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.

South Yorkshire dementia project wins Doncaster partnership award

A major partnership to help tackle dementia related house fires in South Yorkshire has won a top local health award.

The South Yorkshire Dementia Action Alliances have worked with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue to deliver the ‘Dementia Fire and Home Safety Project’. The partners beat off competition from six other organizations to win the ‘best organisation’ gong at the Doncaster Dementia Awards, held at Doncaster College.

Under the scheme, coordinators in each of South Yorkshire’s four districts have promoted fire safety to a range of organisations working with people living with dementia and their carers, in a bid to reduce the risk of fire and the associated consequences.

Part of the co-ordinators’ role included promoting the fire service’s home safety check service, whereby trained fire service staff visit people’s homes and talk to them about preventing fires and other accidents and fit smoke alarms where needed.

The project will also work with the fire service on a safety campaign specifically targeting those living with dementia and their carers, including a number of roadshows across the county.

More than 15,000 people across South Yorkshire have been diagnosed with dementia – with thousands more thought to be undiagnosed.  Dementia is known to be a major factor involved in accidental house fires and fire related injuries and deaths.

Officers believe the project will benefit the fire service by providing a vital link with one of its key target groups in terms of vulnerability to fire.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “In the last decade, the fire service has helped to make South Yorkshire safer than it has been at any time in its history in terms of house fires and fire related deaths and injuries. But we believe we can play a much wider role in terms of tackling some of the big health challenges our country faces in the future.”

“This project is the perfect illustration of that aspiration, where we use the coordinated efforts and expertise of those at the frontline of dementia care to improve the lives of one of the most vulnerable groups in society.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is also a member of the Yorkshire & Humber Dementia Alliance, which is committed to tackling the growing issue of dementia within our communities.

Hundreds of its staff have also signed up to become Dementia Friends – a Government backed initiative which teaches people a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia, and then turns that understanding into action.

A monthly memory café at Adwick fire station in Doncaster also sees the fire service host support for people living with dementia and their carers. The fire service’s Pete Jones was highly commended for his work in setting up the project at last year’s Doncaster Dementia Awards.

The South Yorkshire Dementia Action Alliances project was awarded funding under the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve, with money which had been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

For more information on preventing fires visit www.syfire.gov.uk or see below for a video produced by the project, which explains the links between dementia and fire.

BBQ safely say firefighters ahead of bank holiday weekend

South Yorkshire residents planning to celebrate the warm weather with a barbecue this weekend are being reminded to take some basic steps to ensure their party plans don’t go up in smoke.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue say al fresco cooking carries a potential fire risk- but only if barbecues are used incorrectly.

Trevor Bernard, Head of Community Safety, said: “Many people will be taking advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend and after a week of rain, who can blame them. All we are saying is before you get started with the sausages and kebabs, take a minute to decide where you’re going to site it. Then, when the coals are properly cooled, dispose of them safely.”

To make sure your barbecue goes to plan:

  • Site it on a flat surface well away from trees, shrubs and grassland
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand close by, just in case
  • Never use petrol or paraffin on a barbecue, only recognised lighters and starter fuels
  • Make sure the coals have properly cooled before disposal and empty ashes onto bare soil, not into the bin

Recent high-profile deaths on campsites involving barbecues have also prompted safety campaigners to remind campers of the fatal consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Barbecues continue to give off the deadly gas even after the coals are cool. So campers should never use barbecues inside tents, or to stay warm indoors.

Water safety warning ahead of bank holiday weekend

Firefighters are urging the public not to swim in lakes and reservoirs this weekend, with warmer weather set to continue.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says it attends dozens of water related incidents each year. Most are flooding or animal related, but others involve rescuing people from open water- particularly during hot weather.

Safety officers say people should avoid open water- like rivers and lakes- because they may not always be aware of the danger it poses. 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.

Head of community safety Trevor Bernard, 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.”

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, like Weils disease
  • 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

LIFE Team trials innovative dementia products

Following on from Dementia Awareness Week last week, the multi-agency Local Intervention and Falls Episodes (LIFE) Team in South Yorkshire have launched a pioneering trial into the use of GPS tracking software to help loved ones locate missing people, particularly those living with dementia.

The LIFE team, which consists of staff from South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, have been working on behalf of all three emergency services in Sheffield since August last year, visiting vulnerable people to reduce fire risks, improve security and help people who have fallen.

Their work has expanded over the last year to include offering support to individuals that are living with dementia and their families or carers, and it is hoped that the trial of GPS tracking devices will offer some much needed reassurance.

Emergency services collaboration lead Temporary Chief Inspector Jenny Lax says: “When a loved one goes missing, it is an incredibly worrying and distressing time. Those concerns increase when that person lives with dementia.

“For police, when we receive a report of a missing person who lives with dementia, it generates a massive response immediately from across the force.

“In partnership with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, we wanted to see what additional support we could offer to those families and carers of those with dementia and that’s why we secured funding to explore the use of GPS trackers.”

The GPS trackers, which provide emergency services with the ability to trace a person’s movements, can be attached to any item that the individual frequently wears or is likely to always have on them, like a watch or a particular pair of shoes.

TCI Lax continues: “We know that those with dementia often feel they need to walk somewhere or retain some sense of routine and it’s important that the trackers are tailored to individual needs so that if they do go missing it’s more likely they’ll have the tracking device in their possession.

“This means that if they are reported missing, we can trace their movements more effectively and locate them much quicker.

“We hope that this trial offers an additional layer of reassurance to those families whose loved ones live with this awful and often debilitating disease, and provides some form of comfort that if they go missing, our emergency services are in a better position to locate them and return them home safely.”

SYFR Area Manager Steve Helps added: “This is yet another example of how the LIFE team is working together to produce meaningful outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“We know that there are huge links between the people who need the help of the police and health services for reasons such as dementia, and those who are at risk of fire. So collaborative working such as this undoubtedly benefits our public safety work as well.”

The LIFE team are currently assessing potential candidates to take part in the trial and individuals that meet a certain set of agreed criteria will be offered a device.

House fires fall across South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire has recorded its lowest ever number of house fires.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says it attended 561 accidental house blazes in 2016/17- an 11 per cent drop on the previous year’s figure (629). It’s also nearly half the number attended by the fire service 15 years ago (1008).

Fire officers say the latest figures are proof that its efforts to make people safer are paying off, with firefighters having carried out nearly 300,000 safety checks in people’s homes since 2006.

Staff also spoke to more than 30,000 children last year, as part of its education work in schools and the fire service has run successful campaigns targeting older people, electrical and cooking blazes.

But to maintain the record low figures, bosses say they need to become even more targeted in their prevention work and for local people, organisations and charities to get more involved.

Head of Prevention Steve Helps, said: “South Yorkshire is safer from house fires now than it has been at any time in its history, but people should never become complacent when it comes to fire safety. Every single incident we do attend is someone’s own, personal disaster and, potentially, someone’s tragedy.

“That’s why we need the help of local people and organisations to support our work. Nearly all of the most serious house fires we attend involve some common issues which are often being dealt with by other agencies, or involve people who are known by neighbours or loved ones to be at higher risk. The fire service can often put in place measures to prevent deaths from fire- but only if an individual is referred to us for support.”

Top tips for preventing house fires include:

  • Make sure you have smoke alarms on every floor of your home. Test them regularly.
  • Take extra care in the kitchen and never leave cooking unattended
  • Don’t overload electric sockets– most can only take a maximum of 13 amps
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children
  • Put out cigarettes properly and dispose of them carefully

Fire service business continuity manager wins top Euro award

A fire service emergency planning manager has won a top European award.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Russ Parramore was named European Business Continuity and Resilience Professional of the Year at the Business Continuity Institute’s annual awards in Edinburgh.

Russ has worked to develop the fire service’s plans to become one of the world’s leading public service authorities on business continuity.

He has previously spoken at the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) World Conference and Exhibition in London, which attracted more than 1,000 delegates from over 100 countries.

Russ also chairs the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) business continuity group, which picked up a team award at the event for its work promoting good business continuity practices amongst fire and rescue services nationally.

Area Manager Stewart Nicholson said: “Business continuity is a hot topic for many large organisations, both public and private, as they seek to work out how they can limit the disruption to their staff and the people they serve after a catastrophic event, which could range from a simple power outage to severe staff shortages.

“It’s a real coup for South Yorkshire and for the fire sector as a whole that Russ has been recognised for his work in this area.”

Top Sheffield firefighter and rope expert made UK rescue assessor

A Sheffield firefighter who is one of the country’s leading rope rescue experts has landed a major role with a top UK training charity.

Jim Lister, aged 46, has been caving in the limestone hills of the Peak District for more than 30 years, as well as saving lives as a rope rescue instructor with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and working as a volunteer for the Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation.

Now Jim, from Gleadless, has been made an assessor with the United Kingdom Rescue Organisation (UKRO), a charitable organisation committed to improving rescue standards throughout the UK.

Jim’s role will see him assessing training challenges and competitions, which are used to teach fire and rescue teams the most effective ways of rescuing people from dangerous situations.

Jim, who is currently based at Parkway fire station, said: “Caving has been a lifelong passion of mine both as a hobby and a career. My cave rescue expertise with Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation has given me an enormous number of skills which I am able to transfer to my day job with the fire service.

“Specifically, my rope rescue skills can be used in a wide variety of rescue situations from building collapses and underground rescues, to road traffic collisions, where perhaps a vehicle has gone over the edge of an embankment and people are trapped inside.

“Rope rescue skills can take years to master though, so by working with UKRO I am pleased to have now been given the opportunity to pass on my learning to people and rescue teams beyond my brilliant colleagues at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.”

For more information on the UK Rescue Organisation visit www.ukro.org

Successful fire service scheme refers 50 people for sight loss support

The fire service has referred more than 50 people for life changing eyesight support under a successful partnership with charities for the blind.

The referrals have been made thanks to ‘Optimeyes’- a two year partnership between South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

The scheme has trained dozens of fire service staff in delivering a simple, five minute sight screening tool to assess sight problems. The assessment is now built into the fire service’s established programme of home safety visits.

More than 7,000 people have been given sight loss information by the fire service in South Yorkshire and offered a specially developed screening tool if required, with at least 55 people referred to local charity Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB) for further interventions.

One of those helped by the scheme was a Sheffield woman who was referred for support after suffering a blaze in her home.

Dawn Caney, aged 60, was referred for specialist sight loss support after fire service staff noticed cataracts may have contributed to the incident.

Dawn has now spoken to a hospital consultant about undergoing surgery on her cataracts, is visited by a physiotherapist to help her walking and referred to a care agency who help her with day-to-day tasks.

Dawn said: “I noticed that my eyes were getting bad about three years ago when things started to look blurred and I got a lot of headaches. I used to go out to the local shops every day but it got too difficult for me to manage the steps down from my first floor flat, I just couldn’t see the rubbish. I was frightened of slipping, so I stopped going out, except to the rubbish chute. I was also frightened because I didn’t know why I couldn’t see clearly anymore. I thought it was because I smoked and that was what was causing everything to be blurred. Now I know it’s also because I have got cataracts so that’s a bit of a relief in some ways.

“I had an incident at my flat and the fire service came out. They sent a home safety officer out to visit me after that to check that my flat was well protected with smoke alarms and that I knew how to avoid the risks of having another incident. The home safety officer noticed that I couldn’t see clearly and referred me to Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind who I had heard of, but didn’t know how to get in touch with. I also didn’t know that they helped people like me who weren’t totally blind.

“Since then my life has changed a lot, all for the better. A Community Advice Officer from SRSB came to my flat and has arranged appointments and support for me. I’ve been able to tell her all my problems and she always listens and asks me what I want and what I prefer. She gives me time to think about things first so I don’t feel pressured into making decisions. It feels like I have some say in my life again.

“My support worker is helping me to trust people again and I now get out of my flat at least once a week. I would say there have been lots of positive changes in my life since February thanks to being referred to SRSB by the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.”

Although the two year Optimeyes project has come to an end, fire staff will continue to refer people with sight loss issues to Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind providing a lasting benefit for local people.

SYFR Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “This is all about making every contact we have with local people count. We believe the fire service can play a much wider role in terms of tackling some of the big health challenges our country faces in the future. This scheme is the perfect illustration of that aspiration, where the fire service’s contact with some of the most vulnerable people in society is being used to do more than just prevent house fires.”

For more information on sight loss visit www.rnib.org.uk or for tips on preventing fires visit www.syfire.gov.uk

Hotelier given eight month jail sentence for breach of fire safety laws

The former owner of a Sheffield hotel has been jailed for eight months after breaching fire safety laws.

Amandeep Sandhu, of Turlands Close, Coventry was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court on Monday (8 May) after pleading guilty to five charges contrary to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The case was brought following a fire safety inspection of the Cutlers Hotel, George Street, Sheffield by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) on 12 September 2014 when breaches of the Order were discovered.

Due to the lack of a working fire alarm, a Prohibition Notice was served and the 45-room hotel was closed to guests. During a second inspection three days later further fire safety law breaches were discovered.

Charges brought against Mr Sandhu included:

  • A failure to have a suitable fire risk assessment.
  • A failure to ensure the premises was equipped with appropriate fire detectors and alarms
  • A failure to provide adequate emergency lighting
  • A failure to provide adequate training to staff

Mr Sandhu was sentenced to eight months in prison for each of the breaches, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

Steve Helps, Head of Prevention & Protection, said: “We always try to work positively with businesses to comply with fire safety regulation, but this case is a stark reminder of the consequences of failing to comply with those laws. Had a fire broken out in these premises then there can be little doubt that lives would have been lost. The sentence handed down by the judge should serve as a warning to any business of how seriously breaches of fire safety law are taken.”

A spokesperson from the hotel’s current owners, Saxon Hotels, said: “The Cutlers hotel was purchased from the administrators in January 2015 by Saxon Hotels. We would like to point out that Saxon Hotels has no connection at all to the previous owner. Saxon Hotels takes guest safety seriously and after purchase we undertook an extensive refurbishment and upgrading of the historic city centre hotel which included all aspects of fire and safety systems. We received full approval from the fire services and all other regulatory authorities in order to operate the renovated hotel and we re-opened in September 2015. We are proud to have restored this historic city centre hotel to its former glory and to be welcoming guests from across the world to stay with us and enjoy the city of Sheffield.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. A responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment and implement and maintain a fire management plan.

SYFR works closely with businesses to ensure they comply with the regulations and inspectors are available to offer practical advice and assistance in this area.

For more information on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and keeping premises safe from fire visit the Business Safety section of our website.