WMFS OFFICIAL – NEW – FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST – FOI23125
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 further to your freedom of information request.
Please find below a summary of our findings.
Please treat this email as a formal request for information made under Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (which I hereby refer to as “the Act”).
I request a direct non-emergency telephone number and email address for your control room (or, where you have more than one control room, the aforementioned for each such control room).
Please note that I am not seeking your switchboard telephone number and that I do not seek to “jump the queue”, so to speak, but simply to make contact directly with your control room in circumstances where that is required without having to engage with your switchboard.
In order to assist, I believe that the telephone number I am seeking is likely to be that on which calls from your switchboard to your control room are forwarded.
West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) would wish to highlight one of the basic principles of the FOI Act, which is that any release of data should be considered to be to the whole world. Information Commissioner’s Officer (ICO) guidance to organisations (https://ico.org.uk/fororganisations/guide-to-freedom-of-information/what-is-the-foi-act/) states: “…because you should treat all requesters equally, you should only disclose information under the Act if you would disclose it to anyone else who asked. In other words, you should consider any information you release under the Act as if it were being released to the world at large.” Paragraphs 7 and 8 of ICO guidance ‘Consideration of the identity or motives of the applicant’ state: “7. Authorities should view disclosure as a release of information into the public domain. This means that they must consider the consequences of disclosure to the world at large, and not just the impact of providing the material to the requester.” “8. It follows that the key question an authority must ask itself when deciding how to respond is whether the information is suitable for disclosure to anyone and everyone.”
WMFS has concluded that Information related direct non-emergency phone number for our control room is exempt under Section 36 & 38 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the disclosure of this information would prejudice our ability to provide an effective public service or cause disruption by diversion of resources to non-emergency calls.
The disclosing this information may result in an influx of non-emergency calls to our control room, diverting staff from their primary purpose of answering emergency calls and, potentially, endangering public safety.
WMFS has concluded that the public interest in maintaining these 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 public and by releasing the direct non-emergency phone number for our control could be potential risk to the public, non-emergency calls directly to are control room may divert staff from their primary purpose of answering emergency calls and, potentially, endangering public safety. Also, a non-emergency phone number in public domain maybe used inadvertently in an emergency and delay our response to potential a serious incident. Therefore, your request is refused under Section 36 (Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) & 38 (Health and Safety) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
If you have any queries about this Freedom of Information request, please contact us. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
For service complaints, issues or comments regarding this request please contact 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.