CDDFRS fire cadets 180Fire cadets recently recruited to County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s (CDDFRS) latest venture for young people have taken part in a special event as part of a week of celebrations for the Service.

The first event (13 Feb) was held to demonstrate and celebrate the achievements of the new Fire Cadets’ programme, which began at Darlington Fire Station in October. The programme is the fifth of its kind to have been established by CDDFRS, it has been supported by a number of local organisations and received £3,000 of funding from the police and crime commissioner’s office to get the project off the ground.

Keith Wanley, operations area manager for CDDFRS, said: “Consett Fire Station was the first within CDDFRS to set up a YFA group in 2004 and since then Seaham, High Handenhold and Peterlee Fire Stations have followed suit. Darlington is the first of our stations to use the cadet model. Membership of the Fire Cadets and YFA is well regarded by employers as a positive addition to any CV. CDDFRS also benefits enormously from running them; these young people form a dedicated pool of volunteers who are knowledgeable ambassadors for the fire and rescue service.

“The Fire Cadets' and YFA programmes can also be a step towards joining the retained duty service of CDDFRS. At Seaham fire station, for example, of the 11 RDS firefighters currently serving, three have come through the YFA route. The RDS is an important element of the fire service especially in remote areas where we are unable to run whole-time stations 24/7. RDS firefighters provide vital operational cover for 15 of our 27 fire appliances across CDDFRS.”

Dementia Friendly Charter
The Cadet event came just the day after CDDFRS chief fire officer Stuart Errington and fire authority chair Councillor Michele Hodgson signed a charter sealing the Service’s commitment to improving engagement with those who live with dementia.

Alongside the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Action Alliance project manager Andrew Ball, CDDFRS leaders pledged to:
- Educate existing staff at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service so that all become ‘dementia friends;
- Create a specialist network of staff that are trained in dementia awareness and who can provide extra support and advice to colleagues when needed;
- Ensure that all members of staff follow the dementia friendly referral protocol;
- Promote the dementia friendly message, ensuring that all staff are aware of dementia and have up-to-date skills and knowledge regarding this when engaging with the public;
- Collaborate with partner agencies to increase awareness and engagement regarding dementia within the community.

Chief fire officer of CDDFRS, Stuart Errington, said: "The number of people affected by dementia is steadily increasing so it is important that we all learn as much as we can about it and find out the best way to help and care for those living with the condition. As a fire service we are in the privileged position of meeting people of all ages and walks of life as part of our day-to-day work. 

"We are hoping to use the skills we learn through training to spot the signs of dementia, reassure people and where appropriate refer dementia suffers and their families to agencies that can offer appropriate support. This may be during emergency situations in fires and accidents we respond to or as part of our new safe and wellbeing visits, which will replace our hugely successful home fire safety checks."

Safe and wellbeing visits
Finally, the Service has now begun a new programme of 'Safe and Wellbeing’ visits across County Durham and Darlington.

The new visits, which began this Monday (15 February) will incorporate extra elements into the successful programme of home fire safety checks based on lifestyle and provide support and practical help to improve health and quality of life when and where appropriate.

Station manager, Rob Cherrie, who is running the Safe and Wellbeing project for CDDFRS, said: "We are hoping to build on the trust afforded us on home fire safety checks by offering help in areas beyond fire safety. This could be preventing slips, trips and falls, which are a big risk for elderly people in their homes; providing details about access to schemes, to heat homes for example or health initiatives such as flu jabs; as well as giving information about smoking cessation and alcohol consumption. In addition, our crews will be able to support those affected by dementia as well as loneliness and isolation, which research shows can have a big impact on health and well-being."

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