Over the past year West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has worked closely with a variety of community groups and partners to make a real difference to the most vulnerable people in society, reports Mussarat Suleman, Safety Central Information and Events Manager.

Safety Central - West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's (WYFRS) centre of excellence for the development and delivery of safety awareness and education - has focused on working with people most at risk with regard to fire and road safety.

WYFRS delivers fire safety talks to a variety of community groups and organisations. Previous consultation with older people has revealed that the fire safety awareness talks delivered across West Yorkshire would have greater impact if they were more geared towards the specific needs of the target audience both in terms of style and message content.


So what did we do?

In response to the consultation findings, the Older Person's DVD Project was developed. The aim of the project was to produce a DVD aimed at older people, accessing older people as expert advisors to convey key fire safety and road safety messages whilst providing engaging and educational social activities. The project was funded by the Leeds Outer West Area Committee Large Projects Fund.

The launch of the project in Summer 2010 was celebrated with an afternoon tea dance and provided the opportunity to show the older people a fire safety DVD we had previously produced with a group of people with learning disabilities. The event was a great success with the groups showing a real desire to learn more about fire safety and road safety whilst enjoying the afternoon tea dance.

The launch event was one of a series of four learning events to be held at Safety Central offering invited guests the opportunity to find out more about safety and get involved in producing the DVD.

The four learning events attracted over 160 unique visitors from the Leeds West area, from which 40 older people volunteered to be directly involved in the production of the films and 27 of which regularly attended workshops and filming days.

A locally based film production company was commissioned to work with the target audience on all aspects of the production including writing the script, acting in the films and performing assistant crew roles. The Production Company has extensive experience of working with community groups who have little or no experience of script writing or film making and delivered a number of workshops with the volunteers to equip them with the required skills.

The volunteers were provided with advanced fire and road safety information through the four learning events held at Safety Central so were aware of the main safety issues affecting older people. The knowledge gained was used in the development of the DVD's, with the older people advising on how to deliver key messages in an engaging and easy to understand way for the target audience.


The outcome

The project culminated in the production of three films on two DVDs focusing on fire safety, arson and road safety.

In March 2011 an Oscar-style launch event of the two DVDs was held for participants, families and friends. Calamity Street features two films and conveys home fire safety and road safety messages, whilst Disaster Close focuses on the actions the community can take in minimising the opportunity and impact of arson on their communities.

The films convey key safety related messages in a fun and engaging way. Many of the scenarios acted out in the films are based on true events and because of this they have a certain resonance in delivering a message that is both meaningful and enduring.

All volunteers were encouraged to take as full and active a role as they felt appropriate. Some of the volunteers involved in the project had hearing, visual and/or physical impairment and memory issues, which were all taken into account during the planning and development of the DVDs. The success of the finished films can be attributed to the volunteers' full participation and commitment to conveying relevant issues in the most appropriate manner.

To ensure the product is accessible, the voiceovers in the films are delivered in a style to suit the intended audience and all the films come complete with audio description, subtitles and BSL interpretation.

At the end of each film there is an interactive quiz. This serves not only to gauge the understanding of the audience but also reinforces the safety messages, which is vitally important with an audience of older people. The tone of the films is light-hearted but this in no way detracts from the serious safety messages that are portrayed.


What's next?

All of the DVDs include a feedback form and we will continue to act on this feedback to improve our service delivery.

The DVD has been circulated amongst agencies working with older people in the Leeds West area. The added value of using local money to work with local groups to produce a resource for the benefit of all is clear. The DVDs have given WYFRS a durable product which can be used as part of educational delivery across West Yorkshire and beyond. This resource is available for use by WYFRS teams and partner agencies. A number of fire and rescue services across the country have already requested a copy of the DVDs for use in their area.

Whilst the safety messages delivered in the DVDs are relevant to the needs of older people, they can be easily transferred to meet the needs of any other group ensuring that maximum benefit is gained from this new educational resource.


Posted September 21st, 2011 at 0915 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com