Courses raise awareness of fire danger

Left to right : Thomas Murray, Fire Fighter, NIFRS, Mairead McAlinden, Chief Executive, Southern Trust, Nina Daly, Accident Prevention Officer, Southern Trust and Colin Wallace, Training Development Officer, Rospa
Left to right : Thomas Murray, Fire Fighter, NIFRS, Mairead McAlinden, Chief Executive, Southern Trust, Nina Daly, Accident Prevention Officer, Southern Trust and Colin Wallace, Training Development Officer, Rospa

SINCE January 2012, eight people have been killed in accidental house fires in Northern Ireland - including a woman from Dromore.

In response, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust hosted the first of four free workshops in Armagh to help raise awareness of individuals most at risk of fire. The workshops are targeted at carers and practitioners from the statutory, voluntary and community sectors who work with vulnerable clients in the Southern Trust’s area.

Mairead McAlinden, Chief Executive, Southern Trust said: “Fire safety needs to be everyone’s concern. We care for the most vulnerable in our community and we must all work together to minimise the risks which make people vulnerable to death or injury in house fires. 

These workshops are but one of the ways in which we are supporting the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to protect people in the community who are most at risk. By working together and by using the information provided at these workshops, I believe we can save lives.”

Mairead added:“I am delighted that our staff as well as staff from the community and voluntary sector have the opportunity to learn about the things that put people at a greater risk of fire, as well as a range of practical information and assistance on how these risks can be reduced such as Fire Safety Checks and long life smoke alarms.” 

Nina Daly, Accident Prevention Officer, for the Southern Trust who organised the workshop, said: “These workshops will help make staff more mindful of fire risk factors such as age and gender, personal living circumstances, physical and mental health conditions and behaviours and lifestyles that can place their clients and patients at high risk. It will help explain how they can play an important role in helping to reduce fire risk through sharing information on local services they can avail of and sources of fire safety information.”

Colin Wallace, home safety development officer for RoSPA in Northern Ireland, said: “Certain groups of people are significantly over-represented amongst fire casualties and deaths. Nearly eight out of 10 fire fatalities involve someone who is impaired in some way, for example through legal substances including alcohol and prescribed medication or because of mental or physical impairment that may or may not be related to age. Sometimes, there is a combination of these factors. Alongside the immediate causes of a fire - such as a carelessly discarded cigarette or a chip pan - alcohol, mobility and mental illness are the biggest single influences on whether a fire starts and, or, whether it has fatal consequences.”

.Kevin O’Neill, group commander, NIFRS, said: “We work tirelessly to protect all our vulnerable groups in the community to ensure they keep safe from the dangers of fire in their homes. We want to reach a stage where we have no fatalities in Northern Ireland due to accidental house fires and we will continue to dedicate ourselves to that. The fire safety workshops are a great opportunity for us to work in partnership with other agencies in the community to further highlight the importance of fire safety to vulnerable people and their carers.”

Each workshop will cover: the client groups most at risk of fire; how to identify early warning signs or near misses; what is involved in a free home fire safety check and how to make referrals to this service; other useful sources of information in the Southern Trust area; and other general sources of fire safety information.

The workshops run from 9.30am-12noon. Places are still available on Tuesday, July 24 - Craigavon Area Hospital, Portadown; Thursday, August 23 - Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry; Tuesday, September 11- South Tyrone Hospital, Dungannon.

Practitioners wishing to book should contact Mairead Casey, training support officer at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, on mairead.casey@southerntrust.hscni.net or 028 3741 2406.

The workshops were developed by the Southern Trust’s Promoting Wellbeing Team and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and have been endorsed by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. They have been funded by the Public Health Agency.

Fire safety information is available from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. To request a free Fire Safety Check visit: www.nifrs.org or Tel: 028 9260 0477.