Minister meets couple who inspired new home fire safety approach for parents

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by Angeline Sneddon

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham 3

A firefighter and his wife, who are first-time parents, are being praised by the Community Safety Minister for encouraging other new mums and dads to make sure their homes are fire safe.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service offers free Home Fire Safety Visits to everyone who registers, but thanks to Stephen and Erin Anderson’s idea, Health Visitors are now working in partnership with SFRS to help busy parents access the service, which includes advice on a fire escape plan and information about smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms.

Ash Denham MSP, Community Safety Minister, has been visiting Port Glasgow Community Fire Station today to meet with the Andersons to hear more about this fresh approach to fire safety.

Erin, 31, from Paisley gave birth to her son Finn eighteen months ago. When her husband Stephen, a Watch Commander in Port Glasgow, was due to return to night-shift, Erin asked him what she should do in the event of a fire if he wasn’t around.

Erin said: “When you are a new mum you tend to be quite sleep deprived. I once put the pot on in the kitchen and then got distracted and forgot about it.  I was given lots of information on how to look after my baby, but fire advice wasn’t part of that. So when Stephen was about to go back to work, I wanted to make sure I knew how to keep us safe.”

After giving his wife advice, Stephen soon realised that other parents might find the information useful. He enlisted the help of Health Visitors in the area, who meet with parents in the first few days of them returning home from hospital with their babies.  At this stage, mums and dads are offered the chance to register for a free Home Fire Safety Visit.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said:

"This is a great initiative aimed at improving fire safety in homes with young babies. Home fire safety visits are a key way for SFRS to engage with communities, to educate and to prevent and protect from fires in the home.

"By working in partnership in this way, they are maximising the chances of important fire safety advice and guidance reaching new parents at an extremely important time.

"I very much look forward to seeing the results of the project in the future."

In the past five months, 40 households have registered for a free Home Fire Safety Visit and Stephen can’t thank the Health Visitors enough for coming onboard with this idea.

Stephen, 36, said: “When you become a new parent, there’s a lot of upheaval in your life and it’s a learning experience every day. It’s not unusual to have a lot of new electrical equipment around the home and it’s really important to be aware of any potential hazards. We’re pleased with the uptake of visits and I’m grateful that Health Visitors are playing an integral part in helping parents to access these.”

Erin added: “I’m really pleased that a conversation that Stephen and I had sitting at home one night has led to something that is helping other parents. Everyone’s houses are different and a visit, that takes around half an hour, can point out the things that you might not have seen yourself. It’s so worthwhile to know how to keep you and your baby safe.”

It’s hoped that this new partnership in Port Glasgow could be replicated in other areas across Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire.

Health Visitor Ashley Keogh, Inverclyde Health & Social Care Partnership, said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service already offered Home Fire Safety Visits if this was requested by parents directly. But, having a new baby and juggling family means that something like this would be put on the ‘to-do’ list and they might not get around to organising it themselves.

“So we met as a team and explored ideas around how to promote home safety within families in the local community. The Health Visitor offering the visit and completing a referral takes away this task for busy families. Parents have been telling us how grateful they are for the service.”

Graeme Binning, SFRS Local Senior Officer (LSO), said: “Helping our communities to stay safe and prevent fires from happening in the first place is a key priority for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. This project is a great example of strong partnership working to support parents, like Stephen and Erin, who have a newborn at home and want to make their surroundings as safe as possible. Home Fire Safety Visits are free and we would encourage everyone to register.”

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