News release text
Fire and rescue services are promoting the important role they play in helping people with dementia stay safe and independent in their own homes.
They will be encouraging health and care professionals visiting the Healthcare Innovation Expo in London on 13-14 March to be aware of fire hazards and the support their local fire and rescue services can offer.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) and London Fire Brigade (LFB) are inviting delegates to walk around a typical home, learn about fire hazards and see the kind of support on offer. This can range from cooker shut offs for people who are getting forgetful about turning off their oven, to fireproof blankets and bedding.
KFRS’s Community Safety Manager, Charlie Smith, said: “Ringing the local fire service may not be the first thing you think of when someone you care for is diagnosed with dementia, but we can provide very practical advice to help ensure people can stay safe and independent in their own homes for as long as possible.
“The effects of fire can be devastating, but small changes can make a big difference to safety. Fire and rescue services around the country are keen to work with colleagues in the care and health sectors to identify those who need our help. This exhibition is a great opportunity to spread the word about fire safety and to showcase all of the ways fire and rescue services can assist.”
London Fire Brigade’s Acting Deputy Head of Community Safety Tom George said: “The number of fires in London has more than halved over the last decade but sadly vulnerable people are still dying in house fires so it is incredibly important that we reach those people most at risk. The expo will give us a fantastic opportunity to speak to health care professionals who treat people with dementia and hopefully help to reduce fire deaths.”
Already 28 fire and rescue services around the country have signed up to the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge and pledged to improve the safety of people with dementia. The pledge includes helping to ensure families and carers are aware of fire risks, raising awareness of free home safety visits and advice and encouraging other local organisations to become involved in building dementia friendly communities.
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Specific figures aren’t available for fires affecting people with dementia, however nationally in 2010/11:
There were 306 deaths in the home
People over 60 are four times more likely to die in a fire than those under 30. This rises to ten times more likely for over 80s
Research shows that impairment, disability and dementia are a substantial factor in increasing someone’s risk of injury or death from fire in the home
More than half of 38,500 fires in UK homes are caused when cooking and 4100 people were injured as a result.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s vulnerable persons team was called by the wife of a man with dementia (both in their 70s) because he was starting small fires by warming his pyjamas in the microwave every night. His wife was so worried she had been carrying the microwave to bed with her to stop him doing it. A fire service officer visited them at home and provided advice, fitted a simple lock on the microwave plug socket (cost about £7) and special smoke alarms, as his wife was deaf.
Another lady could never remember where she had left the matches, so would light newspaper from her lounge gas fire and carry it through the bungalow to light her gas cooker the local fire service visited her home, spoke to her and her carer, made sure she had adequate smoke alarms and put a simple gas lighter on a chain by her cooker so she always knew it was there to light her oven.