Fire department slowest in northern provinces

Translated from original.

In the northern provinces Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen the fire department needs the most time to arrive at emergencies.

In Drenthe, the fire department needs 10,5 minutes at average*. In Zuid-Holland they take the shortest time, namely 7 minutes. The national average is 7 minutes and 53 seconds.

According to figures that has requested at the 25 safety regions. These are the so-called response times for emergencies. This is the time that elapses between the emergency call and the time that the fire brigade is on site. received the data from January 2010 to December 2012 in 22 regions. The Groningen region is, however, in the middle of a reorganization and has provided data to mid-2011. North and East Gelderland and IJsselland have provided reports from the end of September 2010.

Fire stations
A spokesman for the safety region Drenthe blames the high response times to the small number of stations in the region. “Drenthe is a vast province with many small villages. You can place extra fire stations, but you’ll never find enough volunteers to man those stations.” In addition, the fire stations in small villages only get ten turnouts per year.

A spokesman from safety region Groningen describes the same. “You can’t get much off the response times. That’s why we take measures to get the emergency call earlier or to prevent it, such as installing smoke detectors of awareness.

The corps east of Arnhem have the highest response times. In Duiven, the firemen need more than 16 minutes to arrive at their destination. In second place is the fire department of Zevenaar with 14 minutes and 21 seconds response time.

In Rijswijk, the fire department is the fastest. On average, firemen need 5 minutes and 14 seconds to arrive at an emergency. Helmond (5 minutes 40 seconds) and Enschede (5 minutes 45 seconds) have the fastest corps behind that.

Incident reporting system
The response time it the sum of three times: the reporting time, turnout time and driving time. The last two times are entered manually by firemen, whereby in the heat of the battle can result in wrong or no times recorded.

This is also evident from the data received from the regions. More than 22 percent of the reports contain incomplete or obviously wrong informatie. In some safety regions, the percentage of incomplete records was almost 60 percent.

A spokesman of Brandweer Nederland acknowledges those problems. “We are working on an new national incident reporting system, which will provide for incident data to be improved and clearly saved for all safety regions.

Also recording the response times will be improved, according to coverage plan specialist Arthur Haasbroek of region Hollands Midden. Haasbroek is involved in the national dialogue to improve response times.

“It’s actually peculiar that firefighters, who are busy with fierce situations, are asked to do administrative work.” According to Haasbroek this can be solved by equipping fire trucks with GPS and measuring systems.

Currently, a number of test vehicles are driving in the region Haaglanden where response times are recorded automatically. The reliability of these registrations are evaluated to see if this can be extended to other regions.

Safety Regions Act
The performance of the fire service is settled with the Safety Regions Act since 2010. Minister Ivo Opstelten of Security and Justice and the corps are in conversation for a while about on which the response times should be the only legal measure. The committee Hoekstra is currently considering a review of the law.

Following a review in 2012, Opstelten sent a letter to underperforming regions. The correspondence (PDF) between the minister and the safety region Groningen is in the hands of

In that letter, minister Opstelten writes on september 5th to the safety region Groningen: “Because your safety region is one of the regions that in less than 50 percent of the cases reach the norm, I urge you to improve response times and take the necessary steps in your area.”

‘Disproportionate investment’
Peter Rehwinkel, president of the safety region and mayor of Groningen, ‘regrets the tone’ of the letter. He argues that the importance of response times is overrated. “A situation in which a fire can develop for tens of minutes before it is reported, can’t be compensated with tight response times.”

“In our view, it’s not about political accountability on the basis of laws and regulations, but to ensure the safety of our citizens and in that context we take our responsibility.” The minister still stands firm to get the response times down.

Renewed law
Fire chief Elie van Strien finds it ‘ridiculous’ that shortening the response times are seen as the only way to improve fire safety.

“When citizens dial 112, something is definitely wrong. Make no mistake about this: It is the duty of the fire department to be on site as soon as possible. But discovering and reporting a fire is also important.”, says Van Strien.

“I really do not know what advice the committee will formulate. I hope they will make room for fire prevention in a renewed law.”

The committee Hoekstra would bring out an advice on renewed law before juli 1st, but has been postponed to the third quarter of 2013

*In this article, the median is used where it is mentioned as the average. The median is the middle number when all numbers are placed in order and is used to eliminate noise in the data.

Look at the data per municipality, province and safety region on NUdatablog.