London Fire Brigade (LFB) stated that ‘more than a million’ home fire safety visits (HFSVs) have been carried out, meaning that ‘more than a quarter’ of the population have had homes checked.
In a press release, LFB stated that the milestone has made it the first fire and rescue service in the UK ‘to have visited a million homes and more than 2 million residents’, with HFSVs introduced in April 2005 ‘to prevent accidental fire deaths and injuries in the home as well as to reduce the number of fires’. On the first day they were launched, 80 were undertaken, with over 80,000 now done each year by firefighters and fire safety officers.
This scheme aims to ‘encourage changes to behaviours which commonly caused fires’, with smoke alarms fitted for free ‘where needed’ alongside advice on prevention, detection and escape routes. Commissioner Dany Cotton marked the millionth HFSV at the home of Beckenham resident Eileen Morgan alongside a crew from the area’s fire station, with Mrs Morgan getting advice on fire prevention, the common causes of fire, bedtime checks and actions in a fire.
The tests ‘have evolved since they were first introduced’ and will ‘continue to change to meet the needs of the public’, with anyone ‘welcome to request one’, though they are ‘particularly targeted’ at vulnerable people. On a specific note, this includes people who smoke in their home; have limited mobility or a hearing impairment; are blind or partially sighted; would have difficulty responding to or escaping from a fire; or have had a fire before or signs of burns in the home.
Others include those who have learning disabilities; are supported by family or carers; have mental health conditions such as dementia or depression; have drug or alcohol dependencies; don’t have alarms in areas where a fire might start; and who collect or hoard in their home. Smoke alarm systems can be fitted for deaf and hard of hearing residents including an interlinked system, a vibrating pad and a strobe light, providing ‘visual alerts’ when the alarm activates.
LFB added that in the future it hopes to launch an ‘online interactive’ HFSV where residents can get advice tailored to their home and situation. Ms Cotton stated: ‘The number of fires at residential properties has been reducing over time which is largely thanks to our prevention work with communities to educate them about the dangers of fire in the home.
‘Our HFSVs have changed a lot since I was a frontline firefighter and it was great to join Blue Watch and meet a resident who was so pleased to welcome us and who we were able to give practical tips to on how to stay safe in her home. I’m really proud my staff have given potentially life-saving advice to more than 2 million Londoners and I’d encourage anyone that hasn’t had a visit to get in touch and book one.’
Mrs Morgan commented: ‘I was very pleased to see the fire engine turn up outside. I’m 92, registered as blind and I live alone, so it made a very jolly afternoon having the firefighters visit, who were all so pleasant. It was also lovely to meet the Commissioner and to see a woman in that position – she was just one of the team. I was so impressed when one of the firefighters, who was very tall, just got the smoke alarm and fitted it to the ceiling.
‘They did a wonderful job and it’s a pity that some people are unaware of these visits being available. I am honoured to help mark the millionth visit. They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime and I’ve waited 92 years to get mine – and what a great cause to get it with.’