Fire Station Closures

With the possibility of fire stations being closed, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the issues that may be of concern to residents of Tower Hamlets.

The data I’m using is the London Fire Brigade’s incident data for the period 2009-2012. For Tower Hamlets, this is just under 23,400 lines of data (one line per incident).

Average response times

The first question for me, is, how long does it take for an incident to be responded to? Across all of Tower Hamlets, the  average is 272 seconds, or, 4 1/2 minutes.

The London fire brigade divides Tower Hamlets into six areas, or ‘grounds’, one for each fire station. The diagram below shows that response times are broadly similar for incidents in each ‘ground’ (note that this includes where the first engine to arrive comes from another station).

 

However, where an incident is responded to by an appliance from the local station, the average response time drops to 257 seconds.

 

Where an appliance from the local station isn’t available, another station will need to send an engine but depending on the station sending the engine, the response time can vary. The diagram below shows this variability in service – the most extreme variation is when engines from Poplar (purple line) have had to respond to fires in the Whitechapel area, when the response time is 10 minutes, though this is skewed by a single response which took 20 minutes and there were 4 such instances (and the 20 minute response was not for a fire).

 

 

It should be emphasised that across Tower Hamlets, I calculate that 71% of incidents are responded to by the local station, and this increases to 77% for fires, suggesting that less pressing incidents are covered by other stations.

 

 

 

 

If we breakdown these response times into wards, we can see there is actually a greater degree of variability, which is shown in the table below, with response times varying between 4 and 4 minutes.

 

Seconds
(Minutes)
Bethnal Green North
                  264
                 4.24
Bethnal Green South
                  258
                 4.18
Blackwall and Cubitt Town
305
                 5.05
Bow East
                  237
                 3.57
Bow West
                  271
                 4.31
Bromley-by-Bow
                  325
                 5.25
East India and Lansbury
                  271
                 4.31
Limehouse
                  266
                 4.26
Mile End and Globe Town
                  267
                 4.27
Mile End East
                  307
                 5.07
Millwall
                  281
                 4.41
Shadwell
                  247
                 4.07
Spitalfields and Banglatown
                  250
                 4.10
St Dunstan’s and Stepney Green
                  312
                 5.12
St Katharine’s and Wapping
                  280
                 4.40
St. Dunstan’s and Stepney Green
                  354
                 5.54
Weavers
                  302
                 5.02
Whitechapel
                  238
                 3.58
Tower Hamlets
                  273
                 4.33

 

 

Types of incident

Looking at all types of incident responded to in Tower Hamlets, (regardless of which station responded), we find that only 23% of all call-outs relate to an actual fire. Automatic fire alarms (without fire) account for 30% of call-outs, 12% are false alarms (2 % being malicious) and 35% are ‘special service’ (lift rescues, floods etc).

 

 

We can see though that automatic fire alarms get the fastest response time of any incident, yet these are the incidents without fires! It seems logical that a lot of potential response capacity is lost because of poorly sited or calibrated smoke/heat detectors and if these could be remedied, response times to other incidents could be improved. This is an area that I will be devoting some time to further investigation.

Response
time
Number
%
AFA
253
6,945
30
False alarm – Good intent
280
2,294
10
False alarm – Malicious
294
471
2
Flood call attended – Batch mobilised
2
0
Late Call
284
8
0
Primary Fire
266
2,049
9
Secondary Fire
280
3,350
14
Special Service
290
8,279
35
Grand Total
273
23,398
100

 


Impact of closure

To try and understand the affect on coverage of the area of closing a station, I calculated the distances between each of the 23,000 incidents and each fire station and also the distrance between the stations in the borough.

 

When looking at the results I found it striking how close some of the stations are to each other, with no station more than 2km from another. Because of its location in the North East of the borough, for the other 5 stations, there is always another station closer than Bow, however, it does mean that the area around Bow would have less immediate cover, but bear in mind that it is located almost immediately next to the Olympic park and close to Victoria Park, meaning that whilst its location is seemingly strategic to the park, it is not surrounded by as many properties as other stations (and the park is surrounded by other stations).

Bethnal
Green
Bow
Millwall
Poplar
Shadwell
Whitechapel
Bethnal Green
0.0
2.0
3.6
3.3
1.9
1.8
 Bow
2.0
0.0
3.7
2.7
3.3
3.6
 Millwall
3.6
3.7
0.0
1.4
2.4
3.4
 Poplar
3.3
2.7
1.4
0.0
2.9
3.8
Shadwell
1.9
3.3
2.4
2.9
0.0
1.0
Whitechapel
1.8
3.6
3.4
3.8
1.0
0.0

 

I have modelled the impact on response times of closing Bow Fire Station, the results of which appear to be counter inuitive to the views expressed by some local media outlets and politicians, so I will recheck these results and post separately once I’ve double checked my calculations!

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