Sharing information to protect the vulnerable from preventable fires

Guest post by Maggie McNally, Department for Communities and Local Government / Public Service Transformation Network

The ageing population are most at risk from fire incidents, with 50% of all fire-related deaths coming from this group.  So the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) held an all day conference called “Dying for Data” at the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. It was chaired by Neil Odin, CFOA lead for Data & Research.

Speakers included the Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis; representatives from Ordnance Survey, Age UK and the Silver Line charity (founded by Esther Rantzen). Delegates came from across the Fire & Rescue Services in England, together with government officials.

As the name of the conference implied, people really are dying needlessly in fire related incidents – just because the right intervention hasn’t been in place.  So the need for better collaboration on sharing data is imperative.

Incident data over the years has proved that the following groups are most at risk of fire death and injury, so the Fire and Rescue Service needs reach out to them:

  • Older people – particularly those in need of domicillary care
  • Smokers
  • Those with disability and mobility issues
  • People suffering from mental ill health or dementia
  • People suffering from drug and alcohol problems

Fire and Rescue Services are already aware that individuals within these target groups are accessing a number of support services. But their targeting systems can only do so much to help them locate the most vulnerable. The only way they can reach these individuals is by working closely with those organisations who are already supporting these people.  Through better information sharing, the Fire and Rescue Services can more effectively prevent needless fire deaths.

Ordnance Survey are working on using geographical data collaboratively to help save lives, by introducing an address bound premium.  This unique property reference number ensures the Fire and Rescue Services know exactly where to go when called. This is really useful in places of multiple occupation, such as sheltered housing, or a university campus.

Ken Clemens from Age UK spoke about the need to reshape the thinking in the public sector particularly in giving assistance to the elderly. He stated that by 2050 the increase in the ageing profile in England will have reached 19 million people over 65.

“We’re going to have to initiate better collaboration and data sharing practice to reach this population.”

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis highlighted the need for better data collection and sharing of that data.  He wants to urge the Chief Fire Officers Association and Department for Work and Pensions to collaborate and explore their data sharing practices, and said that the Data Protection Act should be called the Data Sharing Act!  He emphasised that data should be shared more easily, without the trappings of excessive legislation.