It was not possible to achieve joint EU fire statistics under the EU Fire Stat project in which DBI participated. But the project has proposed a new methodology that can be used across the EU, and can perhaps make joint statistics a reality in the future.
It’s hard to improve something if you don't know what the problem is. This also applies to fire safety. In collaboration with eight other fire institutes and institutions, DBI has therefore investigated the European countries' fire statistics under the EU-funded EU FireStat project. The purpose was to create an overview of how the different countries collect data and in what quality. This would be the first step in developing joint European fire statistics that can provide the necessary overview to create effective regulatory and statutory provisions to improve fire safety.
"Everyone knows that there are no proper statistics in this area. Different countries compile statistics in different ways and there are big differences. Building types are assessed differently, and even fatalities are assessed differently – in some countries, they are registered at the scene of a fire, while in other countries they are first registered at the hospital. There are no common definitions or collection methods," says Ana Sauca, Scientific Researcher at DBI and a participant in the project.
Creating an overview of the fire statistics of 27 different countries was a challenge in itself. Unlike in Denmark, fire statistics in many countries are not publicly available.
“It turned out to be difficult to get through to the right institutions in many countries, and we often had to go through their embassies here in Denmark to reach out to them,” says Ana Sauca.
As expected, the statistics varied considerably between the countries – from thorough and complete to almost random. It was therefore not possible to correlate data into combined statistics, and instead the project began to develop a proposal for a common statistical methodology.
"The next step was to find out what could be relevant to collect in general. We surveyed European stakeholders in the area, such as fire services and universities, and based on their responses we've identified the key parameters. We've specified definitions of and a methodology for the parameters in a proposal for how to collect data and create common statistics in the future," says Ana Sauca.
The proposal also takes account of the reason for the fluctuating quality in some countries. This is probably due to the fact that many firefighters are unpaid volunteers and that there is no training, interest or resources for collecting data. Therefore, the proposal is designed to make data collection as simple as possible.
In connection with the project's completion, the proposal was presented to representatives of the European Commission and stakeholders from the various member states, and the response was positive.
"Each country has its own methods and procedures that they will potentially have to change if the area is harmonised, so we actually expected that our proposal for a common methodology would encounter opposition from the countries. But we've received positive feedback," says Ana Sauca.
The good reception has paved the way for the second phase of the project.
"The first phase was about what we need to collect and how. The second phase is about implementing this out in the member states. This will include a plan for roll-out, training of those responsible and perhaps the preparation of an IT solution. It’s potentially a huge job," says Ana Sauca.
Whether the next phase will take place, and when and who will contribute to it, is not yet known.
“But we expect DBI to be asked whether we want to participate, as we've received positive feedback on our work from the EU and from the other partners in the project,” says Ana Sauca.
The purpose of the EU FireStat project was to examine the fire statistics of the various EU member states with a view to creating common European statistics or a methodology for such statistics in the future. Besides DBI, leading institutes and universities from Germany, France, Sweden, the USA and Scotland, as well as international fire safety organisations, participated in the project. EU Fire Stat started at the end of 2020 and was completed in 2022. This led to a proposed methodology in this area, which has been presented to the European Commission. A potential second phase of the project, to roll out and implement the methodology, is in the pipeline. Read more on the EU website: op.europa.eu