I propose to take Questions Nos. 1507, 1508, 1510 and 1514 together.
I presume the phrase “early risk categorisation” refers to the “area risk categorisation” process provided for in the national policy document “Keeping Communities Safe - A Framework for Fire Safety in Ireland” (KCS).
The provision of a fire service in its functional area is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003. Dublin City Council provides fire services on behalf of the four 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 for priority infrastructure projects.
National policy in relation to fire safety is set out in KCS, which 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, this document set out a national process and standards against which local authorities can benchmark their fire services.
This policy document provides for each fire service to undertake an Area Risk Categorisation process in respect of each of its fire station areas. In 2013/14, following the publication of “Keeping Communities Safe”, and before the Grenfell Tower fire occurred in June 2017, each fire authority undertook an initial area risk categorisation process for its functional area and reported on the process. The outcome of this process is a judgement by fire service management to establish a risk grading across very high risk, high risk, medium risk, low risk or very low risk categories. The initial fire station risk ratings for Ireland’s 217 fire stations are published in the 2016 report “Local Delivery – National Consistency – Fire Services in Ireland”, a copy of which is available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/fire-services-ireland-local-delivery-national.
The approach to undertaking the initial Area Risk Categorisation Process is set out in KCS. The Area Risk Categorisation process uses nine specific criteria, including 3 years of actual fire data, census data relating to population of main urban areas, the total population of the station ground, the number of dwellings in the station ground and the annual dwelling fire rate. The initial process was based on analysis of three years of actual fire data generated from the three Computer Aided Mobilisation (CAMP) Centres. This provided spatial analysis of fire service historical incident data in line with the international trend towards the use of a risk-based approach to managing emergency service provision.
It is the predominant risk in an area that defines its risk categorisation. While buildings with significant hazards may be identified/highlighted as part of the process, it is not seen as necessary or appropriate to undertake a building by building appraisal for the purposes of the initial area risk categorisation process. An area risk categorisation process does not assess compliance of hospitals or other individual buildings with fire safety standards, as appears to be suggested in two of the Deputy's Questions.
However, significant buildings are readily known by the people working in each station ground and, based on a prioritisation by local fire station officers, fire services undertake “Pre-Incident Planning” in relation to what they perceive as the individual major fire risk buildings within their fire station areas. It is a matter for Dublin City Council to identify and prioritise buildings for "Pre-Incident Planning" in the Dublin area.
I am not in a position to say, and the Deputy should be advised by Dublin City Council, as to what buildings are prioritised and have been through the pre-incident planning process in the Dublin area.
Over the course of 2014/2015, the National Directorate Management Board's External Validation Group (EVG) visited every fire service in the country as part of a new external validation of area risk categorisation in Ireland. 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.
Arising from the work of the EVG, I am satisfied that the fire services provided in Ireland are operating to appropriate standards.
A consultation exercise with staffing interests was commenced in March 2016 through the Fire Services National Oversight and Implementation Group (FSNOIG) with a view to identifying potential enhancements to the initial Area Risk Categorisation and associated external validation process. The initial area risk categorisation reports of all 27 fire services, as well as the External Validation Group report referred to above, were provided to the staff side at that time. However, no progress has been made between management and the staff side in relation to identifying specific issues with the current process or potential enhancements.
The initial area risk categorisation process undertaken in Dublin was in line with national guidance and the fire station risk ratings for Dublin are included in the 2016 report “Local Delivery – National Consistency – Fire Services in Ireland” referred to above.