Fire service launches staff exhibition to mark Black History Month

An exhibition that pays homage to, and highlights, the diverse heritage of fire service staff has been unveiled today (Monday 30 September).

The showcase has been organised by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue as part of Black History Month and celebrates the achievements of staff with African and Caribbean heritage.

It features portrait photographs of 11 employees past and present – ranging from retired firefighters to support staff – that will be exhibited at various locations across Sheffield.

These locations include the Winter Gardens, Moor Market and Sheffield Train Station, with the service hoping the display will inspire the next generation of firefighters.

“We couldn’t be prouder of our staff, and their rich heritage, and wanted to do something special to celebrate their contributions to the service and those we serve,” said Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“We also wanted to show support to the Black History Month initiative and South Yorkshire’s black communities, at the same time as showing that anyone can be anything in the fire service – regardless of their background.

“The exhibition is about recognising staff of the past, and present, and inspiring the next generation of firefighters, as we strive to ensure our workforce fully reflects the diversity of the communities we serve.”

The photos have been taken by Orestes Rix, a member of the service’s finance team who specialises in portrait photography outside of his day job.

They have been printed onto foam boards and will be showcased on easels as they travel round the city. Their first outing will be at a launch event hosted at the Showroom Workstation, on Paternoster Row.

One of the staff members featured is Elm Lane Station Manager, Delroy Galloway, who has helped organise the exhibition as well as being photographed.

He said: “Over the last few years we’ve done some amazing work around supporting underrepresented groups within the fire service, so it’s really good to be able to carry that work on and get behind Black History Month in a meaningful way.

“People with African and Carribean backgrounds are currently underrepresented within the fire service nationally. We aim to change that through projects such as this one, as well as shine a light on some very deserving colleagues.”

The exhibition will visit the following locations, on the following dates:

Ponds Forge: Tuesday 1 – Sunday 6 October
Winter Gardens: Monday 7 – Tuesday 8 October
Moor Market: Wednesday 9 – Wednesday 16 October
Sheffield Train Station: Thursday 17 – Thursday 24 October

You can see the photos below:

Details on each person, and more about this project, can be found in this booklet.

Surge in home safety check referrals following older person campaign

A campaign to make older people across South Yorkshire safer has contributed to a huge increase in home safety check bookings, according to the fire service.

Find The Time, the latest safety push from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, was launched on Mother’s Day earlier this year.

It encouraged people with friends, relatives and neighbours over 60 to pay them a visit and make sure they were OK and safe from fire.

It also asked partner agencies to consider whether the people they were dealing with, be it for health or housing reasons, needed a visit from fire crews.

Driven by data that showed most people dying in accidental house fires were over 60-years-old, the campaign ran throughout April, May, June and July.

The service received 2433 home safety check referrals from partner agencies during that time – 736 and 43 per cent more than the previous year.

There was also an increase in the number of visits organised following calls, from the public, into the service’s hotline – 189 more than the previous year.

This resulted in a 41 per cent increase in the number of home safety checks completed compared to last year – 3941 to 5560.

“A big part of making South Yorkshire safer and stronger means focusing our efforts on those who need us the most, which is what this campaign was all about,” said Group Manager Simon Dunker, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“To see such a big increase in home safety check referrals, from partners and the public, is a really good outcome for us. It means we can get into people’s homes and minimise, as much as possible, their risk of having a fire.

“And whilst the campaign might be over, the message still stands, as our figures show that people over 60-years-old tend to be more at risk of fire. Check up on your loved ones, make sure they’re OK and if you have any fire safety concerns, get in touch.”

As part of the campaign, the fire service developed a ‘grandparent check’ that helps people ascertain whether or not their relatives are at risk.

The check asks about things such as smoking, mobility issues and living alone – all three of which can increase someone’s risk of fire.

For more information visit our dedicated Find The Time page.

Fire Authority helps fund sprinklers for Sheffield flats

People living in two Sheffield tower blocks will now be safer from fire than ever thanks to sprinklers that have been part funded by South Yorkshire’s Fire & Rescue Authority.

The life-saving devices have been installed at Queen Anne Court and Queen Elizabeth Court, located on Raeburn Place.

Each block homes 48 self-contained flats – 96 in total – that are occupied by people over 55-years-old with a range of disability and mobility issues.

The majority of the installation cost has been covered by the housing provider, Places For People, but councillors have offered a contribution from the service’s Safer Stronger Communities Reserve.

“We’re here to make South Yorkshire a safer and stronger place for everyone – particularly those who are more vulnerable than others,” said Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“The average age of people within these flats is 71-years-old and, having already worked with Places For People to advise on the sprinkler installation, we’re really pleased that members of the authority have agreed to provide part-funding for the project.

“These devices have a long life span and we hope they will continue to protect residents of these two tower blocks for many years to come.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has been championing the installation of sprinklers for many years and is one of the leading fire services in the country for its pioneering use of sprinklers in high-risk accommodation – having led a UK first project to retrofit a system at Callow Mount in Gleadless.

“Research has shown that these devices protect property, reduce death and injury from fire, reduce costs of fire and disruption to businesses and lower insurance costs,” said Roger Brason, the service’s sprinkler advocate.

“We were only too happy to help Places For People get sprinklers installed at these two flats – especially given that the occupants have varying levels of vulnerability. It’s great to know that these people will have the highest level of fire protection available moving forward.”

Fire service issues safety warning after risk assessor prosecuted

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has welcomed the prosecution of a fire risk assessor, saying it proves that there are consequences for failing to comply with safety laws.

David Thompson of Toftwood Health & Safety Solutions was fined £750 and ordered to pay a £170 surcharge and £1,000 costs at Sheffield Magistrates Court on Friday (23 August) for failing to provide a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

Thompson pleaded guilty to the offence under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The offence related to a risk assessment carried out at Hexagon student accommodation on Rockingham Lane, Sheffield.

Ashgate Property Developments Ltd had already been fined £36,000 at an earlier hearing for three separate offences relating to the same premises.

In summing up this case, the judge said that competence is knowing when you yourself aren’t able to do something – and that risk assessors should recognise the limits of their experience and expertise.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “This verdict should serve as a stark warning to building owners that people carrying out fire risk assessments should be competent and able to properly consider all of the risks within buildings, particular where people’s lives could be placed at risk.

“The sentence in this case proves that people will rightly be held to account if risk assessments are found to be insufficient.”

Anyone with queries regarding business fire safety can contact the service’s specialist inspection team here.

Rossington community now safer thanks to joint effort

People in Rossington now have access to a new life-saving piece of equipment thanks to a joint effort from the fire service and local parish council.

The new piece of kit, a public access defibrillator, was installed on the outside of Rossington fire station earlier this month – and is now the third of its kind in the village.

It was purchased by the parish council and then donated to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, with plans now afoot to identify other stations in Doncaster that could host this equipment.

“Clearly the more defibrillators we can have, in and around our communities, the better,” said Doncaster’s Group Manager, Shayne Tottie.

“We’re really pleased with this partnership and although we hope nobody ever has to use it, we’re glad to have made it three defibrillators in the Rossington village.

“I’d like to thank the parish council for donating this equipment to us and we’re now looking at other stations in the district where we could do something similar.

“Fighting fires is a key part of what we do, but it’s definitely not the only thing we do. Our vision is to make South Yorkshire a safer and stronger place and this new piece of kit definitely does that.”

Should it be needed the defibrillator can be accessed with a code provided by Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s 999 call handlers.

Statistics show that if a defibrillator is used within one minute of someone collapsing then their survival rate increases to 90 percent.

Anyone can use the equipment as there are clear instructions on how to attach the pads – with the machine itself then telling you if and when to administer a shock.

Community safety projects deliver huge returns for South Yorkshire public

Work done by the service’s joint fire and police community safety team has saved society millions of pounds, in addition to making people safer, a report says.

Produced by a team of social return on investment experts, the report looks at different areas of work carried out by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police in recent years.

One of these projects is the fire service’s ‘Home Safety Visit’ scheme that, according to the findings, generates a potential £15 saving to society for every pound spent.

This is based on the economic cost to society of house fires and injuries – which are reduced as a result of safety visits – in comparison to the cost of the visits themselves.

The fire service’s ‘Safe & Well Check’ scheme was also evaluated in the report, as was ‘Think Family’ – a programme that targets the families of young people involved in arson.

These two initiatives have saved £30 and £25 for every pound spent on them, respectively, with the five areas of work examined estimated to have saved society around £30 million in total.

“Our community safety staff work tirelessly all year round and clearly we’re really pleased with the results of this study,” said Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the service’s joint police and fire community safety department.

“We’ve been able to see the success of our work in recent years through incident reductions but it’s really good for us to see what financial benefits have been brought about for local people.

“The reality is that the incidents we attend don’t just affect us. An arson attack, for example, affects our communities, our colleagues at the police, the court services and of course the owner of the property which has been damaged – be it on public land, such as in a park, or on private land.

“Then you take a house fire where someone’s been injured. Not only does it affect us but the ambulance service and local hospitals will be involved, too, as they will often spend thousands of pounds providing immediate care and long-term rehabilitation for those affected.

“There’s then the cost of repairing damage caused to the property and the effects on the occupants who may have to have time off work.

“By reducing incidents through the work the joint department has done we’ve not only been able to make South Yorkshire safer, but we’ve been able to save the public purse a lot of money, and we’re really proud of that.”

The other schemes evaluated in the study were Crucial Crew and the service’s programme of school presentations – of which there are three different types dependent on age group.

Crucial Crew, which is led by South Yorkshire Police staff, sees 16,000 year six school children spend a day at the Lifewise Centre in Rotherham each year – where they are taught about the impact of anti-social behaviour, cyber crime, arson and citizenship, along with much more.

The aim of this project is to build good relationships between children and police, prevent young people from being a victim of crime and also prevent them from getting involved in crime.

The research found that this saved £10 for every pound spent – as did the fire service’s programme of educational school visits.

Fire service asks for public help after hottest summer on record

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is asking the public to help reduce needless grass, garden and bin fires this summer after last year’s record heat led to a huge spike in incidents.

The service is today, Monday 22 July, launching its ‘Do Your Bit’ campaign to tie in with the six-week holidays – which figures show is prime time for these types of fire.

As part of the campaign fire officers are asking people to be extra careful with barbeques, hold off on garden bonfires and take specific action to reduce the risk of arson in their areas.

This includes only taking wheelie bins out on the morning of collection, rather than leaving them out overnight, ensuring streets and parks are clear of loose rubbish and reporting suspicious behaviour to South Yorkshire Police on 101.

It is hoped that, combined with a range of prevention work that the service has already done around this issue, the campaign will result in a reduction in incidents during the summer period and, ultimately, less strain on resources.

“This campaign ties together a lot of work that is being done across South Yorkshire – including arson prevention patrols by our fire crews and a programme of ‘light nights’ school visits by our community safety team,” said Station Manager Matt Gillatt, who works within the joint police and fire community safety department.

“Last summer was great for so many reasons but it was also unusually busy for us as a service. We were called to 1,560 deliberate secondary fires (grass, rubbish, bins, scrubland) in July and August alone – which is well over double the 692 we attended the year before.

“This is just one incident type, too. On top of the secondary fires are things like vehicle and accidental garden fires – and of course we’ve still got things like road traffic collisions, house fires and water rescues to deal with.

“Whilst we can’t control the weather we’re keen to try and crack down on some of these incidents – as clearly small fires all have the potential to spread and put people at risk. Fortunately, our insight suggests that many of them could have been prevented.

“This is why we’re asking the public for their help – by taking our advice and being a bit more vigilant around fire during hot weather we think people can make a real difference.”

As well as the arson prevention patrols and school visits, the service will be releasing a series of videos during the summer showing the impact that these incidents have on staff.

Firefighters will also be working with farmers to ensure they have adequate arson prevention measures in place, and that they know what to do should a fire hit.

Key advice to the public is:

  • Don’t leave wheelie bins out overnight and keep gardens and streets free of rubbish
  • Don’t have bonfires during warm weather and be careful with disposable barbeques – not just when using them but when binning them too
  • Report arson to the police and speak to your kids about the dangers of fire-setting

Reporting fly-tipping:

Fly-tipping is a problem for us. Loose rubbish, large or small, can be a target for arsonists. It also makes your local area look untidy.

Advice leaflet:

Service re-launches smoke alarm reminder service

People can now opt to receive free weekly reminders to test their smoke alarms thanks to an initiative kick-started today, Monday 8 July, by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

The service has just refreshed its website, www.pressthebutton.co.uk, where people can opt into alerts either via Twitter, text or email.

Hundreds of people signed up to get the reminders when the website was first launched, a number of years ago, and it is hoped that more people will now follow suit.

“We’ve been asking people to regularly test their smoke alarms for quite some time now, but we’re very aware that everyone has extremely busy lives,” said Station Manager Matt Gillatt, from the joint police and fire community safety team.

“With everything going on smoke alarm testing can easily be forgotten – even if it does only take a second and can potentially save your life.

“Our dream is that everyone tests their smoke alarm each week, without fail, and our hope is that this reminder service helps bring us closer to fulfilling that dream.”

Visitors to the website are asked to input their name and either a phone number, email address or Twitter handle – they can then choose to get weekly or monthly reminders.

The service in South Yorkshire recommends weekly and, according to Matt, the majority of people signed up at present choose to get their reminders via email.

“Smoke alarms give you an early warning should a fire hit and have been responsible not only for saving multiple lives across our county in recent years, but also for helping limit damage to people’s homes.

“Whilst protecting life is what we’re here for, it’s important to remember that getting hurt isn’t the only risk that fire poses. A house fire, even where nobody is involved, can turn your life around and be a huge inconvenience.

“I’d highly recommend people take a few minutes to opt in to these reminders and, when you get them each week, you act on the prompt.”

The re-launch comes after a Sheffield woman credited working smoke alarms for her escape from a fire that gutted her flat, on Park Grange Croft, in November last year.

Patricia Proctor was just about to get in the shower at around 10.30am, on Friday 30 November, when her smoke alarms – which had been fitted by the fire service only weeks before – went off.

Unable to see the fire herself, which was developing in a boiler cupboard and starting to spread within her walls, Patricia thought the alarms may just be sounding as a test – until her neighbours, and subsequently her son, knocked on the door and got her out of the property.

The 80-year-old, who had been referred to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue by Age UK in September last year, said: “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know or see that it was a fire, I didn’t know you could have electrical fires in boiler cupboards.

“I thought everyone had smoke alarms but you can see why they put them in, if you’ve not got them. They don’t just do it for no reason.”

You can sign up for the free reminders at www.pressthebutton.co.uk.

Firefighters praise new lifesaving equipment for pets

Pets across the county are now safer than ever thanks to a new type of oxygen mask on our fire engines.

In partnership with the non-profit organisation, Smokey Paws, each of our fire appliances have now been equipped with a pet oxygen mask.

As a nation of animal lovers, we want the best for our pets, especially in the event of a fire. Smoke inhalation from a fire is just as much a risk with pets as their human owners. Until now firefighters have used the same oxygen mask for pets as people.

These new masks- largely made possible in South Yorkshire by donations from Aqua Vet Hydroherapy- are specially designed to fit over the snout of an animal and come in three different sizes to deliver a better flow of oxygen to the animal, increasing their chance of survival.

Smokey Paws was created by Lynn Carberry and her husband Brian Lockyer, in Weston-super-Mare and have provided critical, pet life-saving oxygen masks to the UK’s fire services.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has attended 133 house fires over the past five years which have involved pets.

At the beginning of June our fire crews attended a house fire in Sheffield where a dog was rescued, firefighters successfully used a Smokey Paws mask to revive the dog.

Station Manager Wayne Sutcliffe said; “We attend many house fires where pets are involved, in the past we have used normal oxygen masks to attempt to revive them.

“Thankfully with the supply of these specifically designed masks we will now be able to save even more beloved family pets.”

A spokesperson for Smokey Paws said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped our campaign, working towards our mission of making sure every UK fire engine is equipped with our masks, with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service now fully equipped thanks to kind donations.

“To hear that these masks have already made a difference in the area reinforces their importance and spurs us on to complete our mission!”

Fire service steps up as part of national water safety week

Local firefighters will be visiting lakes and reservoirs across the county next week, commencing Monday 17 June, as South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue turns its attention to water safety and drowning prevention.

The work comes as the service gives its backing to a national Drowning Prevention Week – which is being spearheaded by The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK).

Collectively SYFR, and RLSS UK, want to try and reduce the 700 drownings that occur across the UK and Ireland each year.

During the course of the week crews will be visiting water sites that they have previously attended, and that have been identified by the public through an online campaign.

Whilst there they will be identifying any potential risks and outlining what preventative measures could be put in place at each location.

Station Manager Tom Hirst, who has been organising the service’s activity, is hoping that the work being done will help make South Yorkshire’s water sites safer for local people.

“Water rescues are one of the many incident types we attend and, sadly, we’ve had a number of calls in recent years where people have drown in open bodies of water,” he said.

“Even in hot weather, when people start to get attracted to lakes and reservoirs, water can be freezing cold and, as such, extremely dangerous.

“Our ambition is to try and stop drownings altogether but, of course, that will require a strong collective effort. That work starts this week.

“We’ve got a long list of sites, right across the county, that we’ll be visiting – and risk assessing. We can then identify places that might benefit from things such as security fencing, floatation equipment and warning signage.”

As well as being supported by local crews, the service’s community safety teams will be visiting local schools and youth groups to explain the dangers of playing in, or near, water.

“Our advice for the public, especially with summer coming, is to just be extra careful around open water. Unless you’re part of an authorised open water swimming group, keep out of it.

“Even if it looks nice and appealing, you have no idea how cold it is, what lies beneath the water or indeed what water borne bacteria and diseases might be in the water itself.”

According to officers, the dangers of unauthorised swimming in open water include it being much deeper and colder than people might think, the presence of diseases and bacteria in the water and the stuff – such as trollies, weeds and hidden currents – that might lie beneath.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has recently launched its new ‘Float To Live’ campaign, which encourages anyone who gets caught in open water to fight the urge to swim and focus on floating until help arrives.