RISCAuthority fire and rescue service response times analysis

  • RISCAuthority logoMuch more precise analysis of fire and rescue response times
  • Interactive tool to display response times on a screen map
  • Provision to vary the time of day and day of week


RISCAuthority (Risk Insight, Strategy and Control Authority) advises the insurance industry on fire and security risk, working in conjunction with the Fire Protection Association (FPA). Its aims include providing accurate information to help the industry to analyse fire and rescue requirements and to plan resourcing.

The organisation was keen to find a way to analyse response times to specific locations more accurately. Although it was already possible to estimate the response capabilities of fire services on the basis of known variables (for instance, the number and location of fire stations, opening hours, available resources and similar information), the results were not very precise.

Dr Jim Glockling, the RISCAuthority chairman, explains: “In the past we were only able to use basic data such as crow-fly routes and approximate destinations. It was not possible to extend this knowledge to the level of realworld
response times to individual postcodes.” The problem, he says, is that there are more than 400 fire stations in the UK, and more than 1.7 million postcodes. “We realised that to model travel times from the nearest available
fire station to every postcode would involve hundreds of millions of calculations.”

“The key risk was that if these calculations were not conducted efficiently, the data would have expired before it was even produced.”

RISCAuthority therefore set out to develop a system that would allow response times to any postcode to be calculated and plotted on a map in real time.


The chosen solution is built round a package of products from Mapmechanics. They include Geoconcept, the powerful mapping and geographical information system; HERE Premium digital mapping for the UK; HERE Speed Limits Pro data; HERE Truck Restrictions data; and AMD Unit Postcode Points UK.

A key component is an extremely rapid yet accurate travel-time calculation system supplied by Mapmechanics. This is provided by Geoconcept, which has the ability to work out journey times between multiple sets of locations extremely quickly, using actual roads as the basis for its calculations.

Many factors are taken into account – for instance, whether the nearest fire station has all the required resources, or has sufficient staff to deal with the fire in question. Where necessary, the next nearest fire station is assumed instead.

In order to test out the system, RISCAuthority mounted a pilot study involving Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. The county has 30 fire stations, 13,500 postcodes and three different manning periods (weekdays,
Saturdays and Sundays). In this area alone, the number of routing calculations was more than 36 million.

RISCAuthority postulated a maximum travel time for fire appliances of 30 minutes, which is considered a reasonable time window in insurance terms. Use of HERE Truck Restrictions data ensured that it was possible to prevent the system from using routes that would be unsuitable for fire appliances.

Users can select a time band and immediately see which areas can be reached by a fire service within that time’

Dr Jim Glockling, RISCAuthority chairman


The pilot study was considered a success. By cross-referencing travel times with information on day of the week, available resources, scale of the fire outbreak and need for a high volume pumping appliance or other special equipment, it is possible to produce custom maps showing the integrated risk management plan (IRMP)
applied by the relevant authority for any postcode.

This capability has now been built into a calculation tool that includes an interactive map display. With this, users can select a time band and immediately see which areas can be reached by a fire service within that time.

The system interface has been made as accessible as possible. For instance, users are able to adjust the day of the week and time of day by means of simple on-screen “sliders”, which change the on-screen map display in real time. Differential shading indicates the areas containing postcodes within reach and out of reach of a fire station within any selected time band. Users can therefore fine-tune the result according to whatever scenario is under scrutiny.

The system has now been extended nationwide. In the future, it is hoped to take account of additional factors such as
congestion and traffic density. The mix of Geoconcept and map data has provision for this level of refinement.

It is possible to produce custom maps showing the integrated risk management plan (IRMP) applied by the relevant authority for any postcode’