The provision of fire services is a statutory function of fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. The receipt of calls from the public for assistance by the fire service is provided on a 'shared service' basis by three Regional Communications Centres (RCCs) at Limerick, Castlebar and Dublin.
My Department supports fire authorities mainly through setting national policy and co-ordinating its implementation; providing capital funding for fire appliances, emergency equipment and the construction and upgrading of fire stations; centralised training programmes and co-ordination of the development of guidance on operational and other fire service related matters.
I understand that all calls for fire service assistance are initially answered by the 999/112 Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS). The ECAS service asks the caller which of the emergency services they wish to be connected to. Calls for the fire service are then transferred to one of the three RCCs. The operators in the RCC take relevant information from the caller. A Computer-Aided Mobilising System holds data on the Pre-Determined Attendances (PDAs) for each category of incident and every address in the country.
Once alerted by the RCC, the appropriate response is then decided by the Chief Fire Officer of each fire service, having regard to national policy, including the PDAs. Where appropriate, the nearest available fire brigade resources and appliances will attend. PDAs are reviewed periodically, but there has been no recent policy change in relation to the mobilisation of fire services to road traffic accidents (RTA).
Fire service mobilisation can also occur on foot of requests from the other emergency services attending an incident. In this regard, I understand that it would not be routine for the Ambulance Service or Gardaí to mobilise Fire Services to a road traffic accident (RTA) unless extrication of casualties from a vehicle wreckage was required or there was a significant oil spill on the road. It is estimated that fire services attendance is requested at approximately 10% of RTAs.