Fire service staff call out hurtful comments in defiant new video

South Yorkshire’s fire service is taking a stand against online trolls in a bid to show support to its staff, and communities, during LGBT+ History Month.

This comes in the form of a defiant new video that has been launched today, Monday 3 February, featuring some of the service’s employees.

It shows the staff members reading out some of the abusive, hurtful and homophobic comments made by people on Facebook after the organisation added a rainbow to its profile picture during Pride Month last June.

The service, which strives to be a diverse and inclusive employer, says it wants to show its LGBT+ staff, and communities, that they are valued and supported.

“We fully expect the video will have a mixed reaction but some of the comments we received last year were awful and totally unacceptable,” said Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“We’ve produced it for two reasons – firstly we wanted to support the month and let our staff, and communities, know that we are proud to employ and serve them, regardless of those comments.

“And secondly we wanted to demonstrate that we are a genuinely inclusive organisation that values the contribution of all our staff, whatever their LGBT+ status.

“I’d encourage anyone considering a career in the fire service, especially those who may be inspired by our work around LGBT History Month, to register their interest on our website.”

Firefighters, control operators and support staff all feature in the video – which includes 11 employees reading 11 different comments.

The production is being supplemented by another video produced by the service, this one being specifically for staff and based on LGBT+ history.

Crew Manager Rebecca Savin, who is the South Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union LGBT Rep, hopes that the service’s stance will not only allow staff to bring their authentic selves to work but also encourage more people from the LGBT+ community to consider fire service careers.

She said: “We’ve come a long way recently in terms of diversity but there’s still more to do. It really is important that our workforce truly represents all of the communities we serve and visible acts of support like this can mean a lot to sometimes marginalised groups.”

“From a staff perspective I’m really pleased with the video. It’s great that, as an employer, SYFR wants to challenge these comments and stand up for its staff and the people it serves.”

Anyone who wants to register their interest in a job with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue can do so at www.syfire.gov.uk/jobs.

3+

Hundreds safer for decades thanks to £1 million fire service spending on sprinklers

Fire chiefs say hundreds of high-risk homes will be safer for decades to come, thanks to more than £1 million spent on fire sprinkler projects in the last five years.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue spent the money fitting fire sprinklers in around 650 flats across the county in a bid to prompt owners of accommodation for mostly vulnerable residents to consider fire sprinklers as a long term measure to keep their tenants safe.

More than 20 separate projects were awarded funding, with most of the money allocated match-funded by the building owners themselves.

An early beneficiary of the funding was the St Wilfrid’s Centre in Sheffield. Fire Sprinklers were installed in a new, 20-bed residential project which houses adults with complex needs.

High profile projects in Rotherham include a scheme to protect children with severe disabilities at a South Yorkshire Housing Association. The scheme was awarded £28,000 to retrofit fire sprinklers in a 15 flat facility on John Street in the town.

Funding for social housing developments in Barnsley means more than 100 Barnsley Council owned properties are protected.

Churchfields Sheltered housing, part of Berneslai Homes, was awarded funding for the retrofitting of automatic fire sprinklers in flats which mostly house older people.

Money was also spent to retrofit fire sprinklers at a high-rise block of flats in Doncaster- a decade after a similar scheme at Callow Mount in Sheffield highlighted the ease with which older tower blocks can be fitted with the potentially life-saving devices.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Steve Helps, said: “Fire Sprinkler systems can have a life span of well over 50 years, meaning this money will help to keep thousands people safe in these buildings for decades to come.

“Importantly, we’ve targeted our funding at properties where people are at a greater risk of fire for a range of factors including age, disability, mental health or substance misuse issues. Some of the schemes we’re most proud to have supported, are actually amongst the smallest, with relatively small amounts of money helping to protect small numbers of very vulnerable people in premises owned by charities and other organisations which wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford to pay for projects of this nature on their own.”

Fire sprinklers in residential buildings remain topical with the second phase of the Grenfell Tower inquiry now underway and a review of building fire safety regulations ongoing.

The Government announced it was considering lowering the threshold from 30 metres to 11 metres tall for fire sprinklers to be installed in new build high rise buildings.

“Fire Sprinklers are a cost effective way of making businesses and residential dwellings safer – they stop fires from spreading, put them out quickly, save lives and have a long working life span. We’re proud of the reputation we’ve built nationally as a leading fire and rescue service for our long standing advocacy of the benefits of fire sprinklers. The projects we’ve funded are just another example of our work in this area,” said Steve.

Money for all of the funded projects came from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve, which used money set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

0