Today’s fire statistics are problematic and we all know it!
When fires statistics are available they can give us general trends and indications, however the direct comparison between counties is yet not possible. This is mostly due to different terminologies, undefined data, mixed fields (structure fires, vehicle fires, wildfires etc.), lack of common methodologies, non-existent uncertainties, etc.
For example, Canada counts a fire fatality as a result of injuries leading to death within one year and one day after the fire incident. While, the UK and the USA, do not fix any time limit for recording a fire death. In other countries, “death within 48 hours after fire” is regarded as a fire death. Then there are countries that do not include fire deaths resulting from arson and other countries like in France that only report fire fatalities at the location of the fire – either those discovered by rescuers, or those declared dead after unsuccessful resuscitation attempts, excluding fire fatalities that occurred at the hospital or during transport of casualties to the hospital.
Another example is when comparing France and Italy, we find that for a relatively similar population and fire fatality per 100.000 inh., the number of injuries are completely different, leading to a questionable difference in either definitions or data reported or both.
One would then ask, how can we properly use their outcome for decision making? Well, we can’t…
To provide relevant information regarding the national fire safety situation – at least for number of fires, fire fatalities and fire injuries – fire statistics will have to be internationally improved through common terminology, common methodology, and common training and qualification of the persons reporting data from fire scenes.
This is where our project plays an important role:
EUFireStat is a 17-month project financed by the European Parliament and commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW). This project is carried out by a consortium composed of nine international fire safety institutions:
- Efectis – Consortium leader in the project
- Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und –prüfung (BAM)
- Centre for Fire Statistics of CTIF (CFS-CTIF)
- Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology (DBI)
- Lund University
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- School of Engineering, The University of Edinburgh
- The European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA)
- Vereinigung zur Förderung des Deutschen Brandschutzes (VFDB)
Closing data gaps
The aim of this project is to collect and analyse existing fire data in buildings from the 27 EU countries and some international countries of interest (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Russia, the USA and The UK) then to propose common definition and methodology to the European Commission.
The project started in August 2020 and since then we have been gathering information from countries of interest and in particular on fields collected, how they are defined and how they are used. We reached out to different stakeholders (authorities, fire services, statistic institutes, insurance, and academics). We also sent out a survey to the authorities on what type of data they believe would be helpful for decision making, for improving regulations and prevention campaigns.
Paving the way for pan-european fire safety efforts
As it was expected, the main challenges encountered at the beginning of the project was to find the appropriate persons of contact, but we were positively surprised by how well the different persons we contacted were helpful and eager to help us gather data from their country! Unfortunately, there were some countries where it was difficult to find data, such as Portugal, where most data seems to be focused on forest fires, which is outside the scope of the project. While other countries simply do not have definitions like in France. In other cases, it was difficult to find interlocutors, like in Spain.
While there are many challenges we need to face in this project, we believe that the ongoing work that we will help the fire safety community ask the right questions and hopefully to overcome some of its difficulties for the future.
Finally, on behalf of the consortium, I would like to thank all the interviewed persons and the stakeholders for their valuable input, support and commitment to the project.
You can read more about the project and download the latest reports on our website: https://eufirestat-efectis.com/
If you are interested in learning more and contributing to the project, please reach us at: EU.FireStat@efectis.com
Written by Mohamad El Houssami, PhD – Fire safety engineer at Efectis France and member of the EUFireStat consortium