Firefighters in Scottish Borders will be working to protect vulnerable people as part of a nationwide ‘week of action’ aimed at preventing accidental house fires and the tragedies they cause.
The move follows a recent appeal from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) for the public to help it reach those most likely to be killed or injured as a result of fire in the home.
Area manager Alasdair Perry – SFRS local senior officer for Mid and East Lothian and Scottish Borders – said: “Between January and May, 28 people lost their lives as a result of fires in Scotland and June has so far seen two more fatalities.
“We know many fires where someone is killed or injured could be prevented and our crews are reaching out to anyone who could use our advice or support.
“Many people have contacted us for a free home fire safety visit and these have been hugely popular, but the people who are at highest risk are often the most reluctant to contact us.”
People over the age of 60 accounted for almost two-thirds of those killed by fire in 2015 and, as well as age, the common factors contributing to many of the deaths were smoking, ill-health, living alone and limited mobility.
By sending operational crews and community firefighters to households, SFRS hopes residents will benefit from the advice and support available to keep their homes and everyone in them safe.
Perry added: “Firefighters can help residents understand the risks and take very minor actions known to dramatically reduce the chance of a fire starting.
“If someone is over the age of 60, lives alone or has difficulty moving around then it can take more time for them to escape in an emergency.
“Our crews can help make sure smoke alarms are positioned where they will give people very effective early warning and that everyone knows how to get out if a fire does start.
“We can help people understand the risk of smoking in bed or if they’re tired and sitting in a chair, but even if someone just can’t avoid doing this then we can work with partners to find solutions and lower their risk.
A huge amount of support is available but we need our partner agencies and the public to help us make sure it gets to those who need it.”
With an aging population – 23 per cent of the UK will be aged 65 and over by 2035 – helping older people prevent fires and stay safe is certain to remain an issue for every community.
Free home fire safety visits take around 20 minutes to complete and are conducted by local SFRS crews or Community Action Teams 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
Perry said: “We all need to do what we can to protect not only ourselves but also those around us.
“When responsible citizens put vulnerable people in touch with us it can make all the difference and I’d appeal for everyone to consider if they know someone who is potentially vulnerable and could benefit from our support.
“We also want to remind everyone in Scottish Borders that if they hear a smoke alarm activating then they need to call 999 and report it right away.
“Many people can be reluctant to make an emergency call and assume an alarm has gone off due to something innocuous like burnt toast, but the fact is waiting to see if the alarm stops could cost someone their life.”