News release text
Helping those most at risk of fire to stay safe in their homes is the focus of Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s (KFRS) specialist Vulnerable People Team, who are celebrating the completion of their 10,000th visit.
Residents and the relatives who have benefitted from the service have agreed to take part in a series of short films documenting their experiences and spreading the word about the life-saving assistance which KFRS can offer. Albert and Kathleen Hayes
KFRS has been providing specialist advice and services within Kent and Medway since 2010, with the team providing help to those most likely to be seriously injured or killed as a result of a fire in the home.
Just three breaths of fire smoke can be life-threatening and sadly it is often older residents, or those with mobility problems, health issues or impaired sight or hearing, who are injured by fire.
There are added risks for dementia sufferers, as well as people on medication that causes drowsiness. In addition, residents’ lifestyle choices such as smoking or drinking alcohol, or their domestic circumstances can make them more vulnerable.
Elderly couple, Kathleen and Albert Hayes, of East Peckham took up the offer of a visit from the team, after being made aware of the service by KCC Kent Community Warden Paul Harfleet.
Paul said: “The warden’s role is all about helping people live safely and independently and keeping a look out for elderly and vulnerable residents is a key priority. Following a KFRS awareness event, I realised that there were several residents who needed specialist fire safety advice and made several referrals.”
During the visit to the couple, who are both in their 80s, several factors were identified, including mobility and sight issues, which made them more at risk of being injured in the event of a fire. As well as fitting new smoke alarms, a heat detector and a carbon monoxide detector, the community safety officer made a referral for the couple to have a Lifeline system installed.
Kathleen added: “During the visit we had a number of alarms fitted. It really makes you feel that it’s all in hand so that if there is a fire, you know what will happen and which alarm will sound.”
Albert Hayes said: “It is definitely worth it. You have got to do things like that today for peace of mind.”
Where needed, KFRS’s dedicated team can provide a range of advice on fire prevention and, where needed, specialist equipment, including fireproof bedding and smoke alarms for visually and hearing impaired people.
They can also supply other gadgets such as cooker switches and reminder stickers for residents who have dementia and/or who have become forgetful about turning off the cooker. They can also make recommendations to other support services for further specialist home safety aids.
The Turner family also received a visit from the vulnerable persons team, following a referral by Paul at a monthly dementia carers group meeting in East Peckham. Karen and Wade Turner live with their two grown up daughters and Wade’s mum Sheila, who has vascular dementia. Karen Turner with mother-in-law Sheila
Karen was concerned because Sheila had repeatedly cooked toast until it was completely black, filling their home with smoke. The team fitted three smoke alarms, a heat detector in the kitchen and a carbon monoxide alarm near the boiler.
The team also made a referral for a Lifeline system to be fitted. Karen said: “It was getting quite a concern, both for Sheila’s safety and the worry that she might accidently start a serious fire. Our family now have the peace of mind that Sheila has a quick and simple way of getting help should she have an accident or fire on the unavoidable occasions when she is alone at home.”
KFRS Vulnerable People Team supervisor, Mick Smith said: “The vulnerable persons team consists of six officers, supported by a liaison officer and an administration officer and we deliver an average of 300 to 400 visits per month. We are very proud to have completed a landmark 10,000 visits, and ultimately played our part in helping to prevent fires and to reduce the risk of death and injury by fire in the home.”
KFRS works closely with other agencies and organisations in the community, who help identify those most in need of these services. Fire crews make referrals to the team from their local communities and members of the public who have concerns about a relative or neighbour can also get in touch with KFRS.
For further information on the free advice and services available visit www.kent.fire-uk.org , contact Kent Fire and Rescue Service on 0800 923 7000 (free from UK landlines) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note to editors:
KFRS’s new short films with residents who have received home safety visits can be viewed here:
Further case studies
Dover fire crews made a referral for the Vulnerable Peoples Team to visit Mrs Wightman, following a fire call to her basement maisonette. The fire was started by a chip pan that had been left on the stove, when Mrs Wightman, who lives alone, switched on the wrong ring, leading to the pan overheating and igniting. Fortunately, she was unharmed and crews rescued a dog from the property.
The vulnerable persons team arranged an initial visit the lady, who is hard of hearing and made an assessment of her needs. They identified that Mrs Wightman was living on one floor to keep warm, using a halogen heater and that while she had the deaf aid smoke alarm it was fitted in her first floor bedroom it wasn’t in use, due to her mobility issues.
As Mrs Wightman was temporarily rehoused while repairs were made to the flat, the team arranged to return when the work was complete to reposition the alarm. They also contacted Hi-Kent to update them that the aids had previously been fitted that need repositioning.
Over the course of a year the team kept in contact with the resident and returned six months later to make a further visit, fitting some carbon monoxide detectors and made some alterations to position the deaf aid sensor. They also made a referral for her to have a Lifeline system fitted and returned to check how she was getting on after it had been installed.
Albert BennettAlbert Bennett, a 99-year-old resident received a safety visit from his local fire crew, after a neighbour got in touch with KFRS. Albert, a WWII war veteran who still lives independently in his Dartford home, had accidently left a pan of soup on the stove, which had filled his kitchen with smoke.
Although this fortunately didn’t result in a fire, it raised concerns about Albert’s safety. Crews checked smoke alarms, fitted a heat detector and carbon monoxide detector, and gave fire safety advice.
Speaking after his visit, Albert said: “It is quite simple and doesn’t take long. I would certainly recommend it to anyone, especially if you are getting on a bit. It is being on your own that is the main problem. You don’t like to admit you need help, but there comes a time when you have to really.”