Check in on others to help everyone stay fire safe

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

BALLYMENA’S firemen are encouraging the community to ‘know their neighbour’ during Fire Safety Week which will take place from 4th to 10th October.

The theme will be based around ‘isolation’ and what we as a community can do to ensure that those who live alone stay safe from the dangers of fire.

In highlighting the importance of Fire Safety Week, Station Commander Alan Barr from NIFRS Ballymena District said: “During Fire Safety Week, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) will be calling on the community and its partner agencies to check in on those they know who live alone.

“This will emphasise the need to continue the crucial and collaborative work NIFRS does with both partner agencies and the community to identify people at risk from fire.

‘’During the week NIFRS will be encouraging the community to ‘know their neighbour.’ This will involve highlighting the importance of checking in with friends, neighbours and family members who may be vulnerable, living alone or more at risk from fire.

“This will involve making sure they have a smoke alarm which is tested weekly and looking out for fire hazards in the home.

“Locally, NIFRS will be attending the chatty benches in the Ballymena area and the chatty café in Cullybackey. It is hoped that people who live alone will use this opportunity to chat about fire safety in the home and request a free home fire safety check if necessary.”

The times and dates are:

· Monday 4th October 10.45 am to 12.30 pm Wellington Street/Church Street walkway beside the Ulster Bank

· Tuesday 5th October 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm in the People’s Park

· Wednesday 6th October 10.45 am to 12.30 pm in Blessings Coffee Shop, Cullybackey

· Thursday 7th October 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm Wellington Street/Church Street walkway beside the Ulster Bank

· Friday 8th October 10.45 am to 12.30 pm Maine Riverside Walk, Cullybackey

Station Commander Barr added: “NIFRS uses the STOP fire message to deliver its fire safety message to the community. This is a very simple message asking the following questions:

Smoke alarm - do you have a working smoke alarm?

Test it - do you test it each week?

Obvious dangers - do you know the ‘Obvious Dangers’ from fire?

Plan your escape route - do you have an escape plan if a fire starts?

Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSP) are an essential partner in identifying those at risk from fire in the community and referring them on to NIFRS for a free home fire safety check.

Cllr Danny Donnelly, Chairman of Mid and East Antrim PCSP, said: ‘’While anyone can be affected by the adverse effects of isolation, some groups are more at risk such as people with a disability and older people.

“ This may mean that they are more vulnerable to the risk of a fire occurring in their home due to having no one checking in on them.

“Checking in on those who live in isolation can identify if their smoke alarms are in good working order or if there are any potential fire hazards in their homes. Therefore, I would support NIFRS in encouraging the community to check in on friends, neighbours and family members.

“ I would also encourage those members of our community who live in isolation to engage with NIFRS at the chatty benches and if necessary request a free home fire safety check.’’

MEA Loneliness Network Chairperson Marjorie Hawkins added: “As Chairperson of Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network I am delighted to be taking part in the launch of Fire Safety Week in our Borough.

“ Coronavirus and social distancing has forced all of us to look loneliness in the eye. So recognising the signs and tackling the stigma has never been more important.

“The home safety messages promoted during Fire Safety Week are particularly important to those most isolated and vulnerable in our community. Information given out by the Fire Service this week will help everyone understand the role they can play in looking after each other, staying safe in their houses and will empower agencies like the NI Fire and Rescue Service to reach more vulnerable people.

“We are delighted that our Chatty benches is being used directly to make contact with those most in need in our community and we hope it can be used as a tool to promote services and activities that provide a vital lifeline to those who feel lonely and isolated at this time.”

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