Data used to justify fire station closures – allegation of serious flaws which should lead to withdrawal of consultation document

Owl has received a link to a communication to Sarah Randall Johnson, DCC Chair of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority about Fire Station closures and the data used to justify them.

This is somewhat technical, but the substance is that the allegation seems to be that Fire Service has manipulated data (possibly without realising it but possibly deliberately) to present it in a way that is more favourable to them. The writer urges that, because of serious flaws, the document should be withdrawn.

Owl is no mathematician and leaves it to those who are of a more mathematical nature to challenge the assertions made:

“Consultation document misleading, over 600,000 people face increased life risk

My email to Sara Randall Johnson, Chair of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority, sent yesterday:

Dear Fire Authority Chair,

Whilst I am sure you were unaware, the consultation document you have put your name to is deliberately misleading. Sadly, it appears this has been done to deceive the residents of Devon & Somerset and I would urge you to withdraw the document.

My experience of FSEC modelling made me doubt the claims made by ACFO Pete Bond in his BBC interview on 2nd July, so I submitted questions to the Safer Together Programme Team. Their answers, and another D&SF&RS document (attached), confirm my suspicions that the presentation of the risk modelling outcomes are deliberately misleading.

The reduced risk claim is frankly fraudulent, as it is based on a comparison for the future, which assumes all the service’s fire engines are available, with the current situation, which assumes several fire engines are not available. The excuse given is that crewing and contract changes will ensure all appliances will be available in future. That is outrageous speculation and it is highly unlikely that will ever be achieved.

So, the only honest and responsible method is to compare current theoretical full availability with future theoretical full availability. That comparison shows, although not very clearly in the public consultation document, an extra death every other year on option 5 (25 extra in dwellings and 22 extra in RTCs in 100 years). A figure that will be higher, as not all deaths have been included in the results. Fire deaths not in dwellings, which in some years have exceeded those in dwellings, and deaths at non-fire incidents, other than road traffic collisions, have not been included.

The figure shown for RTCs is also highly suspicious, as the service saves many more lives at RTCs than it does at dwelling fires. Delayed responses will therefore impact more on RTC fatalities than on dwelling fire fatalities. FSEC modelling in other fire & rescue services show that for every extra death in a dwelling fire there can be 15 extra deaths in non-fire incidents, as a direct result of longer response times.

Although the reply I received states that the modelling for RTCs was based on attendance times for the first two fire engines, the figures in the consultation document suggest that is not the case. In option 5, fourteen second fire engines are taken out of use during the day, yet it is claimed that will make no difference to RTC fatalities (same result as for option 4). This suggests that the figures used in the consultation document are for first fire engine only, so once again deliberately misleading. It is also concerning that modelling figures have not been provided for property damage, which is also certain to increase if the proposals go ahead.

The figures for option 6 are also dubious and wholly unreliable. I am told that the roving fire engines were “in certain locations for the purpose of the modelling”. Whilst there may be odd occasions when a roving fire engine happens to be near enough to an incident to provide an improved response time, the random nature of emergencies means there is a much higher probability that it will not. Evidence of this unreliability can be found in the Analytical Comparison of Community Impacts from Service Delivery Operating Model document, dated June 2019. This is stated to be “the evidence base to assess the impact of changes to our Service Delivery Operating Model”. This shows the outcomes for options 5 and 6 as the same, which means there is no improvement on response times for roving fire engines.

Whilst the Analytical Comparison document seems generally more accurate than the consultation document, there are still some concerning conclusions in it. For example, on page 45, the increased response time shown for Porlock and Woolacombe, if they are closed, is just two to five minutes. Yet the nearest fire engines are Minehead and Ilfracombe respectively, both six miles away. Even Lewis Hamilton could not achieve that on those roads in even light traffic. Similarly, the map on page 46 shows day crewing at Barnstaple only increasing first pump response time by one to two minutes. The reality is that at night, with On Call Firefighters responding from home, it would be an increase of around four minutes. These outputs suggest the results have been manipulated to appear less severe.

However, what the Analytical Comparison document does reveal is that over 600,000 residents will face an increased risk to their lives if the full proposals are carried out (262,486 households x 2.3 average occupancy = 603,718 people). That detail should not be kept secret, the public deserve to know before responding to the consultation. It is also very disturbing that the station risk profiles for every fire station have suddenly been removed from the D&SF&RS website. Removing recent (2018/19) performance information during a consultation is not being responsible and accountable.

I would add that I requested copies of the actual modelling data used, but this has not been supplied.

I can’t believe that you would be happy about the public and Fire Authority Members being misled in this way. Please have the document withdrawn and postpone the consultation until a revised document can be published showing full, accurate and honest details of the impact of these cuts. Given the seriousness of this matter I have copied this email to Fire Authority Members and other concerned parties.

Yours sincerely
Name notshown”

https://stopfirecutsdevonandsomerset.blogspot.com/2019/07/consultation-document-misleading-over.html

Profile of blogger of above information (Tony Morris):

“I spent 32 years in the fire service in Bedfordshire and West Sussex. My last six years in the service were as Operational Planning Officer responsible for contingency planning. I was then Senior Emergency Management Adviser for West Sussex County Council for 15 years, covering all areas of emergencies and business continuity.

I served on several inter-agency groups at local, regional and national level dealing with major incident procedures & training, maritime and airport emergencies, incidents involving hazardous materials (CBRN, COMAH etc.), telecommunications and other critical infrastructure.

I have studied how fire services operate and how major incidents are handled in different parts of the World. All this has given me a good understanding of the complexities of emergencies and how to deal with them, as well as a keen eye to spot inadequacies in planning, training or resources.

Now fully retired I am free to challenge ill-considered cuts to the fire & rescue service and my blogs are intended to alert the public to the truth behind the spin. The first blog covered West Sussex, where I live, and the second Devon, where I was born and raised.”

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