Above: (L to R) Graeme Callendar of Drink Wise Age Well, Linda McInally of Glasgow Council on Alcohol, Station Manager John McKenna and Group Manager John McGarvey.
Firefighters in Glasgow are teaming-up with an organisation working to reduce alcohol-related harm among the over 50s in a bid to prevent fires and the tragedies that can follow in their wake.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) officers in the city recently received an awareness presentation from Drink Wise Age Well and in return firefighters will provide its staff with hazard awareness training, helping them recognise fire risks within their clients’ homes.
Station Manager John McKenna has been working to develop the initiative. He said: “We know alcohol contributes to many house fires and the casualties they cause.
“Often there are very simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk to an individual but reaching those who may be vulnerable is always a challenge.
“The work done by both Drink Wise Age Well means they really are ideally placed to help their clients access the support that’s available from our crews.”
A referral process will allow Drink Wise Age Well staff to alert SFRS to someone who may be at risk. The partnership approach will mean SFRS officers can then contact the person to offer them a free home fire safety visit.
Station Manager McKenna explained how this could help prevent tragedies: “A short visit allows our crews to make a householder aware of fire hazards many people just don’t realise are there.
“Things like making sure kitchen towels are kept well away from the cooker can make all the difference. Drawing people’s attention to everyday hazards really does help them stay safe.”
He continued: “Cooking and alcohol are a potentially lethal combination. A fire can start in an instant and quickly fill a home with toxic smoke, so dozing off while something is on the cooker could have horrific consequences.
“Equally, having a cigarette while sitting in a chair under the influence of alcohol could be a fatal mistake – as falling asleep could see a fire start.”
Graeme Callander, the manager of Drink Wise Age Well, said: “Working alongside the fire service provides our programme with a fantastic opportunity to engage with a wider section of the population of Glasgow.
“It’s all about reducing alcohol related harm the risk of fire in the home. Working in partnership helps to raise awareness about the links between alcohol use and fire risk.”
He continued: “Recent studies indicate that people aged 50 and over are more likely to drink alone and in their homes – this means that this population may be at higher risk of being a victim of fire.
“Drink Wise Age Well is a Big Lottery Funded programme which aims changing behaviour and reducing to reduce alcohol related harm in the over 50’s population.
“Partnerships are vital to having an impact and this one provides Drink Wise Age Well with the chance to learn from one another in areas around alcohol awareness and age related issues like retirement, trauma and bereavement.
“Our partnership with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service highlights that when it comes to prevention, working together is the best way to ensure the public are able to access the advice and information that can save lives.”
Firefighters conducting free home fire safety visits not only help residents reduce the chance of an emergency happening, they also help them take simple steps to raise the chance of escaping unhurt if a fire does start.
The SFRS crews check a home is protected by working smoke alarms and even install the potentially life-saving devices where they are found to be needed.
Free home fire safety visits are available from SFRS by calling the freephone number 0800 073 1999, by texting ‘FIRE’ to 80800 or by filling in an online form at www.firescotland.gov.uk.
Station Manager McKenna added: “Free home fire safety visits are a tremendous service that helps people to stay safe and to feel safe. They only take around 20 minutes and can be arranged for a time that suits the householder.
“We want to hear from anyone who thinks they could benefit from a visit and I’d also appeal for everyone to consider if they know someone who could be at risk.
“Most people keep an eye-out for a friend, neighbour, relative or co-worker who could be vulnerable.
“If anyone knows someone who does have issues with the misuse of alcohol or drugs, who lives alone and has other health conditions, then we want them to discuss fire safety with the person and put them in touch with us.”
Above: Group Manager John McGarvey signs a Citizen's Commitment