Fire brigade missing response time target in 11 boroughs

© Michael Spring |

Photo: Michael Spring |

The average response time for the fire service in 11 boroughs is longer than the 6-minute target set by the London Fire Brigade.

The latest data shows that the average response time for the capital as a whole is well within the target.  In 2015 the average time it took from the fire brigade being alerted by a 999 operator to the first engine arriving at the scene was 5 minutes and 38 seconds.

The average is even faster in the City of London and the 13 boroughs that constitute inner London.  But only 8 of the 19 outer London boroughs met the target in 2015. In 2014 it was 15.  While the target is set for London as a whole the fire brigade says it aims to achieve this at borough level.

The slowest average response time is recorded in Hillingdon at 6 minutes and 45 seconds. The fastest is in Kensington and Chelsea, a full 2 minutes quicker at 4 minutes and 44 seconds.  The response time in Lambeth is also under 5 minutes.

fire service response

The response time is made up of two elements – the crew turn out time – how long it takes them to leave the fire station once alerted – and the travel time to the fire. The average turn out time for crews across London is 1 minute and 19 seconds, although crews in Newham have got the average down to 1 minute and 3 seconds.  The London Fire Brigade say that variation in turn out times is due to the layout of stations with times a little longer in older stations.

Travel times vary according to time of day and traffic conditions but also according to the location of fire stations.  The LFB says that the clustering of resources in inner London mean faster response times than in the outer areas of the city.

The London Fire Brigade deals with around 100,000 incidents per year.  The data shows that the attendance time of the first appliance was 6 minutes or under in 65% of calls.

The Brigade has 155 fire engines at 102 fire stations across London.  10 stations were controversially closed due to budget cuts in 2014 and a study by statistician Dr Benjamin Taylor at Lancaster University found that fewer than 50% of calls now met the 6 minute target in the areas around the closed station.

The London Fire Brigade says that it is committed to a principle that “Londoners should have equal entitlement to the fastest possible attendance times.”

Source data

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Half of fire brigade call outs are false alarms and hospitals are repeated culprits

© Michaelpuche | - Fire Service. Photo-2Some of London’s leading hospitals are calling out the fire brigade the equivalent of 3 times a week with false alarms.

Fire Officers arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead 120 times last year only to find out it was a false alarm, according to data from the London Fire Brigade.  St George’s University Hospital in Tooting recorded 111 false alarm incidents.

This has been a consistent problem for a number of years.  The data shows that in 2013 St George’s had 138 false alarms, rising to 165 in 2014. The Royal Free recorded 137 in 2014 and 141 in 2013.  Each time at least 2 fire engines were sent to the hospital.

While these 2 hospitals have the poorest record for bogus alerts others also seem to have a problem. The figures for last year show 63 incidents at the Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, 57 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, 48 at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield and 46 at University College Hospital on the Euston Road.

London hospitals were responsible for 1,181 false alarms in 2015, and this has been an improvement.  In 2014 it was 1,718 incidents and in 2013, 2,407.

The London Fire Brigade charges £295 for each false alarm if there are more than 10 incidents in a year, so hard-pressed hospitals are paying tens of thousands of pounds each year.

False alarms have a huge impact on the costs and resources of the London Fire Brigade. Last year it dealt with 95,540 incidents and nearly half of them were false alarms.

Most are incidents at family homes, followed by sheltered housing and blocks of flats.  Offices accounted for 3,428 incidents, or 7%, and shops were to blame for nearly 4%. While hospitals make up just 2.5% of the total number last year it is the repeated call outs that are striking.

The vast majority are triggered by alarm systems and recorded by the London Fire Brigade as AFAs (automated false alarms).  Many alarm systems are monitored by the manufacturer or service provider who alert the fire brigade when one goes off.  This is often caused by a malfunction.

The London Fire Brigade says that dealing with AFAs reduces its capacity to deal with real emergencies and can interrupt training or community safety work.

Source data

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A fifth of the blazes tackled by fire fighters are started on purpose

© Michael Spring |

Photo: © Michael Spring |

21% of the fires attended by the London Fire Brigade in the past year were started deliberately. The fire and rescue service tackled 19,554 fires in the 12 months to April and 4,122 are judged to have been started on purpose.

Borough level data from the London Fire Brigade shows that in Tower Hamlets deliberate fires make up a third of the 1,023 fires. There were 329 incidents, that’s more than the total of neighbouring Lewisham and Hackney combined.

fires deliberate

Tower Hamlets has the second highest number of fires per 1000 head of population.   The central London borough of Westminster has the highest level. Levels are lower in outer boroughs.

Fires all

Overall the number of fires in the capital in the year to April was down by 5% though there has been a slight upturn in April with the number of fires in the month exceeding 2000 for the first time since April 2011.

Fires peak over the summer months each year with July 2010 the worse month in the period reported with 4,728 fires.

fires annual

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