Fire service presses ahead in response to house-fire surge

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THE Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service has met with a range of key partners to explore what further measures can be taken to help protect older people and others most at risk from the dangers of fire.

The meeting comes after a sudden increase in fatal accidental house fires, which during a six-week period in March/April this year claimed the lives of seven older people, among them 78-year-old Dromara woman Sadie Ferguson, who died as a result of an early morning fire at the semi-detached Dundrum Road cottage where she lived alone.

The Leader recently reported the fires had prompted NIFRS to urgently renew an appeal for public help to protect the elderly.

Since then, the service has met with the Commissioner for Older People and representatives from Age NI, Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and Leonard Cheshire Disability.

NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer Safety Services, Dale Ashford, said, “We as a Fire and Rescue Service have pledged to seek out and explore any further measures possible that could be taken to help protect people in our community who are most at risk. Our ethos is very clear, that by working together - we can save more lives.

“We had a very productive meeting with our key partner agencies and I want to thank them for their valued input. “NIFRS will work closely with its partners to develop a new Strategy to help keep older people and those at risk safer in Northern Ireland. This will be linked closely to the new over-arching Department of Health, Social Care and Public Safety strategies, eg the Health and Social Care Review Report (Transforming Your Care) and the new 10-year Home Accident Prevention Strategy for Northern Ireland, which is currently being developed.

“We will also be working closely with carers and supporting the new models for domiciliary care in Northern Ireland to help raise awareness of fire safety and keep older people safe in their homes.

“As part of our overall approach to providing emergency cover in Northern Ireland we have this year consulted on our plans to develop a new risk map for Northern Ireland, based on the new census output data (2011). With new Fire Service Emergency Cover modelling technology, we will able to better identify those most at risk in our community and prioritise our resources accordingly. As always our Firefighters continue to be out on the ground door-to-door, carrying out free home fire safety checks and providing working smoke alarms to those who require them right across Northern Ireland. We also continue to focus on delivering a range of community education and engagement activities targeted specifically at those in our community who are most at risk.”

Mr. Ashford repeated the NIFRS call for community support on the issue.

“We do need the community’s help,” he said, “and you can help us to help you by availing of a free home fire safety check for your own home and also for vulnerable and elderly family, friends and neighbours. For a free home fire safety check call 028 9260 0477 or log onto our website www.nifrs.org.”