Firefighters have teamed-up with North Ayrshire Council’s Dementia Support Service, housing officers and medical professionals to help residents stay safe from fire.
The partnership involves Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crews receiving expert training from the North Ayrshire Council and NHS Ayrshire & Arran staff, allowing the firefighters to better understand dementia and how the condition impacts individuals and families.
The latest round of training comes as firefighters throughout East, North and South Ayrshire engage in a ‘week of action’ to prevent fire tragedies.
Group Manager Albert Bruce – the SFRS deputy head of prevention and protection for the area – said: “People affected by dementia are certainly among those who could benefit most from the support we can provide.
“Firefighters routinely work in their communities to take potentially life-saving advice and support to householders and understanding how this condition impacts people means we are better able to identify specific hazards putting them at risk.”
He added: “We know older people with health conditions are at increased risk but there are many things we can do to help them stay safe.
“Strong partnerships are crucial to succeeding in that goal and this training from our colleagues allows us to understand the complex needs of people with dementia as well as the needs of the loved ones who care for them.
“This gives firefighters the ability to engage with people who have the condition as well as their relatives, helping ensure potentially life-saving fire safety advice is delivered in a suitable and effective way.
“It will better equip firefighters to help residents take simple steps to prevent fires and protect both themselves and their families.”
The week of action to prevent fire deaths has seen SFRS personnel proactively visiting homes to offer residents their support.
Crews conducting free home fire safety visits highlight simple steps like shutting doors at night, make sure sockets are not overloaded and that kitchen items are safely placed, giving residents greater confidence in their safety.
The firefighters check smoke alarms are correctly fitted, install them where they are needed and also help residents plan escape routes for use in the event of a fire.
Councillor Anthea Dickson, North Ayrshire Council's cabinet member for health and social care, said: “We can’t cut corners when it comes to fire safety and this is a fantastic initiative.
"Prevention is the key aim for both the fire service and our care staff. By working together and sharing expertise we are helping some of the most vulnerable people across North Ayrshire.
“Our staff have hands-on experience of interacting and communicating with dementia sufferers.
“This knowledge will be invaluable and help firefighters get their safety message across to each individual.”
Group Manager Bruce added: “Incidents where someone has been killed or suffered serious injuries are always terrible for everyone involved and those that could have been prevented stay with a firefighter for a very long time.
“This training shows the importance we place on meeting every individual’s specific needs to help them stay safe from fire.
“Whatever the circumstances, anyone who knows someone who could be at risk should act now and put them in touch with us, so we can provide the support that really could save their life.”
Free home fire safety visits take around 20 minutes to complete and are conducted by local SFRS crews at a time convenient for the householder.
A popular feature of the Join Scotland’s Fight against Fire campaign, they are available 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.