RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 REQUEST
I am writing to confirm that the West Midlands Fire Service has now completed its search for the information you requested on 25th October 2018
Please find below a summary of our findings.
I would like to request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Details, dates and locations, of all fire incidents (in 2016, 2017 and 2018) where your crews attending mentioned (verbal or written) that they experienced issues with low, or no, water pressure from the fire hydrant that was located closest to the fire.
Details, dates and locations, of all fire incidents (in 2016, 2017 and 2018) where your crews attending mentioned (verbal or written) that they tapped into an alternative fire hydrant located further away, because the fire hydrant closest to the fire site was not able to supply the required volume of water at the required pressure.
For any incidents listed above, please supply any notes on the incident and also the approximate distance between the fire location and:
1) the closest fire hydrant that was not usable and;
2) the fire hydrant with adequate water pressure that the crews tapped into.
Unfortunately it is not possible to fulfil your request and it has been refused under Section 24 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Section 24 provides that information is exempt from disclosure under Section 1(1)b if it is required for the purposes of safeguarding national security.
National security includes more than the security of the UK, its military defence and its systems of government, it also involves co-operation with other states in combating international terrorism and guarding against actions targeted at other states which may impact on the UK and its people.
Safeguarding national security also includes protecting potential targets even if there is no evidence that an attack is imminent and the water network could be perceived to be a potential target.
Reason why the Section 24 exemption applies.
The water network is part of the critical national infrastructure and we are only provided access to the hydrant information to fulfil our statutory role of fire-fighting. In addition the information is received as part of an agreement with water utility companies and we are not permitted to release the information.
Public Interest Test Reasons.
West Midlands Fire Service has concluded that the public interest in maintaining this exemptions outweighs the public interest in disclosure. This decision is based upon the following reasons:
In assessing the balance of the public interest test, we are particularly mindful that the Act works on an ‘applicant blind’ basis and that by providing information to one person, we set a precedent for making it available to anyone else who asks for it.
There is a strong public interest in the authority doing all it can to protect the critical national infrastructure and national security. This is one of the primary reasons why we hold the requested information and disclosing it would undermine this purpose, which would not be in the public interest. Although there has to be a real possibility that the disclosure would undermine national security, the impact does not need to be direct or immediate.
While there may be some public interest in providing details for commercial purposes, the benefit of this does not outweigh the potential consequences of endangering the health and welfare of people.
Please also find link below to similar request which was denied by West Midlands Fire Service and the decision up held by the Information Commissioner Officer (ICO)
If you have any queries about this Freedom of Information request, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision please write to The Public Relations Department, West Midlands Fire Service, 99 Vauxhall Road, Birmingham, B7 4HW
Further information concerning Freedom of Information requests can be found on the Information Commissioner website at either the following link: https://ico.org.uk/ or at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, SK9 5AF.