinely on the first fire appliance to arrive at fires in these areas. In simple terms the Firefighters covering these areas were provided with less resources to fight potentially more fully developed fires, and in the knowledge that 'reinforcements' would generally take far longer to arrive than at fires in former A-risk and B-risk areas. …

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