Fire service says flood response improved ten years on from major incident

The fire service says it is better placed to respond to flooding in South Yorkshire, as the tenth anniversary of floods which devastated the county in 2007 is marked.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) formed a major part of the response to floods which hit the region on 25 June 2007 and damaged nearly 1,500 homes in less than 24 hours. Two people also sadly lost their lives.

Emergency services took more than 4,500 calls and the fire service committed all of its available resources to help those in need. Thirty high-volume pumps from across the UK also came to help the relief effort, pumping away thousands of litres of water in badly hit areas, including Bentley and Toll Bar.

Officers say specialist training, regular exercises and new equipment mean it is better placed to an incident on this scale. Nationally, operational guidance for fire services responding to flooding has also been improved.

SYFR now has motorised water rescue boats and fully trained water rescue teams, ready to respond to water related incidents in the county. It also has its own high-volume pump, which is capable of pumping water at a rate of 8,000 litres per minute.

Head of Emergency Response, Area Manager Tony Carlin said: “I’m sure we all remember only too well the devastation caused by the 2007 floods. South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue committed significant resources at the time and our firefighters provided vital support to local communities. Our crews will never forget the community spirit they witnessed in areas that had been devastated by the flood waters.

“We have enhanced our response capabilities to incidents of this nature since then and have also provided support to other parts of the country affected by flooding, including Somerset, Berkshire and Lancashire.

“Flooding remains a significant risk to South Yorkshire, plus other parts of the country, and those living in risk areas should familiarise themselves with information designed to keep them safe in an emergency.”

For more information on a Government backed flood awareness campaign, visit https://floodsdestroy.campaign.gov.uk/

Water safety warning following temperature rise

Following the recent hot snap, firefighters are urging the public not to swim in lakes and reservoirs.

River flows can be unpredictable and water is often deeper, colder and faster than expected. People should enjoy water safely in swimming pools or safer specialist facilities instead, officers warn.

Around 400 people needlessly drown in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life changing, through near-drowning experiences. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue works closely with communities to educate them of the dangers surrounding open waters – a key part of their prevention work.

Area Manager Steve Helps, Head of Prevention and Protection at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said, ““We regularly receive 999 calls in the summer about people getting into difficulty in water, so it’s only a matter of time before someone’s safety is really put at risk unless people listen to our advice.

“It can be tempting to cool off in the summer months, but stick to a swimming pool. Hundreds of people drown each year in the UK and places like rivers, lakes or flooded quarries are completely unsuitable for swimming as they hide a number of hidden dangers.”

Darren Lynch, Regional Raw Water Manager at Yorkshire Water said, “Reservoirs may look tempting to take a swim in but they can be killers and today’s practice rescue will hopefully raise awareness of these risks amongst young people. Cold water shock can lead to hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, breathing difficulties and heart attacks plus water temperatures remain just as cold in summer as in winter.”

Over 400 people die in the water every year in the UK, and firefighters are urging people to follow some basic rules to stay safe.

The dangers of open water are:

  • The water can be much deeper than you expect
  • Rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs are much colder than you think
  • Open water can carry water borne diseases, pollutants and bacteria
  • Cold water dramatically affects your ability to swim
  • There may be hidden currents, which can pull you under the water
  • You don’t know what lies beneath, like pieces of rubbish or reeds which can trap or injure you

Company responsible for Doncaster care home prosecuted for fire safety breach

A Doncaster Company responsible for the running of a care home in Doncaster has been fined by the Doncaster Magistrates’ Court for breaching fire safety laws.

The Old Rectory Nursing Home (Doncaster) Limited, responsible for the Old Rectory Nursing Home, Church Street, Armthorpe, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Inspecting officers from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s business fire safety team had earlier found that the 37 bedroom care home did not have a suitable or sufficient fire risk assessment in place and in particular, provisions for the time in which staff at the home would be able to evacuate its residents in the event of a fire

The Company were fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £13,325 prosecution costs at Doncaster Magistrates Court on Tuesday (13 June).

Business Fire Safety Manager, Amy Jenkinson, speaking after the hearing, said: “All businesses must ensure that they have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in place, which should include having effective evacuation strategies. Staff must also receive adequate safety training so they know what to do should they have to evacuate the premises. Fire safety is a key part of business management.

“South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Business Fire Safety Officers will continue to take action when businesses, large or small, do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously and place residents, staff or the public at risk. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a prosecution.”

As well as working with premises to help them meet their obligations under fire safety legislation, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue also advocates the use of sprinklers in high-risk residential settings.

For more information visit www.syfire.gov.uk/busness-advice

Reassurance given following London fire tragedy

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue is reassuring local people about its response arrangements for high rise buildings.

Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this devastating tragedy in London, as well as our colleagues in the London Fire Brigade who worked incredibly hard under very difficult circumstances.

We would like to reassure local residents that we have established processes in place for ensuring the safety of both residential blocks and commercial premises. Our Business Fire Safety officers are visiting high-rise properties across South Yorkshire to carry out safety audits and work with those responsible for those buildings to understand their obligations under current fire safety laws.

Our operational firefighters will also be reviewing their plans for dealing with high-rise incidents of this nature and we will of course respond to any national learning from the Grenfell Tower fire and adjust our plans if necessary.

Head of Prevention and Protection Steve Helps said; “It would not be appropriate for us to speculate about the cause of the fire until a full investigation has been carried out. However, what we do know is that fires of this type are rare.

“Our fire safety officers work closely with Building Control bodies, building owners and Local Authority partners on a day to day basis to ensure that new buildings, and significant alterations or refurbishments to existing buildings, meet the requirements of the appropriate Building Regulations. They also carry out fire safety audits of buildings to identify any deficiencies, and help those responsible for building safety to comply with their legal obligations.”

If you have a fire safety concern about a high rise building, please contact the Fire Safety team at tfs.cs@syfire.gov.uk

Anyone living in South Yorkshire can request a Home Safety Check visit from ourselves – call 0114 253 2314 or visit our website here

Fire officers back sprinklers as national study highlights safety success

Fire safety experts are calling on South Yorkshire businesses and housing providers to consider fitting sprinklers, after a national study found they successfully dealt with a blaze in almost all recorded incidents.

The research, led by the National Fire Sprinkler Network in conjunction with the National Fire Chief’s Council, found sprinklers were effective in 99 per cent of fires where they were fitted and went off.

Researchers looked at more than 2,000 fires over the last five years in both homes and businesses, finding that sprinklers which actuated contained a fire in nearly two thirds (62%) of cases and put it out completely in the rest (37%).

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) says the findings are further evidence why businesses, care homes and social housing landlords should consider installing the potentially life saving devices.

Business Fire Safety Manager Amy Jenkinson, said: “Sprinklers are a cost effective way of making businesses and high-risk homes safer – they stop fires from spreading, put them out quickly and save lives. We are especially concerned about those people who are most at risk of fire such as those with mobility or mental health problems or people with dementia who may not know how to react, or be able to react quickly enough, if they hear a smoke alarm.

“We play a key leadership role in helping people to better understand the benefits of sprinklers as part our commitment to reduce the impact of fire on people, property and the environment and this nationally significant research supports our message.”

SYFR is one of the leading fire services in the country for its pioneering use of sprinklers in high risk residential settings, leading a UK first project to retrofit an automated system at the Callow Mount block of flats in Gleadless. That scheme is now internationally recognised for the improved safety it offers the people living within the building.

It has also worked alongside Sheffield City Council to make more than 540 properties in the city safer by installing lifesaving sprinkler systems at council owned flats in Gleadless Valley, Westfield, Stannington and Netherthorpe. This project was another UK first.

The installation of sprinkler systems in new build homes is now mandatory in Wales and SYFR is actively promoting the use of this type of protection in all types of buildings to build resilience and safety into local communities.

Earlier this year it launched a £1 million fund to promote the installation of sprinklers in high risk residential settings.

Fire service work scheme changing lives of autistic volunteers

A fire service volunteer has gained vital life and social skills thanks to a scheme which helps people with autism.

The Autism Centre for Supported Employment, is a small charity which supports adults with autism, aspersers and learning disabilities into paid employment and work experience placements.

James Guy, from Sheffield, has been volunteering at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, through the scheme, since November 2016, working in the Prevention and Protection department at headquarters in Sheffield, one day a week.

His role involves scanning fire safety plans and data inputting.  James learnt the process very quickly and has scanned nearly 1,000 plans over the last six months.

James, who has autism, says he loves his work at the fire service, citing feelings of value, respect and teamwork for improving his wellbeing.

James, 34, is learning and gaining new skills in a safe environment with staff that he trusts and who have the skills and training to understand and support his needs.

James Guy said; “I like to meet everybody at work and they are very friendly with me, I enjoy the scanning and feel proud that I am working for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.”

Sue Butler, Volunteering Co-ordinator at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue said: “James has continued to show excellent commitment to his volunteering role and has learned a lot of new skills since starting work with us which will set him up with important employment skills which he will be able to transfer to future jobs.  The team he works in are really supportive of him, and James seems to love working with them.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue have seven autistic adults volunteering in many different roles throughout the service including scanning, data inputting, filing, assisting the caretaker, working the canteen and much more.

If you are interested in volunteering for South Yorkshire & Fire & Rescue call 0114 253 2413.

Fire service safety advice during the Islamic festival

The fire service is calling on South Yorkshire’s Muslim communities to take extra care ahead of one of the most important periods in the Islamic calendar.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue fears people are more likely to be at risk of fire during Ramadan, which is now underway and ends on 25 June.

Ramadan lasts for 30 days and is observed by fasting during daylight hours, with cooking taking place before sunrise or after sunset.

Head of community safety Trevor Bernard, said: “We recognise this is a really important time in the Islamic calendar, but want to make sure people observe it safely. In particular, people should take extra care to keep an eye on their cooking, as fasting could leave you feeling tired and more likely to become distracted or have an accident.

“Smoke alarms are the best way of making sure that if a fire does occur, you have the vital extra minutes to escape. So make sure smoke alarms are fitted on every level of your home and test them regularly.

“It’s also vital that if the smoke alarms do sound, everyone in the house knows what to do and knows how to escape, so talk this through with your family and loved ones.”

Top tips for staying safe during Ramadan include:

  • Cooking– Half of all house fires start in the kitchen, so take extra care when cooking, particularly with hot oil – it sets alight easily
  • Never throw water on a burning pan– in the event of a fire get out, stay out and call 999
  • Take extra care with clothing– make sure hijaabs, shalwar, kameez and saris are kept well away from the hob
  • Practise escape routes– and make sure every member of your family knows it well
  • Have a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home– test them weekly to make sure they work.

For more fire safety information visit www.syfire.gov.uk