BelfastNorthern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has recently signed a partnership agreement with one of Northern Ireland’s oldest charities, Belfast Central Mission, to arrange a referral system between both organisations to help assist those most at risk of fire.

Belfast Central Mission which has been in operation for over 125 years tackles issues inherent in inner-city life through a context of Christian beliefs.

The charity has offices in Belfast, Bangor, Newtownards and Dungannon and helps to provide practical assistance to improve the quality of life to families, older and younger people across Northern Ireland.

The aim of the partnership agreement is the provision of housing related support to older people in their own homes. The service seeks to work in partnership with clients and help them to live independently for as long as possible, in a safe living environment.

Firefighters will receive referrals from Belfast Central Mission, enabling them to carry out a free Home Fire Safety Check of their homes. The Home Fire Safety Check consists of a visit to the home of the referred person to offer advice to reduce the risk of fire and ensure that the home is fitted with a working smoke alarm.

If Firefighters in the course of duty identify a person who would benefit from the services of Belfast Central Mission, a referral will be made. An example of this would be if someone has a substantial amount of items in their home which might cause potential fire hazards, Firefighters can advise about ‘decluttering’ the property and refer the homeowner to Belfast Central Mission for use of their services. Belfast Central mission deals with many aspects of housing issues that can affect the older person being able to remain safely in their own home.

To date, NIFRS Eastern Area Command has announced 9 partnership agreements across the greater Belfast area including the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust Sensory Support Services, Good Morning Network , North Belfast and the Grace Women's Development Limited  NIFRS are working closer than ever with its partner agencies to help identify those people at risk.

NIFRS Eastern Area Command Group Commander Safety Chris Fee said: “We are delighted to announce the partnership agreement between Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service and Belfast Central Mission, to help reduce accidental fire deaths across the greater Belfast area and target those people identified at being at risk.

“Belfast Central Mission is an extremely well established and respected organisation providing a range of services including support housing, community service, residential accommodation and parent support. They are also a valuable resource to help identify people at risk of fire.

“By carrying out a Home Fire Safety Check, Firefighters are able to establish whether there is a risk to life or property due to the person’s living conditions. This could be an excessive amount of hoarding in the property, not coping well with daily life or living in poor conditions at home. Firefighters can identify these areas for change which hopefully will decrease the number of accidental fires at home.”

Belfast Central Missions Project Manager Catherine Glenn added: “Belfast Central Mission serves a wide variety of people in the community, so it is important that as an organisation we provide a duty of care for those availing of our services.

“To have a resource such as a referral system with Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service means that those people who use our facilities feel safe and receive professional advice and guidance from Firefighters.

“Some of our occupants may have impaired mobility, show signs of excessive hoarding in their properties or struggle generally with daily life. These are issues that can result in accidental fires at home, so Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service can help identify those at risk through Home Fire Safety Checks and proactively assist in keeping them safe.”