For any industry, data and how we harness, process and share it is key to developing procedures that can help to prevent the loss of lessons learnt. FireTreks aims to support the IFE in their mission to gather and share fire-incident data globally via an open-source online database.
FireTreks is a new concept, created to showcase all things fire in regions around the world. Travelling through South America and beyond, its aim is to discover individuals, historical events, new technologies, scientific analysis, social, economic and environmental factors that affect how the issue of fire safety is tackled in various environments.
It also aims to promote knowledge sharing, raise awareness and open dialogue in the hope of preserving lessons learnt throughout the world.
During my research for FireTreks, I have come across Adam Course who is a Crew Manager with Avon Fire and Rescue Service and currently seconded to the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) Firefighter Safety Database (FFSDB) Project. Adam realised that mass data could and should be represented in a clear and concise way via an online database to share and learn from a global pool of knowledge and experience.
He tells me that the website is designed to be a one-stop shop for easily accessible information with the aim of assisting learning, development, understanding and helping to improve decision making, both during and in the lead-up to potential incidents. This isn’t just for firefighters and incident commanders but is also designed to be used by other fire-service decision makers. In addition, it is intended that the information will also assist decision-making in other professional fire sectors such as fire engineering; regulatory, guidance and standards; emergency management and planning; built environment planning; building designers and architects; environmental management; the construction industry; transport and other sectors.
Adam decided to create the online database because he couldn’t find UK firefighter safety-related incident data in one place earlier in his career. When he was at training school in 2006 he was only ever taught about one firefighter fatality – Blaina, South Wales, which occurred in 1996. He was struck by the power of the presentation and at the time didn’t know it was helping him improve what he later understood to be decision making ‘by example’, raising his awareness about a number of causational factors related to the incident. He understood these types of incidents could easily and directly affect him and his colleagues, and he related to this. He states: ‘Understanding incidents that can directly affect us as firefighters made this information interesting and highly relevant to the chosen profession or job. I knew about other firefighter fatality incidents but could not find any information about them.’ Adam also began to realise that the many failings at incidents, typically where members of the public were dying and being injured, were a significant and common problem at just about every fire incident historically. These failings covered technical, regulatory, fire engineering and fire-safety awareness issues. Unfortunately, recent events continue to demonstrate how poorly we collectively learn on a global scale often until many people die.
On leaving training school he arrived at a station that had a fairly high percentage of working jobs including numerous fires and highway-related incidents. He had within a short space of time several incidents that left him wondering what he had not been taught rather than what he had been taught. Although his trainers were good he didn’t feel the training was long enough or covered enough incidents and case studies and found it difficult to access such information which he knew was beneficial. Adam added: ‘I felt I left with many more questions than answers. How could the trainers plan this input into their training packages and sessions if they themselves were only aware of a small number of firefighter safety-related incidents. Where were they going to get the information from?’
He began researching firefighter safety related reports and information and as the collection got bigger he realised the data needed to be stored, processed and utilised more efficiently so that it could be accessible to all.
The FFSDB was planned in three phases:
- Phase 1: UK firefighter safety related incidents including fatalities, serious accidents and near misses,
- Phase 2: International firefighter safety related incidents of the same nature, and
- Phase 3: Incidents of interest where significant number of members of the public have been killed and/or nearly killed.
Adam highlighted that Phase 3 is potentially a very large section of the database. ‘How can it be that we keep seeing repetitive common causational factors and failings at incidents and these same lessons do not appear to be learned from time and time again?’ said Adam.
With the FFSDB’s home within the IFE, with its 100-year pedigree, its independence and widespread international element, there is a really great opportunity to create a ‘beneficial to all’ incident database and learning tool with support of other organisations.
The main site can be accessed at www.ife.org.uk/Firefighter-Safety with the main incident page accessed at www.ife.org.uk/Firefighter-Safety-Incidents which includes Phase 1 (UK Firefighter Safety related incidents) and some Phase 2 incidents (international firefighter safety incidents).
The Phase 3 incidents of interest page is at www.ife.org.uk/Incidents-of-Interest-1 with incidents where a significant number of members of the public have been killed and/or nearly killed.
Adam‘s vision in time is that ‘we’ can look at and learn from historic and recent emergency incidents in a holistic way, enabling firm preventative measures being put in place for the near future and future generations by creating a lasting legacy database of incident and learning information.
It is hoped that all countries will be able to benefit from the database, not just the countries that have well-funded and established reporting, sharing and learning protocols in place, but those that suffer from these types of fire and emergency incidents the most. Adam adds: ‘So many of the most vulnerable countries and people, including firefighters, seem to have to learn the hardest lessons that have been learnt elsewhere in the world.’
Initially I approached Adam to discuss contacts in South America, but since this is a region that the incident database has not reached yet, FireTreks aims to collaborate with him and the IFE to gather data/contacts for Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the database to help widen the reach of this great project and promote international knowledge sharing.
For more information, go to www.firetreks.com