Data analysis helps Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service identify most vulnerable

Ground-breaking data analysis is enabling Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to pinpoint precisely which residents are most at risk of fire and falls and in need of intervention.

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Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Ground-breaking data analysis is enabling Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to pinpoint precisely which residents are most at risk of fire and falls and in need of intervention.

The visits by firefighters go well beyond the traditional home safety assessment model and are making a vast difference to the quality of life of many elderly residents.

Under the Springboard initiative – a partnership with local authorities, health services and Age UK – as well as giving potentially life-saving advice, fire service staff are also able to refer households to other agencies and arrange vital support.

In one moving comment, a resident said the visit and subsequent support “made me feel I wasn’t worthless any longer”.

In previous years, a broad brush approach was taken by the fire service to home visits. It looked at the number of fires over a five year period, divided it by the number of dwellings in each ward and then put those wards into a high, medium or low risk group. The data would be given to crews who would decide where they went. As a result, certain groups had higher levels of uptake and some leafy suburbs, that were actually low risk, had high completion rates.

Philip Usher, the CFRS Business Intelligence Manager, explains: “We were taking a very geographical approach to risk. But actually risk is not like that. There may be fewer fires in the low risk wards but that doesn’t mean that high risk people did not live there and vice versa. We did not want the more vulnerable to fall though the net.”

Thanks to a data sharing agreement with the NHS, the service now has access to GP registration Exeter data, giving the gender, age and address of some 211,000 residents aged 65 or over. This is overlaid with information about whether someone lives alone, mortality rates, geo-demographic risk factors – such as whether they live in social housing – and fire service response times.

It means the most at risk can be targeted very precisely. For instance, the Tattenhall area of the county – a generally low risk area and some distance from a fire station – was less likely to have been visited under the old system. When the new methodology was applied, pockets of high risk emerged. Out of the 400 over 65s, there were five males in their 90s, who lived alone in high risk demographic groups, in an area of high response times – which put them in the top one per cent in terms of risk.

Under the Springboard initiative, during home visits firefighters assess the needs of elderly people and are able to refer the more vulnerable on to health, social services and other support teams.

The fire service is on track to carry out 25,000 Safe and Well visits this year and 40,000 next year. Half of the referrals to the Supporting You service in Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire East Council now come from CFRS.

After consultations with colleagues in health, from May the visits will also focus on smoking cessation and alcohol reduction, reducing hypertension and blood pressure and informing residents about bowel cancer screening. The fire service aims to make 40,000 visits in the coming year.

CFRS’s pioneering approach has now been extended across the country. Since October, Exeter data has been shared with every fire and rescue service in England, allowing each to take its own approach to targeting.

Councillor John Joyce, Chair of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said; “This work highlights Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s commitment to making people safer through the use of innovative data sharing and risk analysis. “We want to keep updating and improving our approach and this year we will be extending our services to promote safety and wellbeing among those we visit, which includes related risks, such as slips, trips and falls and bowel screening.”