Firefighters throughout Scotland will be deployed to protect vulnerable people in a nationwide ‘week of action’ aimed at preventing accidental house fires and the tragedies they cause.The unprecedented move follows a recent appeal from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) for the public to help it reach those most likely to be killed or injured as a result of fire in the home.Between January and May, 28 people lost their lives as a result of fires and June has so far seen two more fatalities.People over the age of 60 accounted for almost two-thirds of those killed and, as well as age, the common factors contributing to many of the deaths were smoking, ill-health, living alone and limited mobility.
With evidence many fire tragedies could be prevented SFRS is taking the major step of sending operational crews and community firefighters to households throughout the country to offer residents advice on keeping their homes and everyone in them safe.
Ahead of the ‘Week of Action’ to protect people from fire, the service is again issuing a plea for families, friends and neighbours to take responsibility for keeping those close to them safe.
SFRS Chief Officer Alasdair Hay said: “We are totally committed to protecting the public and this significant step shows the importance we place on preventing fires from happening.
“The nationwide approach to this week of action means our personnel will be visible throughout Scotland and pro-actively contact as many people as we possibly can.
“We rely on responsible citizens and partner agency colleagues to put us in touch with individuals who may be at increased risk of experiencing a fire in their home and those strong partnerships are absolutely vital to preventing tragedies.
“As the country’s firefighters work to protect every community I would urge everyone to join Scotland’s fight against fire by ensuring anyone who might need some help gets that potentially life-saving support.”
Statistics show those aged 65 and over are more than twice as likely to die in a fire as people of other ages.
The speed with which a fire can develop and spread toxic smoke, heat and flames means those who are old, who live alone and who have issues with their health or mobility are at particular risk of being injured or killed.
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “The work of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to raise awareness of the risks of fire is very valuable and means that we are safer from the risk of fire at home than we have ever been.
“However it’s crucial not to become complacent and the recent spate of tragic fire fatalities has shown some people, particularly the elderly, immobile and those who live alone, are still at risk.
“That’s why it is so positive to see the fire service working with partners, including health authorities and the voluntary sector, to develop new ways to identify those individuals in communities who are most at risk, and to make early interventions to ensure they are protected.”
The ‘Week of Action’ will involve local senior officers calling on the support of partner agencies to reach those who they know to be at risk.
By visiting homes firefighters can help residents understand the risks and take very minor actions known to dramatically reduce the chance of a fire starting.
Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay, the SFRS director of prevention and protection, explained why their efforts also mean occupiers are less likely to be hurt or killed if a fire does happen in their home.
He said: “We often see smoke alarms in the wrong position and firefighters conducting a home fire safety visit will correct this to make sure people are protected.
“If someone is over the age of 60, lives alone or has difficulty moving around then it can take more time for them to escape in an emergency.
“They need to know not to smoke in bed, or even while feeling tired and sitting in a chair. If the person just can’t avoid doing this then we can work with partners and communities to help make them safer.
“There is a huge amount of support available but we need our partner agencies and the public to help us make sure it gets to those who need it.”
He continued: “We also want to remind people that if they hear a smoke alarm activating then they need to call 999 and report it right away.
“Many people can be reluctant to make an emergency call and assume an alarm has gone off due to something innocuous like burnt toast, but the fact is waiting to see if the alarm stops could cost someone their life.”
With an aging population – 23 per cent of the UK will be aged 65 and over by 2035 – helping older people prevent fires and stay safe is certain to remain an issue for every community.
Free home fire safety visits take around 20 minutes to complete and are conducted by local SFRS crews at a time convenient for the householder.
A popular feature of the Join Scotland’s Fight against Fire campaign, they are available by calling the freephone number 0800 073 1999, by texting ‘FIRE’ to 80800 or by filling in an online form at www.firescotland.gov.uk.
Chair of the SFRS Board Pat Watters added: “Our staff throughout Scotland work around the clock to keep people safe and there is nothing more upsetting than seeing lives needlessly lost and ruined.
“Every single one of us has a responsibility to play our part. Fire isn’t something that only happens to other people or only concerns emergency responders.
“The messages from firefighters are very clear and everyone in Scotland can play a life-saving role by thinking about fire safety and doing what they can to help protect their community.
“There isn’t a city, town or village in the country that can afford to ignore the warnings and I would urge everyone to understand the risks and join Scotland’s fight against fire.”
(original article can be seen here)