Climate Change: managing the operational impact on fires and other weather-related emergencies
Introduction and Background
1. The significant impacts of climate change and weather related incidents have been in the public eye for a number of years.
2. Prior to commencing this inspection in early 2022, Scotland had endured a number of back-to-back weather storms (including storms Arwen, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin) which resulted in damage and disruption to communities, and affected transportation and energy supplies across the country.
3. Compared to 30 years ago, the average temperature in Scotland has risen by 0.5o C, winters have become wetter (by around 5%, with considerable year-to-year variability) and the sea level around the coast has been rising by 10–30 mm per decade1. Speculatively, summers will likely become drier on average whilst winters become wetter and sea levels continue to rise.
4. The SFRS’s emergency response to climate change has been assessed by the Climate Change Committee2:
“There has been good progress on considering adaptation within emergency planning and response. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service now recognises the increasing risks of flooding and wildfires in Scotland and is working to assess community risks, address data gaps and improve performance monitoring for these types of events.”
5. While the activity and response availability of the SFRS may be impacted by all types of weather-related incidents, our inspection report focus is on wildfire and flooding. This aligns with the Fire Framework for Scotland 20223, which contains a strategic priority for the SFRS relevant to weather-related incidents, specifically for wildfire4 and flooding incidents.5
6. In 2015, we reported on a previous inspection that we carried out on the ‘Preparedness of the SFRS for a serious flooding event’.
7. This report focuses on operational activity due to climate change. Whilst the SFRS has committed to decarbonisation measures as part of the Scottish Government’s long term aim of achieving net zero by 2045, this element of the SFRS’s activity is not within the scope of this inspection.
8. The report sets out the facts and presents the Chief Inspector’s independent view of the current arrangements. Where appropriate, we make recommendations and identify good practice.