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NIFRS Targeting People at Risk to Reduce Accidental Fire Deaths

13 May 2016

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is targeting its efforts to reduce accidental fire deaths given that 12* people tragically lost their lives in accidental house fires in 2015/16. With 28 people dying in accidental house fires over the past 3 years, it is important that NIFRS intensifies its prevention and protection activity towards those identified as most at risk.

Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Community Protection, NIFRS explains – “Having reviewed the circumstances of these 28 accidental fire deaths we found that in the majority of cases a combination of high risk factors were present. 57% (16 people) of those who died were aged 60 or over and of those 75% (12 people) lived alone.  We also know that in some cases there were health related factors which may have made it more difficult for people to respond to the fire.  It’s because of such evidence that we are proposing, through our ‘People at Risk Strategy’ to redefine who we classify as ‘people at risk’ to include anyone aged 60 or older; anyone who has impaired mobility or a health condition that would impact on their ability to acknowledge and respond to an emergency in the home or anyone referred to NIFRS by a partnership agency. 

“Whilst fire safety is an important issue that everyone needs to be conscious of and responsible for, we can’t ignore the fact that there are people who because of their circumstances are at higher risk.  We are working closer than ever with partner agencies, from the wider health & social care family and voluntary sector, to identify people most at risk.  We follow up on the referrals our partner agencies make to us through our targeted free home fire safety checks.  Our Firefighters will visit people in their homes to help reduce their risk of a house fire by providing practical fire safety advice, developing fire escape plans and by checking and fitting smoke alarms and in the case of a person with a significant impaired mobility we will fit an additional smoke alarm in the bedroom.  We then revisit those people deemed most at risk.    

“If anyone is concerned about the fire safety of a family member or neighbour, please get in touch with NIFRS using the Home Fire Safety Check Referral Form on our website – www.nifrs.org.  We also want to hear from as many other organisations as possible who are working with people in their own homes, who can help us identify people at risk. 

“Northern Ireland has an increasingly older population and with the desire towards independent living and care in the home it is crucial that we keep vulnerable people safe from the risk of fire.  We all have our part to play- NIFRS is tasked with keeping people safe from the dangers of fire; partner agencies who work with people most at risk and family and friends who care for and may have concerns about a family member or neighbour. By working together we can identify those most at risk to help keep them safe from the dangers of fire.”

NIFRS continues to consult on its People at Risk Strategy which aims to reduce accidental fire deaths and injuries and to further develop our interagency approach towards identifying and targeting those most at risk.  If you agree with the position we are taking with regard to people at risk or if you have an alternative view then we want to hear from you.    The People at Risk strategy and consultation documents are available to download from the NIFRS website - http://www.nifrs.org/consultation/ and the closing date for consultation is 20th May 2016.