Fire Services Emergency Cover (FSEC) Toolkit.

In guidance issued to fire & rescue authorities on the 2nd April 2003 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has stated that an effective IRMP should:

* identify existing and potential risks to the community within the authority area;

* evaluate the effectiveness of current preventative and response arrangements;

* identify opportunities for improvement and determine policies and standards for prevention and intervention;

* determine resource requirements to meet these policies and standards.

A Quantitative planning tool which can be used to inform this process is the Fire Services Emergency Cover (FSEC) Toolkit. This is a computer-based model which has been loaned to fire & rescue authorities by the ODPM to assist them in the construction of local Integrated Risk Management Plans.

The model has been developed as a result of considerable national research, the vast majority of which was carried out under the most recent Review of Standards of Emergency Cover--Pathfinder (Section 4 page 35-88).

The Development of FSEC

Section 1 gave details of the historical development of standards of fire cover, and the rationale that underpinned earlier reviews and planning decisions. The original version of the FSEC model was developed to form part of the most recent review of standards of emergency cover--Pathfinder. The history of that review, and the FSEC model's development which was intrinsic to it, bears repeating.

In 1995 the Audit Commission conducted a review of the UK fire service. One of the main recommendations in its report 'In the Line of Fire'--was that the system of planning fire service emergency responses based on property size, construction, type and density (the 1985 Standards of Fire Cover) should be reviewed, and future emergency response planning for fires should primarily aim to reduce risk to life.

The Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council (CFBAC) set up the Joint Committee on the Audit Commission Report (JCACR) to respond to the issues raised by the Audit Commission. This committee investigated the feasibility of moving to a risk based system for determining fire cover, Their report--'Out of the Line of Fire'--which was published in 1998 concluded that a risk-based approach to planning fire cover was feasible. The JCACR recommended that further research and trials should take place to develop such a system.

In response to the JCACR report the Government commissioned and funded a full research project into the standards of fire cover. The research was originally termed a review of standards of fire cover, but was subsequently re-titled the 'Review of Standards of Emergency Cover' to more accurately reflect the historical role of the fire & rescue service as the primary rescue service in the UK The research project was overseen by a 'Task Group'.

The Task Group developed a Fire Service Emergency Cover methodology, which included the use of risk-based computer modelling which sought to access both the level of risk and the emergency response measures that would be required to reduce that risk.

The FSEC Toolkit Today

The draft report of the Task Group on the Emergency Cover Review was published on the 20th December 2002, and further 'development' of the FSEC computer model originally created as part of that review has since been undertaken. This work has aimed to modify the computer model in order that it can inform the newly emerging Integrated Risk Management Planning process which has replaced the 1985 Standards of Fire Cover resource and response planning arrangements.

The FSEC Toolkit can be considered as an 'encyclopaedia' of information about an individual fire & rescue authority's area. Each set of information (data) within FSEC can be regarded as a chapter of that encyclopaedia, containing information on that specific subject, like an encyclopaedia, the FSEC Toolkit enables the user to look at individual chapters (subjects), or to use some or all of the information contained within those chapters at the same time in order to view the overall composition of all or part of an authority's area, and the predicted effect on risk of activities carried out by the service in that area.

The data within the 'chapters' is based on information provided from fire & rescue service records (FDR1 returns, station and fire appliance location and crewing systems etc.), or information from other agencies and sources e.g. The Valuation Office (for buildings) and 2001 Population Census (for people). These different types of information provide some of the quantitative (data) building blocks which are required to assist in the construction of local Integrated Risk Management Plans. They are provided in the FSEC Toolkit to assist fire & rescue authorities to make an assessment of the various types, levels and areas of risk in their brigade using a common approach.

Risk Identification, Risk Assessment & FSEC

In very simple terms, the FSEC Toolkit attempts to calculate (predict) how good, or how bad, things are in terms of 'risk' for all communities in a fire & rescue authority's area. It allows authorities to 'try out' different combinations of fire station locations, crewing systems and emergency responses on the computer model. The model calculates whether the predicted risk for each community or area within the fire & rescue authority's total area has increased or decreased as a result of the different proposed combinations.

To identify/predict risk quantitative data sources are used in an attempt to establish the likelihood of a fire occurring and the likelihood of members of the public being injured or killed, or property damaged by that fire. To predict risks to life the data sources primarily used are Fire Damage Reports (FDR1 reports) and British Crime Survey reports. By combining information from these data sources it is possible to construct a 'risk map' for a fire & rescue authority area which can be used as an indicator of (for example) high fire fatality risk areas.

There is however a fundamental difference between risk identification, risk assessment and risk management. …

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