New research by University of Warwick Professor of Politics Wyn Grant shows that present day fire service priorities are still being based on a sixty-five year old calculation that valued city centres over the lives of people in the suburbs and the countryside. He argues that the significant population shifts from city centres to the suburbs since 1938 make reform of these priorities long overdue and he says the opportunity presented by the current fire service modernisation debate and the Bain review should be used to rectify this problem.
Saving lives is what the general public understands the service's main duty to be. Yet enshrined in statute, the Fire Service's prime duty is simply to put out fires. The question of where first to put out those fires depends on values prioritised by each governing authority but Professor Grant's research on how those decisions have been made over the last few decades shows that amazingly they were still clearly based on 1938 The Fire Brigades Act.
Professor Grant notes that in the seven decades since that Act city centres have changed from a mix of residential and commercial property to being mostly business-owned property increasingly protected by high tech fire detection and suppression systems such as sprinklers. He also notes that over the last 65 years population has flowed from fire technology protected city centres to the suburbs and more deaths now occur in the suburban areas.
Both Professor Grant and Bain agree that the Fire Brigades have to react according to real risk, not to geographically pre-determined areas of high value but low-risk buildings, and focus on greater prevention of fires. Professor Grant agrees with Bain that further flexibility is required from British Fire Brigades on this particular issue. The Bain review states: "The current approach is inflexible, based upon property rather than people, takes no account of whether a building is occupied, cannot plan for greater cover in areas of social deprivation (where risk is higher) - Risks move with people...."
Further information please contact:
Professor Wyn Grant, University of Warwick
Office: 01926 429 353
Or Gemma Richards 02476 528464