Lorraine BurtonIn this guest blog, Lorraine Burton, project manager of the home safety project within Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, talks about how the initiative is breaking new ground to align health and social care priorities and make fire safety for vulnerable groups a priority:

Do you know a vulnerable adult? Do you know any adults with a physical and/or learning disability, who live alone or are over the age of 65? If you answered yes to any or all of the following, the chances are you know a vulnerable person and they may be at a higher risk of having a fire in their home: 48% of fire related fatalities are over pensionable age. 

Fire services across the country offer home safety visits and advice for anyone that may be at risk of having a fire. An incredible amount of work has already gone into tailoring these home safety visits for vulnerable groups, especially within HFRS. London Fire Brigade, for example, has created its own risk register and identified several factors that increase the chances of dwelling fires including disability – especially impaired mobility and mental health. It’s clear that the emphasis has changed towards facilitating quality home safety visits over quantity and we’re now able to tailor the advice we give for the person and the wider community.

This is all fantastic work. However, after accepting the project manager role for the home safety project I did some further research and worryingly found that the most vulnerable groups at risk of having a fire are likely to be known to adult services. Not only that, the dwelling fires they have often result in an injury or fatality and, what’s worse, may have been avoided with a few simple safety measures and/or advice.

So why is this? What can we do about it? We know high-risk vulnerable groups are most at risk of having a fire in their home, but also that these groups can be hard to reach and difficult to engage with.

Further reading: Older people in Hertfordshire learn to stay fire safe

This is where the home safety project comes in. My project team was selected for their expertise in safeguarding, communications, fire safety procedure, business fire safety and fire prevention products. We plan to reduce dwelling fires and improve the current home safety service and want to better engage with people we know to be at risk and ensure they are aware of the dangers and remain safe in their own homes. 

We are aware a large part of achieving this goal relies on working collaboratively with specialists from health, social care and safeguarding agencies. These professionals regularly come into contact and provide care to the vulnerable adults we want to reach within their own homes. These working partnerships will allow healthcare experts to ‘signpost’ fire concerns to us and address fire risk as a key priority.

This is a great step in the right direction as it will mean HFRS and local health and social care providers will be expanding their work streams to align their prevention agendas. Sharing a level of knowledge about these vulnerable groups will also ensure preventative measures are put in place and ultimately lead to an improvement in our home safety capability in the following areas:
• Up-skilling of staff to be better equipped to engage and provide the best service for everyone in our community 
• Collation of available home safety products 
• Improved fire safety literature that is engaging and easy to read for vulnerable groups and will work as trigger tools for their home safety 
• Improved communication channels to ensure our safety message reach our target audiences 
• Mapping of a new referral pathway that works for our partner organisations and brings a stream of appropriate home safety visit referrals.

We are now 6 months into the 18-month project and have made great progress in achieving the above. I’m eager for the remaining 12 months to not go too fast, but equally can’t wait to produce an improved home safety service that prevents fires occurring and helps people most at risk.

If you would like any information about the home safety project or if you’re a Hampshire resident and would like home safety advice or to make a referral, please email: community.safety@hantsfire.gov.uk

References 
Michael Wright, ‘Home fire safety checks - ten years on’, Fire Magazine, September 2013.