The final report of the EU FireStat project has been recently published. The pilot project was financed by the European Parliament and commissioned by DG GROW at the European Commission with the aim of ‘closing data gaps and paving the way for pan-European fire safety efforts’. The final report offers a roadmap to harmonise the methodology and data for fire events at the EU level.
Heterogeneity and shortfalls among EU Member States’ fire reporting schemes
The report highlights the significant shortfalls in the current national systems of fire data collection: insufficient information, the poor quality of data collection, unclear definitions, the lack of uncertainty estimates and the voluntary approach for data collection by census. Moreover, the current European fire statistics cannot be compared from one country to another (with a few exceptions) due to the lack of terminologies and precise collection methodologies.
Thus, the current status of fire statistics in the EU appears to be particularly problematic when considering that informed public decision-making should be based on reliable and comparable data reporting systems.
A common base to improve the data collection system
According to the report, fire statistics should be improved through harmonised terminology, methodology and trainings of the professionals in charge of filling in the fire reports. This would help in ensuring the consistency, reliability and comparability of data.
After a consultation with the national regulators and fire authorities, a proposal to collect 14 variables was made. Most of these variables tend to be already included in the records. Nevertheless, a clear terminology – with a definition and values for each variable – was proposed to reduce ambiguity, increase quality and foster compliance.
In particular, the authors identify five variables that should be collected as a first priority and implemented in next five years:
- number of fatalities;
- number of injuries;
- age of fatalities;
- primary causal factor;
- type of building.
The authors also recommend that the definitions and methodologies undergo a formal standardisation process by an official standardisation body (e.g. CEN, ISO) which would provide a recognised basis and facilitate theirdissemination to all EU Members States or even internationally.
Furthermore, a Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) system has been designed in order to help national authorities assess the value of several fire safety investments. Case studies were used to illustrate potential actions on implementing technical installations, improving materials/products, and launching prevention campaigns. Nevertheless, the authors noted that more input information, coming from sources other than fire statistics, will be needed to reduce the margin of error surrounding the CBA calculation.
Finally, the report advocates for the identification or creation of an EU structure that would collect national fire statistics on an annual basis.
A survey was sent to relevant stakeholders in all of the 27 EU Member States. The results showed that at least 19 countries were in favour of providing harmonised fire statistics for collection at the European level.
Given the support for this measure, the authors of the project proposed to test the implementation of the five priority variables included with a number of pilot Member States in the coming years, in order to test their effectiveness and share best practices.