This privacy notice is designed to help you understand how and why your information is processed during a fire investigation.
The categories of the information that we collect, process, hold and share include:
- Occupier name(s), address, contact details and statement to confirm the facts of the case. They are relevant to your knowledge and understanding of: events surrounding ownership of the premises; occupancy of the premises, and; circumstances of the fire, as far as they are known to you.
- Witness name(s), address, contact details and your statement of witness evidence, in relation to: the origin of the fire (where it started); the cause of the fire, and; why the fire spread, as it did.
In some circumstances we may need to collect and use sensitive/special category information, such as health details and victim injury information that is necessary to meet our obligations.
Photographs of the incident may be taken to provide evidence for the investigation. Copies of photographs are only available to persons with a legitimate right of access, such as: owner; occupier, appointed insurance investigator, and; other agencies using their own legal powers, such as the Police. Photographs may be used to assist with training and supporting community safety programmes. Any published photographs will be anonymised so that an individual or private residence cannot be identified unless we have your consent.
Failure to provide the information requested as part of the Fire Investigation process may mean you are in breach of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 (Part 6 Sections 45 – 48 Powers of Entry). To find out more about our fire investigation powers, please view the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/21/part/6
Why we collect and use this information
The information we collect is used to assist in determining the origin and most likely cause of fire. Your contact details are taken in case we need to get back in contact with you, and to document the source of the information provided as part of the investigation.
The most likely cause of the fire is entered into the Incident Recording System (IRS) against the incident details. Anonymised statistics about the causes of fires are produced to inform our Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) which is a requirement of the National Firefighter Framework and to report to Government and auditors.
In circumstances where the cause of a fire is thought to be suspicious or deliberate, we have a responsibility to seek the involvement of the Police at the earliest practicable stage. The Fire Investigation Officer examines and records evidence from the scene, this may include the collecting of samples of materials which may have been used to start or accelerate the fire. They work with the Police and other partners to help identify and convict those responsible for starting or assisting with the development of the fire. Where appropriate, information gained or received by us in relation to a fire related crime or fatality will be passed onto the Police and any information the Police obtain that assists determining the cause of the fire will be passed to us, unless this prejudices their investigation.
Members of the Fire Investigation Team are often called upon to provide evidence as an ‘expert witness’ regarding the origin and cause of a fire to the Coroner and criminal or civil courts.
The general findings from investigations, not including your personal information, are used to inform and develop safety strategies, targeting those identified as the most vulnerable groups in our community. Lessons learned from investigations of fires, and in particular those with accidental causes, are passed on to other agencies including the Local Authority, Trading Standards, Health and Safety Executive and Her Majesty's Coroners.
The lawful basis on which we use this information
The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, places a duty on Fire and Rescue Services to protect life and property from fire. Part 6, Sections 45 to 48 of the Act empowers a Fire and Rescue Service to obtain information and investigate fires and provides powers to investigate what caused a fire or why it progressed as it did. The processing of personal information is therefore necessary to meet our obligations under the Fire Services Act, which means that our lawful processing condition under that of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is Article 6(1) (e) because processing is necessary for the performance of a public task or exercising official authority vested in us as a Data Controller.
In the event that we are required to process special categories of personal data (sensitive personal data), such as health data or victim injury data that may have had an impact on the fire, this is collected and used for the substantial public interest as long as it is proportionate to the aim pursued and we apply suitable measures to safeguard the rights and interests of the data subject (Article 9, 2 (g) of the GDPR). In addition, the Data Protection Act 2018 Schedule 1, Part 2: Substantial Public Interest Conditions, enables us to process this data when processing is necessary for Statutory and Government purposes, so that we can exercise our function as a Fire & Rescue Service.
Collecting this information
Any personal information obtained for this process will be either provided by the individual themselves, witnesses, information recorded by our Control room, the crew in attendance, the police or other agencies that are involved in the Fire Investigation or from other legitimate sources. Information may be collected in a variety of formats such as written correspondence, AF&RS forms (including electronic), images/photographs, footage recorded by our appliance mounted cameras or body worn visual cameras worn by officers, post incident interviews, information passed on by other agencies and third parties, and the FI Officer may use a Dictaphone to record information at the scene.
Storing this information
We review Fire Investigation Reports every 5 years to decide whether they should be further archived, these are reviewed on a case by case basis. Storage of these documents is within our premises and on our own IT system, which is subject to existing information security controls.
Who we share this information with and why
Information entered into the Incident Recording System (IRS) (including the most likely cause of a fire) is accessed by the Home Office and Service personnel whose role requires them to have access. For more about the Home Office use of IRS please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/data-protection-and-privacy-notices/fire-and-rescue-service-incident-recording-system-privacy-information-notice.
As stated above, information will be shared to other statutory bodies for the purpose of prevention and detection of crime. In these circumstances, we will disclose information which is necessary for this purpose.
In accordance with The Coroners and Justice Act 2009, there are occasions where we are requested to provide evidence at Coroner’s inquests, including disclosure of the fire investigation report. The Coroner must normally disclose copies of relevant documents to interested persons (such as the family), on request at any stage of the investigation process as soon as is practically possible.
Where a concern is identified by the Coroner, which could have been identified as a result of an issue raised or recommendation made, within a fire investigation report, the Coroner is under a duty to undertake a Report to Prevent Future Fire Deaths. For more information on this process, please view The Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1629/contents/made.
Requests for copies of fire investigation reports are disclosed to members of the public who can provide evidence of residence or ownership of a property or vehicle or the solicitors, insurance companies and loss adjusters who are acting on behalf of the owner/occupier of an affected property or vehicle. Information can also be provided to someone acting on behalf of an individual who has been recorded on the incident record as being injured as a result of the incident. Necessary identification will be requested to ensure information is not disclosed inappropriately and where appropriate personal information will be redacted.