Some people are more vulnerable to fire than others due to health problems or reduced mobility. Many of the fatal fires in Nottinghamshire over the last few years have involved people aged 65 or over, and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service recognises that some people may need additional support in order to stay safe from fire.
The Service's Persons at Risk Team (PART) carries out direct interventions with those considered more vulnerable to fire, including carrying out specialist Safe and Well Checks. These checks involve visiting people's homes, assessing how vulnerable they are to fire and other emergencies, and taking steps to try and reduce the risk, such as fitting working smoke alarms, providing specialist equipment and offering advice. They can also put the person in touch with other agencies where they can access additional care and support.
People can be more at risk of fire if they:
- Are over 65 years of age
- Live alone
- Have a physical or learning disability
- Have dementia or memory loss issues
- Take medication that may affect their ability to react or escape from fire
- Have a mental illness
- Are unable to protect themselves from harm
- Smoke regularly, but particularly in bed
There are also a number of unsafe practices which can increase the risk of fire, and which Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service advises against. These include:
- Smoking in bed – careless disposal of matches and cigarettes, particularly when in bed or sitting in armchairs, is a common cause of house fires. This can be extremely dangerous where individuals have mobility problems that impair their ability to escape should bedding or clothing catch fire.
- Leaving candles unattended – it's important that candles - or any naked flame - are extinguished properly when you leave the room or go to bed, and that they are positioned. away from materials that may catch fire, such as curtains. Elderly people can often be at extra risk if they forget to extinguish candles, or if they are unable to escape should a fire occur.
- Using electric blankets that are old or poorly maintained – most of us feel the cold during winter, especially those who are elderly or suffering from a physical disability. It's important to ensure that electric blankets are used and stored safely, and that they are well maintained.
- Unsafe positioning of portable heaters – these should always be placed away from combustible materials such as curtains, clothes and furniture. Fire guards should also be used to protect open fires or open heaters.
If you know someone who falls into one or more of these categories, and may be at risk of fire, you can contact the Persons At Risk Teams on Freephone 0800 022 3235 or via email Personsatrisk@notts-fire.gov.uk