Family Groups re-clustered - 2022

Purpose and context: (‘Why?’ and ‘So what?’)


The clustering of Fire and Rescue Services in England into what were termed ‘Family Groups’ exists in 2022 according to a grouping advised to the service in 2000, with no reference to underpinning facts on which the groupings were based. The problem that emerged with using these groupings is that due to the way in which they were introduced, it is hard to have confidence in some of the relationships the grouping was presumed to have.  In addition, even had these been based on clearly referenced and transparent data sources, the nature of the Fire and Rescue Service over the ensuing 22-year period changed markedly, with many Fire Service mergers and changes in governance structures. Finally, only the Welsh and English services were included, and the NFCC represents Fire and Rescue Services across the entire UK.

Having developed a robust data source to enable development of the UK FRS Economic and Social Value Methodology and Report, there was an opportunity to use that same data to redress the problems with the exiting, and now very outdated Family Groups.

The advising FRS team decided that, since the underpinning statistics of ESV reflect risk elements, the most useful approach to establishing ‘Family Groups’ is to group services according to their similar risks, and the risk levels of each.

‘So what?’


Aggregated reporting on a basis that is not regional (services that are next door to each other), global (statistics for the whole UK), or individual (naming a specific service). This means that comparisons between services can be based on those elements of risk which are commonly shared. Leading to opportunities for shared learning and collaborative projects or exercises based on common risk elements starting with three regional workshops in Q1 2023:

  • 22nd Feb 2023 @ West Midlands FRS HQ Birmingham
  • 1st Mar 2023 @ LFB HQ Union St, London
  • 15th Mar 2023 @ Merseyside FRS HQ Bootle, Liverpool


Please note: The data used captures a ‘fixed-point-in-time’ and as such may have changed slightly since this work was carried out. In addition, whilst local data recording may vary, we have used the available national data sources to provide an indicative snapshot of relative levels and types of risk shared by UK FRS.


The clustered groups were created using a “hierarchical clustering” method based on twenty variables: each representing some form of community risk.

The Raw data sets used are available here.

There are eight values shown on each card, but the raw data for each of the variables and for every UK FRS Service, can be accessed by scanning the QR code on the back of each card.

The QR code takes the user to an NFCC site with the full technical report and access to a data visualisation tool showing the full range of data, including those represented on the Top Trump Cards.

The value of this is that although a service may be in a clustered group with certain other services, it may well share (and be currently unaware of) similar risks or geographic factors with services outside that group.

It is important to note four anomalies in the data gathering:

  • Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey data were difficult to discover, as these areas do not fall within the data sources used for other national services. Therefore, these are being sought by direct contact with the services, and their cards will follow when that data is received, added to the visualisation tool, and applied to create their individual cards.