South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
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Service launches ‘trailblazing’ virtual safety check service

Artificial intelligence is set to supercharge the way safety advice is delivered to the public, following the launch of a new service by fire officers in South Yorkshire.

Today, Wednesday 21 July, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has launched a brand new system that allows local residents to get a virtual fire safety check from the comfort of their own homes.

All people have to do is text a number from their mobile phones, or scan a QR code, and they will be asked a series of questions on things such as smoke alarms and electricals.

They will be walked through the whole process by an artificial intelligence system that will give immediate feedback and, if necessary, ask them to book an in-person safety visit.

As well as asking questions and giving feedback, the system will urge participants to check various appliances around the home and ensure they are safe with things such as ovens.

It’s thought that this virtual check is the first of its kind not only for the UK fire services, but for fire services right across the world, and fire officers believe it will help them them on their mission to make South Yorkshire as safe from fire as possible.

“We are really excited about this new feature and know it’s going to make thousands of people safer in their homes – which is what our service is all about,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“These virtual checks will allow people to assess their own fire risk and get potentially life-saving safety advice, all through a mobile phone, and in the comfort of their own homes.

“To be clear, we have no intention of using this new technology to replace or reduce our current in-person home safety check provision – this is vital work which we will carry on.

“The virtual check service is an extra string to our community safety bow which is ideal for households who are generally at low risk from fire, but would still like some reassurance.

“I’d encourage everyone to scan the code or text the number and answer the different questions you are sent – as well as giving immediate feedback the system will also tell you if we think you need an in-person check from our crews.”

It’s estimated the check will take people around five minutes to complete and advice will be offered on any areas where there are causes for concern.

Should the system feel the person is high risk and in need of an in-person visit, they will be invited to request one via the service’s website.

The virtual safety check has been developed in partnership with Hello Lamp Post, a company specialising in using artificial intelligence to support public sector organisations and the communities they serve.

“We’re incredibly proud to be partnering with a Fire and Rescue Service – and we’re delighted that South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue are the first to start this journey with us,” said Tiernan Mines, CEO & Co-Founder at Hello Lamp Post.

“It’s brilliant to see the service embracing innovative digital tools to support its community, and we look forward to helping them take their engagement and communication to the next level.”

You can access the service by messaging ‘HELLO FIRE SERVICE’ to 07862 126663.

You can find out more about Hello Lamp Post on their website, here. 

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Firefighters to start delivering vaccines across Sheffield

Firefighters from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) will be supporting Sheffield GP practices by delivering COVID-19 vaccines.

This comes just over a month after a number of fire service volunteers were trained up as vaccinators by St John Ambulance, and is part of a huge national effort from fire services across the country to help with the pandemic response.

The agreement – struck by Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson, and leaders at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group – will see firefighters and fire service support staff giving vaccinations at practices across the city.

Fire and rescue staff have already delivered more than 250,000 vaccines nationally, but local bosses say they are keen to get this number even higher and help protect people across South Yorkshire from the virus.

“Our purpose is to make South Yorkshire safer and stronger, which is why since the start of the pandemic we have stood ready, willing and able to help in any way we can,” said the service’s Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“So far we have delivered food and medicine to isolated people, distributed 1.3 million pieces of PPE to frontline health workers and worked with military planners to identify vaccination sites, but we want to do more.

“That’s why we have supported our staff to get vaccinator training, thanks to St John Ambulance, and why we have offered our help to the CCG in Sheffield.

“The vaccination programme is a huge national effort and, whilst I’m really proud that my staff have stood up and offered to contribute, I’m not at all surprised – as a service we exist to help people in need and that is exactly what we are doing here.”

Alun Windle, Chief Nurse and Covid Vaccination Lead at NHS Sheffield CCG, said: “We are really pleased to have South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service on board helping deliver the vaccination programme in Sheffield.

“Vaccines offer us the best chance of returning to normal and relaxing lockdown restrictions for good, it’s vital we keep on vaccinating people. The support from SYFR will help us reach the target to offer all adults their first vaccination by 31 July.”

The request for support from SYFR came from the CCG at a meeting of the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum on Thursday 27 May.

The forum is made up of public agencies from right across South Yorkshire – including fire, police and health services – and members have met every week since the start of the pandemic to co-ordinate the local response.

People aged 30 and over are now being invited for vaccination, if you’re aged 30 and over have yet to have your vaccination you can book online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by contacting 119. If you’re aged over 50, have a long term condition or are a health and social care worker you can also contact your GP to book.

The service’s core 999 response will not be affected by this work.

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Services come together to offer blue light advice for road users

Fire services across Yorkshire are re-iterating their advice to road users on what to do when coming across blue light vehicles, with more cars now on the roads due to lockdown restrictions easing.

Stay calm, pull over safely and give as much room as possible is the key message from the four brigades – South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Humberside.

Drivers are also being urged not to perform emergency stops in the middle of a road. This, the services say, can end up slowing emergency vehicles down or even bring them to a complete halt.

“People’s response to blue light vehicles is generally amazing, and I thank anyone who has ever pulled over to let us pass, but it’s really important that people do it in the right way,” said South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Station Manager, Wayne Sutcliffe.

“The last thing we need when trying to get to an incident is a collision with a vehicle so, with more cars now returning to our roads due to lockdown restrictions easing, we thought this would be a pretty good time to re-iterate our advice.

“Our key ask is that people stay calm and pull over safely to give us a route through but, as well as being safe, it’s important people follow the Highway Code too – mounting kerbs is definitely not advised, nor is crossing double white lines or going through red lights.

“There’s a really good Blue Light Aware video that explains the reasoning behind all of these things and I’d highly recommend all drivers take a few minutes to watch and understand it.”

The Highway Code states that drivers should give way to blue light vehicles but should avoid moving through a red light, moving into a bus lane or entering a yellow box junction.

Motorists are also advised not to tailgate blue light vehicles once they have passed as this puts the driver, other road users and those within the emergency vehicle at risk.

“Really this is about being calm and sensible. We need room, and we need to get through, but we don’t need or want people breaking laws and crashing their cars,” Wayne added.

“What we also need is for people to park sensibly, too. Double parking can be a huge problem, particularly for the fire service, and I’d encourage everyone to just stop and think, each time they pull up, whether or not we’d be able to get through the gap they’re leaving.”

The Blue Light Aware video, produced by GEM Motoring Assist, can be viewed on their website – here: www.bluelightaware.org.uk.

It is widely regarded by police, fire and ambulance services across the country as an essential watch for all UK motorists.

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Fire service asks for public help with arson crack down

Firefighters across South Yorkshire are asking the public to help them crack down on deliberate fires across the county, by reporting incident details to a dedicated new fire line.

In response to the 3900 deliberate fire incidents they were called to in last year, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has joined up with an arm of the national charity, Crimestoppers.

FireStoppers, which works in the same way as Crimestoppers, allows the public to anonymously report any information they have on deliberate fire-setting.

This can be done by calling a dedicated phone number, 0800 169 5558, or by using an online form – www.firestoppersreport.co.uk. Once reported, the details will be anonymised and used as part of fire and police investigations.

The service says it hopes the new initiative will help reduce call-outs, protect public property and keep people safe – as well as having environmental benefits too.

“We’ve made great strides in terms of reducing house fires over the last 10 years, but nearly 4000 deliberate fires in one year is 4000 too many,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“We want to show people that we are taking this issue seriously and we also felt we needed to provide people a safe, anonymous route to report details of arson attacks to us.

“Other fire services across the country have successfully reduced deliberate fire setting by up to 20 percent through this service, and we’re hoping it will have a positive impact here.

“Our ask of the public is simple – if you know anything about deliberate fire-setting in your area then please report it via the FireStoppers line and help us crack down on these fires.”

This latest fire service campaign comes after firefighters were called out to 3945 deliberate fires across South Yorkshire last year.

Figures show that Doncaster was the worst hit area, with 1116, followed by Rotherham with 1053, Barnsley with 989 and Sheffield with 787.

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Fire service makes water safety plea

South Yorkshire’s fire service is asking people to stay out of water this summer, unless they are part of an organised open water swimming group.

The message comes as part of a national week of action, run from Monday 26 April to Monday 3 May by the National Fire Chief’s Council, in which fire services across the country are urging people to stay safe near water.

Firefighters hope that by joining forces, and gaining support of partners such as the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), they can reduce the 144 water rescues and incidents they attended last year.

This push also comes less than a year after the family of local teenager, Taylor Matthews, shared their tragic story in hope of saving other young lives.

Taylor, also known as Tay, drowned in Doncaster’s Skelbrooke Quarry in July 2018. He was out with friends when he jumped in from a bank around 30 feet high.

As soon as he entered the water, he suffered from cold water shock, which saw his body shut down. The inquest into his death ruled that he died from immersion.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, what happened to Taylor was a tragedy, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Watch Manager Craig Huxley, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s (SYFR) lead for water safety.

“That’s why we’re supporting this week of action, and will be campaigning around water safety over the coming months as the weather warms up.

“Our message is simple – people should stay out of the water unless they are part of an open water swimming group, of which there are several in and around South Yorkshire.

“Unless you are part of one of these groups, you shouldn’t be going anywhere near open bodies of water such as quarries, lakes and reservoirs.

“To start with, lots of these places are privately owned, so people shouldn’t be going there anyway. Then, beyond that, there are a wide range of risks with jumping into open water.

“Firstly, the water is almost always colder than it looks. As was the case with Taylor, your body can temporarily shut down from cold water shock which can stop even strong swimmers.

“Secondly, you don’t know what’s under the surface. There could be anything such as trollies, broken glass or plastic and reeds that can trap you.

“Finally, there are often hidden currents in bodies of water that can overpower even the strongest of swimmers. It’s just not worth the risk.”

In the run up to the week of action, officers from SYFR have developed a range of water safety videos that have been sent into primary and secondary schools across the county.

The service has also joined up with the RLSS UK to develop a range of education and safety materials, including the development of a dedicated water safety website – www.syfrwater.co.uk.

This website features a range of information on how to keep you, your friends and your family safe, and also features interactive games for children.

Lee Heard, Charity Director for the Royal Life Saving Society UK, said:

“We know how tempting it is to jump in to cool off on a hot day, but the difference between the air temperature and the water temperature will literally take your breath away and dramatically reduce your ability to self-rescue.

“Swimming with a group at a recognised site is just one of many ways you can really have fun in the water, safe in the knowledge that the set-up is designed to look out for all of you.

“RLSS UK urge people to learn to enjoy water safely before they head out, ensuring everyone has a great day.”

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Service busts open firefighting myths with bold new women’s day campaign

“Not fit enough. Not strong enough. Not brave enough.”

These are just three of the myths around women in the fire service that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has set out to bust as part of its latest International Women’s Day campaign.

With a brand new video launched today, Monday 8 March, the service is looking to celebrate its current group of female firefighters, control operators and support staff.

It’s also trying to encourage and empower women who have previously considered a role within the fire service but been put off by traditional stereotypes.

This comes ahead of a round of full-time firefighter recruitment process that will be opening up, for budding firefighters across South Yorkshire, this summer.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again but, whilst I’m proud of how far we’ve come in recent years, there is still a long way to go to fully dispel the long-standing myth that firefighting is a job for men,” said South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), and the Choose To Challenge theme, provides us with the perfect opportunity to do that. We want to make it totally clear that women are fit enough, strong enough and brave enough to do this job.

“We’ve been doing it for years already and we’re here to stay. The fantastic women within my service, a small handful of which are featured in our video and up-coming podcast, are living and breathing examples of that.

“So if you’re a woman who has long considered applying for a career in the fire service, but perhaps needed a little nudge, then consider this that nudge. As South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer, with 30 years’ service, I’ve done it, and so can you.”

As well as launching its new video, the service is set to release a special IWD episode of its podcast series, Shout, later this week.

The ‘pod’ features Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, Watch Managers Kirsty Wright and Caz Whiteman and Firefighter Helena Rooke.

Following the same ‘Choose To Challenge’ theme, the feature length episode sees the group breaking down old stereotypes and sharing their career experiences to date.

It’s hoped that the service’s latest show of support for International Women’s Day will boost the number of women registering their interest in fire service careers.

This can be done here via the service’s website – with those who register their interest in firefighting jobs the first to know about any future recruitment.

Last year, the service saw a huge increase in registrations from the LGBT+ community after hitting back at trolls on social media.

Prior to that, previous campaigns around International Women’s Day and Black History Month saw a big increase in female and BME registrations respectively.

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Firefighters needed at on-call stations across South Yorkshire

The county’s fire service is calling for people in Askern, Rossington, Birley and Stocksbridge to step up and serve their communities as on-call firefighters.

After a hugely successful recruitment campaign in September, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) says three out of their seven on-call stations now have no vacancies.

But there are still spaces for on-call staff in Askern, Rossington, Birley and Stocksbridge, prompting the service to launch another recruitment push during March.

Anyone interested is urged to register their interest on the service’s website, here, with next steps then being sent out in due course.

“On-call firefighters are local people who live or work within five minutes of their stations – they are trained to the same standard as full-time firefighters but carry a pager when they are on-duty that alerts them if they are needed,” said SYFR Station Manager, Chris Tyler.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased after September’s campaign – filling the vacancies at four stations is quite the achievement – and we’re hoping to have more success with our final three stations during this next push.

“Being an on-call firefighter is a big commitment and the nature of the role means it takes an extraordinary person but our message is clear – if a small part of you thinks you can do it, you most likely can, and we’ll help you along the way.

“Should you be interested, even in the slightest, I’d encourage you to take a look at the information on our website and register your interest for more details.”

On-call firefighters are able to fit their duties around other work and family commitments – they get paid an annual ‘retainer fee’ and then get paid for each incident they attend.

They also get paid for any training and work done in the community. More information on the role and what it entails can be found here.

Those interested must live or work within a five minute drive of Askern, Rossington, Birley or Stocksbridge fire stations – with there potentially being a small bit of flexibility with this.

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Campaign launched to curb South Yorkshire cooking fires

Firefighters are urging people to stop leaving their cooking unattended in a bid to crack down on house fires across the county.

New figures, released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, show that half of all house fires across South Yorkshire last year started in the kitchen.

An even deeper look into the issue, fire officers say, shows that the majority of these fires could be prevented and start when people leave pans on the hob or food in the oven.

The service is now appealing to people across Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster to ‘stand by your pan’ to avoid a kitchen fire disaster.

As part of the campaign, officers are also asking people not to cook after consuming alcohol and, instead, get a takeaway.

“Public awareness and safety around house fires has increased dramatically in recent years but one bad habit we haven’t quite kicked, yet, is leaving cooking unattended,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“Pretty much every kitchen fire we attend originates from an oven or hob and, generally, the fires have started because something has been left on.

“Examples range from a cooker being left to pre-heat to somebody falling asleep whilst their food is cooking and, whilst we know it’s not usually intentional, fire happens fast.

“We don’t expect people to stare at their food whilst it cooks and clearly pre-heating an oven is fairly standard, this isn’t an issue.

“What’s an issue is where people leave the kitchen entirely and either forget that the cooker is on or get distracted with something else, such as the TV or having a quick shower.

“What’s also an issue is where people get in the kitchen and start cooking having had something to drink – this is never a good idea and often ends up in the worst kind of fires.”

The service’s new campaign comes off-the-back of a smoke alarm push in which firefighters urged people to ensure they have working smoke alarms on every level of their home.

It’s based on figures that show there were 230 cooking fires, across South Yorkshire, in 2020 – making up 47 percent of the 491 house blazes attended by firefighters last year.

“Our message is really clear – don’t leave cooking unattended and don’t cook drunk. This isn’t just about reducing pressure on us, it’s about keeping yourself safe,” added Matt.

“What people often don’t realise is that getting hurt is just one risk when it comes to kitchen fires – very often you can escape harm but be left with a huge bill for redecorating.”

More information on cooking fire safety, and details of how to book a free fire service home safety visit, can be found on the service’s website, www.syfire.gov.uk.

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Fire cadets spread joy over the festive period

Kind hearted fire cadets have been showered with praise after delivering Christmas gifts to care home residents across Barnsley.

The young people, who are based out of Cudworth and Dearne fire stations, funded the gifts with £600 they raised through donations and the sale of handmade Christmas cards.

They delivered around 200 presents in total to residents at four different care homes within the Barnsley district, dancing and singing along the way.

Then, with their first act of kindness done, they handed the remaining gifts out to members of their local community who were facing a lonely and isolated festive period.

Once they’d delivered the gifts they also took the time to talk to the residents and get them involved in a little sing-song – all in a COVID-secure way.

Some of the people they visited laughed, some even shed tears of joy. Others just smiled, said thank you and expressed their gratitude.

However they reacted, all of them were extremely touched by the gesture. That’s according to Watch Manager Fleur Holland, who has worked with the fire cadets on their project.

“I’m so proud of them all for what they have done – to raise £600 was one thing but to then buy and deliver around 200 gifts was an amazing gesture. Thinking about it still makes me emotional,” she added.

“The pandemic has limited what we can do but we refused to be beaten. It’s never been more important to share some Christmas joy and we’re glad, thanks to everyone who supported us, including our Chief Fire Officer, we’ve been able to do that.”

Courtney and Phoebe, from Cudworth, and Charlotte, Paige, Nicole and Lewis, from Dearne, are all part of the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Fire Cadets scheme.

The programme is run at stations across South Yorkshire for people aged between 13 and 18-years-old – it’s designed to build confidence and self-esteem, as well as practical skills.

Their latest effort, to raise the £600 for Christmas gifts, is the second fundraiser they’ve done this year. In May they raised £700 for The Fire Fighters Charity.

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Building Risk Review – frequently asked questions

What is the Building Risk Review programme?

This is a national effort, led by the Government, to make high-rise residential buildings safer, and give us a better understanding of high-rise residential buildings across the country. It has come off the back of the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster and is now in its second phase.

The first phase of the programme focused on Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding. This saw us, and other fire services right across the country, work with building owners to identify buildings with ACM cladding and report back to the Government.

The second phase, which began in October, involves the inspection of all high-rise residential buildings that are over 18 metres high or have six or more storeys. The target is for all buildings in South Yorkshire that fit this criteria to have been inspected by the end of December 2021.

You can you view the list buildings were are inspecting on our website here

What is the South Yorkshire Building Risk Review team?

This is the team, made up of experienced fire safety inspectors from within South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, that are carrying out these Building Risk Review (BRR) inspections.

They came together in October 2020, thanks to a specific grant from the Government, and have already started inspecting buildings that meet the criteria.

They have around 200 ‘in scope’ buildings to look at within our county.

What will the team actually be doing?

First and foremost, they are contacting the responsible person for each ‘in scope’ building within the county to organise an inspection to assess the fire safety measures in place.

They will ask some initial questions, and go through a desktop audit process, to decide which buildings need to be inspected first.

They will then physically inspect each building, one by one, and raise any issues they find with the building management.

It’s important to note that the team is there to raise issues and offer advice and guidance. They are not able to physically deal with the issues themselves. As a result of their advice, action may be needed such as the removal of cladding or the introduction of waking watches. It is for the building owners to take such action.

What happens if you find something wrong with a building?

The team will raise any issues they find with the building management and work with them to get the problems dealt with as soon as possible.

In some cases, the team may feel the issues are serious enough to warrant an enforcement notice. This is where serious fire safety deficiencies are identified. Our inspectors, through the notice, will set a time frame for when the remedial work has to be completed.

In the most extreme cases, the team may have to issue a prohibition notice. This is where, using the powers given to us by the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005, we will prohibit the use of the building, or certain parts of the building.

Regrettably, this would involve evacuating residents until the issues are dealt with. People should be assured, though, that it is rare to issue such a notice and we would, of course, work very closely with the building management to get people back in their homes as soon as possible. This option is a last resort and is only used when we feel a building, or a part of a building, is unsafe for people to be living in.

Who is responsible for dealing with issues raised?

As already stated, the building management and owners are responsible for dealing with the issues raised. Our job, as the fire and rescue service, is to raise issues and offer advice on what needs to be done to sort them out. We will then re-inspect buildings to ensure they are safe and that the necessary work has been carried out.

Why has this work not been done before?

It has. We have been inspecting buildings, including high-rise residential blocks, for many years.

This project is simply about accelerating the pace of these inspections so that we can implement the learning from the Grenfell Tower disaster sooner rather than later.

What about other buildings across the county?

Inspections will still take place at other buildings that aren’t ‘in scope’ for this project. We have a wider team of inspecting officers who will be carrying on their work to inspect all buildings in South Yorkshire, regardless of height.

We must stress that all responsible persons should ensure they are fully aware of their fire safety responsibilities, high-rise or not.

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