UK first fire funding scheme making thousands in South Yorkshire safer

A UK first fire service funding stream has made the lives of tens of thousands of South Yorkshire residents safer, a year after the first cash was handed out.

Around £500,000 was given to community groups, charities and other partners via South Yorkshire Fire Authority’s Safer Stronger Communities Reserve.

Under the groundbreaking scheme, groups were able to bid for as little as £5,000 or as much as £250,000 to support projects which reduce injuries, save lives and make South Yorkshire safer.

Key objectives for the fund include prioritising the most vulnerable, collaboration and data sharing. Highlights of the scheme which saw 19 different organisations receive money last year, included:

  • 3,000 baby room thermometers handed out to all expectant parents in Barnsley. The thermometers are specially designed to include display important messages about fire safety and smoke free homes, and could be adopted nationwide.
  • A cutting edge research project to help the fire service predict where fires are most likely to occur in the future. The research is being led by Sheffield Hallam University and University of Sheffield
  • A Doncaster Council led ‘Fakes Cause Fires’ campaign which is using posters, videos and pocket sized information cards to educate residents about the fire dangers associated with buying counterfeit goods
  • Accessible training sessions, workbooks, DVDs and other educational resources suitable for people with learning difficulties and autism, developed by Rotherham charity Speakup Self Advocacy
  • Sprinklers for vulnerable older people at a sheltered housing complex in Barnsley. The potentially life saving systems were fitted at Churchfields, owned by Berneslai Homes

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Jim Andrews, said: “All the year one funded projects are excellent examples of how a small level of financial support from the Fire Authority can enable local communities to make a real difference in improving fire safety. The fund was heavily over-subscribed last year and the 19 projects the Authority gave money to really were the best of the best. It’s brilliant to now be able to see many of those funded projects making tens of thousands of local people safer.”

Head of prevention and protection Steve Helps, said: “Fires have been falling steadily in South Yorkshire for many years and the county is safer now than it has been at any time in its history. But for as long as people continue to suffer the devastating effects of fires, there will always be more work to do.

“The best way for us to further reduce emergency incidents is to work with partners like those which have received funding over the last year. It’s these organisations which can help us reach the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

Applications for a second round of funding have just closed, with decisions on the next batch of funded partners expected to be made in July. The £2 million fund has been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

“A particular focus for us in coming years is the wider positive impact the fire and rescue service can make in our communities, particularly in terms of improving people’s health and wellbeing. Many of the schemes we’ve already funded reflect this aspiration.”

Big arson drop down to youth work success

Arson in South Yorkshire has halved in the last three years, with the fire service crediting its ongoing community interventions with the big drop in anti-social behaviour incidents.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue attended 2,527 small, deliberate incidents like bin and grass fires in 2014/15- half the number it attended three years ago (5,082). Twelve years ago, in 2003/04, the figure was even higher- 11,303.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue head of prevention and protection Steve Helps, said: “Deliberate fires still make up around three quarters of all the incidents we attend, but our ongoing arson reduction work continues to bring the numbers down.

“We are convinced that engaging with young people through targeted interventions like youth club work, education initiatives and fire station based learning projects is one of the best ways of building lasting, positive relationships which have long term benefits in terms of reducing these unnecessary incidents. This ensures our fire engines are available to attend life threatening incidents.”

Recent initiatives include a youth project held at Rotherham fire station, which aimed to highlight the consequences of anti-social behaviour and provide an intensive multi-agency work experience course to improve the life chances of the young people involved.

Arson cycle teams patrol known trouble spots during peak times of the year, speaking to youngsters about the consequences of arson.

Firefighters also deliver education packages to schools and safety teams visit youth clubs to deter fire setting.

Crews test response to chemical leak

A team of more than 30 firefighters has tested its response to a major chemical leak in South Yorkshire.

The live training exercise, held at an industrial site in Birley, Sheffield saw crews re-enact their response to a dangerous chemical spillage, with a scenario that included evacuations and multiple public and firefighter casualties.

Although incidents like this are extremely rare, officers say live training is the best way of topping up the skills of firefighters, making sure they are fully prepared to respond to any type of incident in the future.

Station manager Mark Wilkinson, said: “Our firefighters could be asked to respond to a massive range of incidents at any time of the day or night. It’s not just fires we deal with, so it’s important we look at our response to lots of different scenarios.

“Fortunately, chemical incidents as serious as the one we tested our response to today are very rare. But it’s important we test all of the plans we have in place to deal with something like this in case the worst does happen.

“Going through plans on paper is one thing, but often the only way of really testing our decision making ability is to re-enact the incident in a live environment. I’m pleased to say our crews came through this particular training exercise with flying colours.”

Fire sprinklers for Barnsley sheltered housing

Older people at sheltered accommodation in Barnsley are to benefit from the installation of new fire safety measures, thanks to a fire service funded initiative.

Churchfields Sheltered housing, part of Berneslai Homes, has been awarded funding for the retrofitting of automatic fire sprinklers. The project will greatly improve the safety of the people living in the building.

Fire sprinklers can have a massive impact on the effects of a fire including saving lives, reducing injury, protecting firefighters who attend the incidents and reducing the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire.

The project won £49,500 from the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s funding scheme, the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve.

The fund saw dozens of registered charities, community organisations and partner agencies come forward and apply for grants from the £2 million fund, which had been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

Roger Brason, Sprinkler Advocate at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue said, “Automatic fire sprinklers are most effective during the initial stage of a fire occurring, as a properly installed sprinkler will detect the flames heat, initiate an alarm, and activate just moments after the flames appear and can quickly suppress a fire before it gets out of control”

Berneslai Homes Community Buildings Manager Jill Barker said, “We were delighted to hear that we had been awarded funding towards fitting a sprinkler system in one of our sheltered housing schemes. They are an excellent way of protecting both people and buildings from the effects of a fire.”

New Assistant Fire Chief for South Yorkshire

We have appointed a new Assistant Chief Fire Officer following an extensive recruitment process.

Martin Blunden joins us with more than 20 years experience across three different fire and rescue services, having started his career in Buckinghamshire in 1994. Most recently, he has been Area Commander at Herfordshire Fire & Rescue.

Martin, aged 47, has also acted as a project lead for the Chief Fire Officer’s Association (CFOA), helping to ensure that learning from incidents that firefighters attend is identified and shared effectively.

Fire Authority Chairman Jim Andrews said, “The Authority is delighted to announce the appointment of Martin Blunden as Assistant Chief Fire Officer here in South Yorkshire. Martin brings with him a wealth of experience and will be a tremendous addition to the service’s executive team. The Authority looks forward to working with Martin in the future and maintaining the highest standards of service to the communities of South Yorkshire.”

South Yorkshire hosts GIS conference

We have hosted a major national data and mapping conference attended by fire services throughout the UK.

Faced with reduced budgets and changing demands, many fire services are recognising the key role that geographic information systems (GIS) can play in supporting smarter working.

GIS is a cost-effective solution which helps organisations in both the public and private sectors maximise their investment in geographic information by making it easier to share data between people and systems.

The system can illustrate response times from fire stations to incidents and assist the service with staffing and rostering issues by plotting the times from individual homes to stations.

The 2015 Cadcorp Fire Conference showcased the latest developments in GIS systems and discovered how they can aid the sharing of local knowledge.

SYFR Watch Manager Graham Howe, said: “Events like this are an important way for fire services to come together and learn how to make the most of the benefits systems like this can provide, ultimately helping to improve outcomes for the communities we are here to protect.

“It was an honour for South Yorkshire to once again be chosen as hosts for the event, which has fast become a ‘must attend’ event for many UK fire service intelligence teams.”

Stevenage-based Cadcorp is a UK based developer and supplier of GIS and web mapping software.

Firefighters put through their paces at live Rotherham training exercise

Firefighters have held a training exercise in Rotherham, testing their ability to respond to a large incident at an industrial premises in the town.

Dozens of firefighters took part in the ‘live’ training at Culina Ambient, Hellaby which was designed to test the plans that are in place to deal with an incident on the site.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue regularly carries out training exercises at commercial premises across the county, to rehearse how it would respond to an emergency on the sites, some of which are required by law to test their contingency plans.

Partners including Yorkshire Ambulance Service, South Yorkshire Police, Environment Agency, Rotherham Council and Public Health England also took part in the exercise, helping the fire service to test how effectively it works alongside other emergency services.

Station manager Dave Scully, said: “Exercises such as this are vitally important for two reasons. First, they give our crews excellent experience of dealing with, bringing realistic scenarios to life in real time. Second, they help both us and the business to test the procedures that we have in place to deal with a major emergency on their site.”

“How we work alongside our emergency service partners- known as interoperability- is another important aspect to training like this, as there is much we can continue to learn from one another about our ways of responding to incidents.”

Sprinklers to be installed in 540 Sheffield homes

The fire service is working alongside Sheffield City Council to make hundreds of properties in the city safer by installing lifesaving sprinkler systems.

The partnership project between South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and Sheffield City Council, which is a first in the UK, will see over 540 properties at four locations around Sheffield receive the purpose built automated equipment.

Flats at Gleadless Valley, Westfield, Stannington and Netherthorpe are being targeted to dramatically improve fire safety measures for residents.

One hundred homes have already benefited from the project that started in November, with the rest of the retrofitted installations planned to be in place by September 2015.

Technical fire safety manager Amy Jenkinson, said: “The combination of working smoke alarms and a home sprinkler system reduces the risk of death from fire by more than 80%.

“Automatic fire sprinklers are most effective during the initial stage of a fire occurring, as a properly installed sprinkler will detect the flames heat, initiate an alarm, and activate just moments after the flames appear.

“I would encourage everyone who receives a letter about the work to call the number provided as soon as possible so access can be arranged to carry out this essential work. The quicker the project is completed, the faster everybody’s safety is improved.”

A Sheffield Council spokesperson, said: “We are working hard to make sure that our tenants and leaseholders are ‘fire safe’ and fully aware of the dangers a fire can bring, especially in flats and maisonettes.

“The fire suppression and sprinkler projects are a part of a large four year investment programme for council housing in the city; to ensure tenants are safe in their homes.”

This project follows the successful retrofitting of an automated sprinkler system at the Callow Mount block of flats in Gleadless, a scheme that was also a first in UK, which is now internationally recognised for the improved safety it offers the people living within the building.

The Chief Fire Officer’s Association (CFOA) campaigns nationally to raise awareness of the benefits of sprinklers to businesses and educational establishments.

Plans submitted for joint Maltby police and fire base

We have submitted a planning application to enable firefighters to share Maltby police station with South Yorkshire Police.

The proposal, which would see the existing Maltby fire station close, won Government Transformation Funding of £560,000 last year. The move would save both the Police and the Fire Service money by sharing building running costs, enabling funding to be targeted at frontline services.

The move would also shift fire service resources around a mile closer to the east side of Rotherham, which traditionally accounts for a greater volume of emergency incidents compared to lower risk areas to the east of Maltby.

If the plans are approved by Rotherham Council, it is hoped to begin work in early 2016 converting the Police station to be suitable for fire service use, with the move to take place in the summer of 2016.

ARC of success for Rotherham youth project

Young people in Rotherham have passed out with flying colours, after completing a rigorous fire station course aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour in the borough.

The youngsters, aged 13-17, took part in a Achieving Respect and Confidence (ARC) course, a joint initiative between South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, Rotherham Council and other partner agencies including South Yorkshire Police.

The project’s aim is to highlight the consequences of anti-social behaviour and provide an intensive multi-agency work experience course, instilling discipline, team spirit, fire safety awareness, life skills and values which will improve the life chances of the young people involved.

The course is aimed at young people who have offended, are at risk of offending or have been victims of crime.

Activities included a self-defence class and fire drills run by firefighters at Rotherham fire station, which hosted the week long course and the young people were supported by staff from Integrated Youth Support Services to enable them to attend and complete. Youngsters were also visited by serving prisoners, to talk to them about the potential consequences of crime and anti-social behaviour.

The passing out parade which marked the end of the project was held in front of the youngster’s family members and dignitaries including the Mayor of Rotherham, John Foden.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s youth engagement officer Keith Watts, said: “The input from the other agencies has been critical in encouraging these young people to think about their behaviour and through discipline and teamwork, make positive choices towards improving their life chances.

“We’ve been running courses like this successfully for several years now and their effectiveness is borne out through a steady reduction in the number of anti-social behaviour related fires our crews are having to attend.”