MPs seek priority for fire safety

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PUBLICITY about fire prevention does not come high enough on the Government's list of priorities and more could be done to reduce the number of fires, which account for more than 700 deaths and 12,000 injuries a year, writes Chris Blackhurst.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday accused the Home Office of giving fire safety 'a public profile well below that of crime prevention'.

Fire prevention is supposed to reduce the number of fire deaths and injuries, yet over the past 30 years they have risen steeply. In 1960, there were 120,000 fires, causing 430 deaths and 3,100 injuries. In 1990, there were 401,000 fires, resulting in 740 deaths and 11,800 injuries. The UK death rate is higher than other developed countries and fire insurance claims total more than pounds 1bn a year.

The Home Office spent only pounds 2m on fire prevention publicity in 1992, compared with pounds 5.9m on crime. National Fire Safety Week in 1991 had a budget of pounds 55,000 as against pounds 4.5m for Crime Prevention Week.

MPs said many old people, and others in vulnerable groups, were still without smoke alarms. As a matter of urgency, the Home Office should begin developing and issuing educational material about fire safety to schools.