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Chemical Fires

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many chemical fires there were in 1978 and 1979; what contribution the Hazfile computer system made towards dealing with them; why he has decided not to continue funding the Hazfile computer system; what representations he has had against his Department stopping such funding, and from whom; and whether he will reconsider this decision.

I regret that figures for the number of chemical fires in 1978 and 1979 are not available.As part of a wider research exercise on the provision of information to firemen attending incidents, the Home Office has funded a research project known as the Hazfile scheme. Its objectives are to establish the features required of a hazardous substances databank specifically for fire brigades' use and to test the practicability of brigades making direct contact, through their own terminals, with the computer in which the information is stored. The trial began on 1 March 1979 with 15 brigades taking part and will end on 29 February 1980. An extension of the trial cannot be justified for research purposes.The Association of County Councils, one fire authority and one fire brigade who have made representations have been told that the research project cannot be continued, financed by the Home Office, after the defined purpose of the research has been met, to meet the operational needs of brigades which is a matter for individual fire authorities; but that it is open to fire authorities, if they wish, to arrange for the continued use of the Hazfile databank for these purposes.The trial has not yet been completed and the results to date are still being studied. I understand from the latest information available that from 1 June to 31 December 1979 there were some 447 reported chemical incidents of all types in the 15 brigades which are participating. Hazfile was used for 139 of those which occurred between 1 June and 31 December.