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New study reveals the cost of fire in England surpasses £12 billion

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The Home Office report breaks down the true cost of fire

A new comprehensive report published by the Home Office, detailing the economic and social cost of fire in England, estimates a staggering annual figure of £12 billion for the year ending March 2020.

This figure includes anticipation costs, consequences and responses to fire incidents. The study is an important update to government estimates that were last published over a decade ago, with fire and rescue policy having moved to the Home Office in 2016.

The detailed report is a vital resource for fire and rescue services, fire industry professionals, and other stakeholders.

The study is meant to aid better evidence-based decisions, and the authors hope it will be widely used and its findings are viewed as a significant contribution to the fire economics evidence base.

Key Findings on the cost of fire

Simon Palmer, Chief Analyst and HOAI director, stated: “This report is the culmination of that work and represents a substantial addition to the fire economics evidence base.”

Palmer further expressed his hopes for the Home Office to take a leading role in developing the fire evidence base, which will “continue to grow and be vital in informing policy and operation decisions that help improve public safety, save lives, and protect against the damage that is caused by fires.”

The report was compiled by senior responsible analyst Jack Pickering, along with Will Beall and Will Phillips, who received support from Alice Plumridge, Pippa Cousins and Phoebe Maguire Hamlett.

The authors extended their gratitude to all who participated in the internal working group and external advisory group, including members from fire and rescue services, the National Fire Chiefs Council, other government organisations, and industry experts.

The full report provides an up-to-date robust and reliable estimate, crucial for understanding the impact of fires in England.

It is designed to be a resource for policy development and operational decision-making, serving as a point of reference for those working within fire and rescue services (FRSs).

Breakdown of the cost of fire in England

Out of the estimated £12.0 billion total annual cost, £3.2 billion is attributed to the marginal cost, which is the cost incurred after a fire, directly impacted by the change in the number of fires.

The largest costs of fire are in anticipation, amounting to approximately £8.8 billion.

This includes measures to prevent fires from occurring or to mitigate damage and impact of fires.

Approximately £4.6 billion comes from defensive expenditure in buildings, £2.0 billion from defensive expenditure in consumer goods, and £1.4 billion from fire and rescue service expenditure in anticipation and preparation for fires.

The study also highlights significant costs as consequences of fires.

About £2.0 billion comes from property damage, £0.4 billion from physical and emotional harm, and £0.3 billion from road vehicle fire damage.

A deeper look at the data

The unit costs are calculated as the average cost per fire attended by FRSs.

The report provides a transparent and detailed breakdown of calculations behind the total costs and attempts to monetise as many impacts of fire as possible using economic theory and appraisal techniques.

Some uncertainties still exist, especially in anticipation and property damage figures, and assumptions had to be made. These areas could be improved with further specific work and are referenced throughout the report.

The authors assert that this report is the most robust and accurate estimate possible to date.

About the Home Office

The Home Office is a ministerial department of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for immigration, security, and law and order. The Home Office plays a fundamental role in the security and economic prosperity of the United Kingdom.

IFSJ Comment

This report is a significant contribution to understanding the real cost of fires in England.

It not only provides a monetary figure but also points towards the enormous human and social impact fires can have.

It should serve as a wake-up call for policy makers, businesses, and individuals alike to invest in fire prevention and safety measures.

Sources can be found here.

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