I propose to take Questions Nos. 318 and 319 together.
In February 2013, my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management published the policy document, “Keeping Communities Safe - A framework for Fire Safety in Ireland” (KCS).
KCS is the report on the outcome of a wide-ranging review of fire services in Ireland which was undertaken in 2011/2012, and was endorsed as national policy in early 2013. KCS is based on the internationally used systemic risk management approach and places emphasis on fire prevention and fire protection facilities in buildings, as well as on fire service response.
For the first time KCS sets national norms, standards and targets for the provision of safe and effective fire services in Ireland. Further, KCS identifies priorities and sets ambitious targets for reductions in annual fire loss, including fire deaths and reasserts the principle of the nearest available fire appliance being deployed to an emergency incident, irrespective of administrative boundaries.
Following the publication of KCS, each fire authority was requested to undertake an initial Area Risk Categorisation process for its functional area, using a process set out in Chapter 7 of KCS, and to prepare a short report on the process and outcomes. The Area Risk Categorisation process results in the area to which the first response is sent by each fire station, known as the ‘fire station ground’, being assigned a Risk Category(s) Grading, ranging across five grades, from very high, high, medium, low to very low risk.
Over the course of 2014/2015, the National Directorate’s Management Board's External Validation Group (EVG) visited every local authority in the country as part of a new external validation process on area risk categorisation in Ireland arising from implementation of KCS. In April 2016, the Board published the first EVG Report titled “Local Delivery - National Consistency”. The report concluded, inter alia, that:
- Fire Services are applying and refining internationally recognised risk management approaches to reduce the fire risk and the annual toll of life and property loss caused by fire.
- Local authorities are matching the assessed fire risk in their individual fire station areas with services based on both full-time and retained fire service models, with a comprehensive support infrastructure, and applying a range of appropriate fire prevention and fire protection approaches.
- Local authorities have prioritised and maintained the financial and personnel resources in their fire services at a time when they have implemented significant reductions in all other areas.
- Local authorities have benchmarked their fire services against national standards and national norms, and a strong degree of consistency, linked to area risk categorisation, now exists in fire service provision; all local authorities are using, or are working towards, national norms as minimum standards.
A copy of this report is available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/fire-services-ireland-local-delivery-national.
A consultation exercise with staffing interests was commenced on 10 March 2016 with a view to identifying potential enhancements to the ARC process. It is intended to commence a second round of Area Risk Categorisation and associated external validation in 2018.