Firefighters in Aberdeen have spearheaded a new campaign to help the most vulnerable people stay safe from fire across the city.
As the first of its kind in Scotland, the scheme aims to encourage Police Scotland, the Scottish Ambulance Service, and Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership, to alert the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with any concerns they have for properties across the Granite City through a ‘one-stop’ referral platform.
The organisation ‘Cash in Your Pocket’ has been enlisted to administer the scheme and will collate all concerns in one place – through their referral phone number - before passing them to the SFRS for further investigation.
SFRS already offers free Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) which provides members of the public with reassurance and an opportunity to identify any risks within their home. The process enables experienced local firefighters to engage directly with the householders and supports them to implement simple, but effective fire preventative measures in the home.
The visit which is carried out free of charge includes the provision and fitting of smoke alarms where appropriate.
LSO for Aberdeen City, Mike Dickson, said the new initiative will act as a crucial platform – increasing the amount of ‘high-risk’ HFSV referrals between a number of partner agencies in Aberdeen, and ultimately reducing the likelihood of fire impacting on those most at risk within the local community.
He said: “Home Fire Safety visits are a key pillar of prevention work that help us safeguard members of the community – especially vulnerable and elderly residents, but this also applies to the wider community.
“We work closely with our partner agencies to ensure that a holistic approach is taken. This means that partners can effectively communicate any concerns to us about residents who are perhaps more likely to be at risk from fire in the home.
“However, to build on that, this newly-launched scheme will ensure a more comprehensive service – with one main phone number for police officers, Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) technicians, paramedics, patient transport staff and city GPs to contact if they are concerned. Any issues or concerns will then be flagged up to us in the first instance.
“For example, if a police officer or SAS visit someone in their house we are asking that they consider the risk to that person from fire and even check that their fire alarm is working before they leave. This simple check could prevent us being the next service to that address and, crucially, could save lives.”
The pilot is currently being rolled out across Aberdeen City, but could also be launched in other areas - such as Aberdeenshire and Moray - in the coming months.
Group Manager Gordon Riddel, who is leading the scheme for Aberdeen City, said: “We are working closely with Cash in Your Pocket, who have provided us with this vital referral line so all concerns from our partner agencies can be raised in one collective place. This is key to building on the amount of high-risk Home Fire Safety Visits we currently carry out.
“Firefighters are trained to fight fire but we don’t want to – our preventative work is to ensure that we aren’t entering a property already on fire and when it could potentially already be too late for the residents inside.
“We want to be able to spot the first signs of fire and help stop them occurring in the first place. This referral scheme will help us further achieve that aim.”
Health & Social Care Partnership Head of Operations, Tom Cowan, said: “The Partnership is perfectly placed to play a vital role in this ground-breaking scheme. Our staff, and those of our partner organisations, regularly visit people’s homes on a daily basis – from social workers to community nurses, from care workers to allied health professionals. We are therefore in an ideal position to feed any fire safety concerns into the new referral platform and help the SFRS to take action to reduce fire risk.”
Police Scotland Chief Inspector Kevin Wallace, Local Area Commander for Aberdeen North, said: "We work closely with a range of partners across various sectors to support our communities. This new scheme will allow us to easily refer potentially vulnerable households and individuals to the fire service and other partners, addressing modern day risks and challenges. We will continue to work with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other partners as part of our efforts to keep people safe."
Euan Esslemont, Head of Service North East, Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "Our crews help some of the most vulnerable people in our communities on a daily basis and are extremely well placed to support the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with this important initiative.
"This is just one of a number of schemes where we are working closely with our partners to promote community safety and save more lives."