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CULTURE OF ZERO TOLERANCE TO FIRE DEATHS

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The Fire Brigades Union says a culture of zero tolerance to fire deaths needs to be built if significant reductions...
The Fire Brigades Union says a culture of zero tolerance to fire deaths needs to be built if significant reductions are to be made in reducing the number of people killed in fires. The union is writing to all fire authorities following the launch of this key initiative at its annual conference in Southport.

The union has pledged£10,000 to fund research into cheaper modern smoke and heat alarms that will help people escape and give more chance for rescue. Earlier detection gives people longer to escape and the fire services more time to carry out rescues.

It has asked every fire and rescue authority to pledge money so that a start can be made on the research. The government has also said it would be interested in working with the union to research and develop this initiative.

Deaths in fires disproportionately involve the young, the elderly and those who live in poorer areas. The last official annual statistics show 594 people a year are killed in fires.

Launching the move assistant general secretary Mike Fordham said: 'Zero tolerance of fire deaths must be adopted as the centrepiece of modern fire service policy. The ultimate aim must be to have no one killed in fires.

'We have already made major in-roads over the last 20 years in halving the number of fire deaths to their lowest for over 40 years. But we must do more than simply try and emulate the past, we must do much better.

'That means listening to those in the fire service who have new and creative ideas about how this can be achieved. It means having the vision with real practical ideas about how the vision can be achieved.'

The Fire Brigades Union says zero fire deaths must include all fire deaths, not only those killed in accidental house fires. The aim is to optimise the mix of:

* prevention,

* detection

* emergency intervention to significantly reduce fire deaths and injuries with the ultimate aim of ZERO fire deaths

'All current research shows that the shorter the time between a fire starting and the fire and rescue service being alerted, the greater the chance of survival' said Mr Fordham. The union calls this timeframe the 'intervention window' when people can either escape or where a rescue can be carried out.

'This new type of alarm could do that by being sited at different locations within the home and radio linked so a fire detected in one part of the home would also trigger all the other alarms in the home' said Mr Fordham. 'This is the same way alarms work in business premises but at a fraction of the cost.

'The great failing of domestic smoke alarms is that each goes off separately rather than triggering all the alarms in the house. Being radio linked means they can avoid all the expense and disruption of wiring them together.

'The key is making these alarms affordable for an average household, at around£10 each. The technology is available; the aim is to make it affordable so their use can become more widespread.

'Earlier detection and warning gives a far greater opportunity to reduce fire deaths by allowing time to react before escape routes are cut off. It also allows the fire service more time to rescue people trapped as is so often the case with existing domestic smoke alarms.'

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