Protecting older people from the devastating effects of fire is at the heart of a community call to action made by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).
Key messages will feature within the comprehensive public safety campaign Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire beginning again on Friday 28 February and continuing until the end of March.
With more than 21,000 accidental house fires in Scotland over the past five years, those seeing the often-tragic consequences of fire in the home want the public’s help to lessen the danger faced by people who are most at risk.
Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) Lewis Ramsay, SFRS director of prevention and protection, explained: “Toxic smoke is a killer of the young and old alike, but the truth is the effects of smoke inhalation are all the more serious for older people.
“In Scotland more than 1,300 people aged 60 and over have been injured in fires since 2009. A further 107 lost their lives.
“The horrible truth is that many fire tragedies need not happen – simple steps save lives. Firefighters need the public to answer this call to action and put us in touch with anyone who could be vulnerable.”
Scotland has seen a steady fall in house fires over recent years as the country’s frontline crews have taken on a greater role in efforts to prevent fires and protect communities.
Firefighters now routinely visit large numbers of nearby properties in the days following a house fire, working to raise awareness of the risks and support residents to keep their homes fire safe.
The popular Home Fire Safety Visit programme is central to the Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire campaign, with SFRS crews conducting more than 56,000 of the visits last year, assessing risks and providing friendly advice to householders and their families.
Partnerships with the NHS, social work departments, housing providers, the police and third sector organisations help firefighters target their prevention work more effectively, but the public themselves are key to protecting vulnerable residents.
ACO Ramsay said: “Ten years ago working smoke alarms were found in only a third of homes struck by fire. Now almost half of affected properties have these life-saving devices.
“There is much less chance of someone being seriously hurt or killed by fire if a house is protected by working smoke alarms.
“Thanks to these devices, almost two-thirds of people who were involved in a fire last year needed only first aid at the scene or a precautionary check-up in hospital. By alerting people to the danger early they also help firefighters limit damage to property.
“People need to discuss fire safety with their relatives, friends and neighbours – particularly those who may be at risk in some way.
“The advice and support of firefighters from within the community has given a lot of reassurance to vulnerable residents – it helps them take the steps needed to prevent a fire from starting and stay safe in their home.
“Our message is clear. Encourage those around you to get a free home fire safety visit, or pick up the phone and call us on their behalf.”
Designed to be informal and straightforward, home fire safety visits only take around half an hour and are delivered by firefighters from the community.
Crews assess the risks within a home and share their expert tips to help residents take the simple steps to lower the risk of fire and raise their chance of escaping unhurt if a blaze breaks out.
Households get their own specific fire action plan to help themselves and other family members take very easy measures, like closing doors fully at night and making sure everyone knows how to get out if the alarm sounds.
By slowing the spread of toxic smoke, intense heat and flames, these quick and easy steps can make all the difference if a fire does strike within a home.
Firefighters also install long-life battery smoke alarms where they are needed and can refer householders for additional services – such as linked fire alarms or fire-retardant bedding – if they would benefit from them.
Anyone can arrange a free home fire safety visit by calling SFRS on the freephone number 0800 0731 999 or by texting ‘check’ to 61611. People can also fill out a form at
www.firescotland.gov.uk or contact their local community fire station.