Thursday, 11 July 2019

Questions (952)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

952. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he is satisfied that the Dublin Fire Brigade has all the necessary equipment and resources to protect the public in view of the increasing density and height of commercial and residential buildings in the city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31151/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The provision of fire services is a statutory function of fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. In the case of Dublin, the City Council also provides fire services on behalf of the other three Dublin local authorities. My Department supports the fire authorities through setting national policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding. The capital programme includes recoupment for the purchase of fire appliances and emergency equipment and the construction and upgrading of fire stations within the overall funding available.

While the fire authorities obviously have a critical role, the people that control buildings have primary statutory responsibility for ensuring the safety of persons using the building. In this regard, inbuilt features such as layout and fire resistance are critical as are fire detection and alarm systems. Safety features should support early detection, safe evacuation of occupants and the containment of fires. The appropriate measures vary based on the scale, density and height of buildings and are set out in Building Regulations and associated Technical Guidance and Codes of Practice.

It is important to note that there has been a steady decline in the number of fire incidents and the number of fatalities resulting from fires in Ireland. With a three year averaged annual fire death rate of less than six per million of population, Ireland is among the countries where fire fatalities are deemed to have been minimised. Of course, we must remain vigilant and work to avoid the tragedy of fatalities from fire, the vast majority of which occur in the home. However, it is important to recognise the positive impact of improvements in community fire safety strategies and fire brigade response.

In terms of equipment, management of the number, type and age profile of fire appliances is a matter for each of the fire authorities based on their local needs and requirements. Continued investment in the national fleet is one of the key priorities for the Fire Services Capital Programme. Under the capital programmes since 2008, my Department has funded nine ‘Class B’ appliances and two turntable ladders for Dublin and close engagement continues with fire authorities in relation to future needs. In this regard, in assessing requirements, fire service management use multi-annual data of actual fires to determine "Area Risk Categorisation" (ARC) for each fire station area benchmarking against national standards, set out for the first time in the 2013 policy document “Keeping Communities Safe”.

The ARC process helps fire service management establish a risk grading of: very high risk (A); high risk (B) medium risk (C); low risk (D); or very low risk (E) categories across areas. The initial fire station risk ratings for Dublin are published in the 2016 report “Local Delivery – National Consistency – Fire Services in Ireland”, and are set out in the following table.

FIRE SERVICE

FIRE STATION

ARC RATING

DUBLIN

Tallaght

A1

DUBLIN

Tara Street

A1

DUBLIN

Dolphins Barn

A2

DUBLIN

Finglas

A2

DUBLIN

Kilbarrack

A2

DUBLIN

Phibsboro

A2

DUBLIN

Swords

A2

DUBLIN

Blanchardstown

B1

DUBLIN

Dunlaoghaire

B1

DUBLIN

North Strand

B1

DUBLIN

Rathfarnham

B1

DUBLIN

Donnybrook

B2

DUBLIN

Balbriggan

C1

DUBLIN

Skerries

D1

The “Keeping Communities Safe” policy document indicates that local authority fire services should have an initial response capability in place which is linked to the assessed Area Risk Category, as set out in the following table.

Risk CategoryDescription

Risk Category

Standard Fire Appliance (Class B) Response Capability

Fire Brigade Travel Times

Associated Crew Levels (incl. crew commanders)

Very High

A

1st2nd3rd4th

in 8 minsin 10 minsin 15 minsin 20 mins

591317

High

B

1st2nd3rd

in 10 minsin 15 minsin 20 mins

5913

Medium

C

1st2nd3rd

in 10 minsin 20 minsin 30 mins

5913

Low

D

1st2nd

in 20 minsin 40 mins

59

Very Low

E

1st2nd

in 30 minsin 60 mins

59

The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) oversees an external validation process across fire services. The External Validation Report “Local Delivery – National Consistency” indicates that the fire services provided in Dublin areas are meeting, and indeed exceed, the appropriate standards.

Operational response to a particular incident or category of incidents is a matter for each fire service, taking account of national policy and guidance. A National Incident Command System was developed by the NDFEM in 2009, including appropriate training and support materials. The Incident Commander decides on the appropriate course of action to be taken in any given situation, taking into consideration the balance of needs, risk and resources with particular regard to health, safety and welfare.

In relation to fighting fires in high-rise buildings, my Department issued guidance titled “Fighting Fires in High-Rise Buildings” in April 2011. This was part of a suite of 47 Standard Operational Guidance (SOG) documents developed between 2010 and 2012 by fire service personnel and issued by the NDFEM. A copy of the SOG concerned, SOG 3.02, is available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/Community/FireandEmergencyServices/FileDownLoad%2C33367%2Cen.pdf .

Based on the foregoing the current arrangements in place at both national and local level for fire safety and fire service response, including in Dublin, are deemed appropriate and effective. These matters are kept under constant review by the NDFEM and its dedicated Management Board made up of key stakeholders, including chief executives of local authorities/fire authorities.