PDA for COMAH sites

Mark Davidson made this Freedom of Information request to Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

Dear Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service,

Some fire and rescue services such as Essex County fire and rescue have provided previously the PDA attendance to COMAH sites. Based on this please could your organisation provide the following PDA for the subsequent comah sites in your area:

Baxenden Chemical Limited
Halite Energy Group Limited
Holchem Laboratories Ltd
Johnson Matthey Plc
Procter & Gamble Product Supply (UK) Ltd
Redcliffe International (Shipping) Ltd
Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings
Springfields Fuels Limited
Tradebe Solvent Recycling Limited
Vinnolit Hillhouse Ltd
William Blythe Limited

Please could you provide number of times called each year from 2010 to 2016, number of pumps of PDA, types of specials (plus their support pumps) on PDA plus date and incident details.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Davidson

DP&FOI, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

Dear Sir,
 
Thank you for your email which was received on 19 January 2017, requesting
the following information:
 
PDA for:
 
Baxenden Chemical Limited
Halite Energy Group Limited
Holchem Laboratories Ltd
Johnson Matthey Plc
Procter & Gamble Product Supply (UK) Ltd
Redcliffe International (Shipping) Ltd
Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings
Springfields Fuels Limited
Tradebe Solvent Recycling Limited
Vinnolit Hillhouse Ltd
William Blythe Limited
 
Please could you provide number of times called each year from 2010 to
2016, number of pumps of PDA, types of specials (plus their support pumps)
on PDA plus date and incident details.
 
 
Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and will be answered as soon as possible and at the
latest within 20 working days, (17 February 2017).
 
In the unlikely event that we are not able to respond within 20 working
days we will write to you to explain why and provide an anticipated
completion date.
 
In line with guidance published by the Information Commissioner’s Office,
LFRS may make a charge for the provision of information – for example in
order to cover the costs of postage (in line with the relevant postal
charges) or charges for printing and copying (which will reflect
photocopying charges levied by public libraries).
 
You will be informed if a fee is to be applied before information is to be
provided.
 
If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact the
Incident Information Officer quoting the reference number given in the
subject line of this acknowledgement.
 
Regards
 
 
Robert Shaw - Incident Information Officer
Corporate Programme and Intelligence
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
Email: [1][Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service request email]
SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES
Call 0800 169 1125 to book a free Home Fire Safety Check.
Visit our website: [2]www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk
Facebook: [3]Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
Twitter: [4]@LancashireFRS
 

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DP&FOI, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

Dear Sir
 
Freedom of Information Request
 
I am writing further to your email of 19 January where you requested
information about advance information and planning about PDA attendance at
various COMAH sites within Lancashire. Please find our decision below:
 
DECISION
 
This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.
 
Section 17 of the Act provides:
 
(1)        A public authority which, in relation to any request for
information, is to any extent relying on a claim that information is
exempt information must, within the time for complying with Section 1(1),
give the applicant a notice which:-
(a)        states the fact,
(b)        specifies the exemption in question, and
(c)        states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the
exemption applies.
 
In relation to your request for details regarding the capability to
provide PDA attendance to the COMAH site outlined in your request,
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service can Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND)
whether the information requested is held as the duty in Section 1(1)(a)
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the
following exemptions:
 
Section 24(2) – National Security
Section 31(3) – Law Enforcement
Section 38(2) – Health and Safety
 
The Neither Confirm Nor Deny Exemptions
 
Returning to the requirements of FOIA, S24, S31 and S38 are both qualified
and prejudice based so I am required to articulate the harm and public
interest in relation to confirmation or denial.
 
Harm in confirming or denying that further information is held
 
Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act are disclosures to the
world not just the individual making the request. In some situations,
simply confirming or denying whether the Authority holds a particular
category of information could itself disclose sensitive and damaging
information. The principle of Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) is long
established and is needed to protect harm which may arise if the Authority
has to confirm or deny whether they hold particular information. In such
circumstances the confirming or denying of the existence of information
can itself communicate sensitive and potentially damaging information. On
this occasion, confirmation of whether any further information is held or
not, would have the effect of undermining this particular activity and
could impact on National Security, as it could lead to individuals
becoming aware of capabilities in this respect both locally and
nationally, and could ultimately compromise response tactics, operations
and future decision making. This should not be taken as an indication that
such information is or is not held.
 
To aid understanding of the Duty to Confirm or Deny I believe that it may
be helpful to explain some of the issues arising from the duty under the
Freedom of Information Act to confirm or deny.
 
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance titled ‘When to
refuse to confirm or deny information is held’ states:
 
‘In certain circumstances, even confirming or denying that requested
information is held can reveal information that falls under an exemption.
A public authority may be able to use an exemption to refuse to confirm
whether or not it holds information, if either confirming or denying would
reveal exempt information in itself. A neither confirm nor deny response
is more likely to be needed for very specific requests than for more
general or wide ranging requests. It can be important to use a neither
confirm nor deny response consistently, every time a certain type of
information is requested, regardless of whether the information is
actually held or not. For this reason public authorities need to be alert
to the possibility of receiving future requests for the same type of
information when handling very specific or detailed requests.’
 
As has been explained the consistent application of neither confirm nor
deny to requests under FOI is sometimes needed to protect the response
capabilities of the Fire and Rescue Service and its partner agencies. An
inconsistent response to identical or similar queries over a period of
time may indicate that information is held or allows such inferences to be
made which in this scenario would be harmful.
 
Evidence of Harm - Sections 24, 31 and 38
 
To confirm or deny each individual Fire and Rescue Service’s capability to
respond or send PDA equipment would enable those engaged in criminal
activity or any form of terrorism or domestic extremism to formulate a
national picture and identify any vulnerabilities that could be exploited
and would prejudice national security.
 
The national security exemption is based on the effect that disclosure
would have, not on the content or source of the information.
 
As you may be aware, disclosure under FOIA is a release to the public at
large. Whilst not questioning the motives of the applicant, releasing any
information held regarding the planning for firearms or weapons attacks,
would show criminals what the capacity, tactical abilities and
capabilities of the fire and rescue service are, allowing them to target
specific areas of the UK to conduct their criminal/terrorist activities.
Releasing planning information for specific circumstances, would lead to
an increase in harm of attacks and compromise law enforcement. This would
be to the detriment of providing an efficient emergency response service
and a failure in providing a duty of care to all members of the public.
 
The threat from terrorism cannot be ignored. It is generally recognised
that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and
unpredictable. Since 2006, the UK Government have published the threat
level, based upon current intelligence and that threat has remained at the
second highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August
2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat,
‘critical’, and in July 2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’.
Nevertheless, the UK continues to face a sustained threat from violent
extremists and terrorists and the current UK threat level is set at
‘severe’. The recent attacks in Paris, together with the related security
activity in Belgium only serves to emphasise the reality of such threats.
 
The disclosure of local and national information would limit operational
capabilities as criminals/terrorists would gain a greater understanding of
the emergency service’s capacity, methods and techniques, enabling them to
take steps to counter them. It may also suggest the limitations of
capabilities in this area, which may further encourage terrorist activity
by exposing potential vulnerabilities. This detrimental effect is
increased if the request is made to several different emergency services
and law enforcement agencies. In addition to the local criminal fraternity
now being better informed, those intent on organised crime throughout the
UK will be able to ‘map’ where the use of certain tactics are or are not
deployed or where levels of capability exist. This can be useful
information to those intent on committing crimes. It would have the
likelihood of identifying location-specific operations which would
ultimately compromise response tactics and operations as individuals with
malicious intent could counteract the measures used against them.
 
Any information identifying the focus of emergency response activity could
be used to the advantage of terrorists and/or criminal organisations.
Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities
will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both
national security and law enforcement.
 
National Security
 
Section 24(2) of the FoIA states 'The duty to confirm or deny does not
arise if, or to the extent that, exemption from section 1(1)(a) is
required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.'
The exemption is based on the effect that disclosure would have, not on
the content or source of the information.
 
ICO guidance emphasises there is no definition of national security and
refers to an Information Tribunal Decision (EA/2006/0045) that noted the
following:
 
•           "National security" means the security of the United Kingdom
and its people;
•           The interests of national security are not limited to actions
by an individual which are targeted at the UK, its system of government or
its people;
•           The protection of democracy and the legal and constitutional
systems of the state are part of national security as well as military
defence;
•           Action against a foreign state may be capable indirectly of
affecting the security of the UK;
•           Reciprocal co-operation between the UK and other states in
combating international terrorism is capable of promoting the United
Kingdom's national security.
 
The refusal to confirm or deny is required for the purposes of
safeguarding national security. As mentioned above, whilst national
security is not defined under the Freedom of Information Act, it does
include the security of the United Kingdom and its people.
 
Public Interest Considerations – Section 24
 
Factors Against Neither Confirming Nor Denying – Section 24
 
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent. Any
confirmation or denial that Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service holds such
information would allow the public to gauge the appropriate use of public
funds in carrying out their national security obligations. In addition, it
would provide appropriate transparency and reassurance regarding the level
of capability in Lancashire.
 
This may also enhance public confidence in the fire and rescue service.
This in turn would add to the accuracy of public awareness and debate
whilst providing an insight into the service and enable the public to have
a better understanding of effectiveness of the fire and rescue service and
the use of public resources. It would inform other issues that are
currently the subject of public debate in relation to response
capabilities and improve the quality and accuracy of public debate, which
may otherwise be steeped in rumour and speculation.
 
Factors Favouring Neither Confirming Nor Denying – Section 24
 
The strongest reason favouring confirming or denying whether information
is held is the consideration of public funds. The strongest reason
favouring neither confirming nor denying whether information is held is
the need to ensure that national security is not placed at risk by
enabling those with criminal intent the opportunity to gain an operational
advantage over the Fire and Rescue Service in respect of disclosing
details regarding capability to respond to specific incidents. On balance,
I find there is a much stronger public interest in neither confirming nor
denying whether the requested information is held.
 
Law Enforcement
 
Section 31(3) states ‘The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to
the extent that compliance with section 1(1)(a) would or would be likely
to, prejudice any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1)’.
 
The term ‘law enforcement’ should be interpreted broadly. In the case of
William Thomas Stevenson v the Information Commissioner and North
Lancashire Teaching Primary Care Trust the Upper Tribunal commented that
“it is plain from reading the activities listed in s.31(1) and the
purposes specified in s.31(2), that they include activities and purposes
which go beyond actual law enforcement in the sense of taking civil or
criminal or regulatory proceedings. They include a wide variety of
activities which can be regarded as in aid of or related to the
enforcement of (i) the criminal law, (ii) any regulatory regime
established by statute, (iii) professional and other disciplinary codes,
(iv) standards of fitness and competence for acting as a company director
or other manager of a corporate body (v) aspects of law relating to
charities and their property and (vi) standards of health and safety at
work” (paragraph 75).
 
Factors Against Neither Confirming Nor Denying - Section 31
 
Confirming or denying if information is held relating to the planning of
PDA provision and attendance at COMAH sites would provide an insight into
the Fire and Rescue Service’s actions and enable the public to have a
better understanding of the effectiveness of the emergency services. It
would show how public funds are being spent in relation to protection
against risk of incidents around these sites which can be exploited by
terrorism and other criminal activity.
 
Some information is already in the public domain regarding the planning of
PDA attendance and providing further information would ensure transparency
and accountability and enable the public to see what capability the Fire
and Rescue Service has to tackle/assist with attending COMAH sites.
 
Factors Favouring Neither Confirming Nor Denying - Section 31
 
It has been recorded that FOIA releases are monitored by criminals and
terrorists and so releasing information held regarding the planning and
operations of terrorist attacks and tactics would undermined and
compromise law enforcement and it would also hinder any local, regional or
national operations.
 
It can be argued that there are significant risks associated with
providing information in relation to any aspects of terrorism planning and
that any nation's security arrangements, by releasing the information, may
reveal the relative vulnerability of what we may be trying to protect.
 
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service would not wish to reveal information
that would undermine any law enforcement operations and would impact on
emergency response resources, as more crime would be committed because
terrorists would know which areas had less capability, capacity or
interest and individuals would therefore be placed at a greater risk. A
fear of crime would be realised because if the terrorists identified more
vulnerable areas, they would target and exploit these areas and the public
would be in fear of more terrorist or criminal activity occurring. This
may lead to the emergency services needing to increase their resources to
reassure and protect the community
 
Section 38(1) Health and Safety
 
Section 38(1) states information is exempt information if its disclosure
under this act would, or would be likely to –
 
(a) endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or
(b) endanger the safety of any individual
 
Evidence of Harm - Section 38
 
To confirm or deny whether the requested information is held could lead to
attacks being carried out locally or nationally, is likely to involve
criminal acts and threaten the safety of FRS staff, partner agencies and
members of the public.
 
Public Interest Considerations - Section 38
 
Factors Against Neither Confirming Nor Denying – Section 38
 
Confirming or denying whether this information is held would lead to
better informed public awareness and debate.
 
Factors Favouring Neither Confirming Nor Denying – Section 38
 
To confirm or deny the existence of this information would endanger the
health and safety of any residents or visitors to the county would
undermine Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s ability to protect the
safety and well-being of the community.
 
Balance Test - Sections 24, 31 and 38
 
Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of the use of public
funds and the accountability of the Service, there is also a strong public
interest in maintaining confidence in Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
with regard to national security, law enforcement and protecting the
safety and well-being of citizens both locally and nationally.
 
Irrespective of whether information is or is not held, public safety and
the ability to deliver effective emergency response provision and
assisting with law enforcement is also of paramount importance to the Fire
and Rescue Service. Confirmation or denial of whether information is held
would undoubtedly compromise both national security and undermine law
enforcement and public safety processes. Therefore, it is our opinion that
for these reasons the balancing test for not confirming whether or not any
information is held by PSNI is upheld. However, this should not be taken
as conclusive evidence that the information you requested exists or does
not exist.
 
If you are unhappy with the information you have received in relation to
your request and wish to make an appeal or request a review of our
decision, you should write to the Director of Service Delivery at the
address shown below or by e-mail.
The Director of Service Delivery
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
Fire Service HQ
Garstang Road
Fulwood
Preston
PR2 3LH
 
Appeals or reviews should be made within 40 working days of our response
to your request being issued.  Any appeals or requests for review received
outside of the 40 working days will be refused.  Please note this is in
line with the Information Commissioner’s own working practices.
Should you have any queries with regards to this email or require any
additional information, please contact me on the details listed below 
 
Yours faithfully
 
 
Robert Shaw - Incident Information Officer
Corporate Programme and Intelligence
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
Email: [1][Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service request email]
SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES
Call 0800 169 1125 to book a free Home Fire Safety Check.
Visit our website: [2]www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk
Facebook: Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
Twitter: @LancashireFRS
 

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