Firefighters have visited more than 24,000 people living in West Yorkshire after identifying them as being at higher risk of having an accident in their home.
The Safe and Well home visit programme, which began in April 2017, aims not only to prevent fires in people’s homes but also other things that could impact negatively on their lives such as crime, falls, smoking, social isolation and being cold.
To date, the programme has made contact with 24,062 people whose lifestyle factors or demographic puts them at higher risk.
Area manager Chris Kirby, of West Yorkshire Fire Service, said: “The new system is more sophisticated in that it recognises the combined factors that can lead to an accident waiting to happen in someone’s home.
“For example living alone and being over the age of 70 does not necessarily make someone more at risk of having a fire. However, if such living circumstances are combined with factors such as reduced mobility, poor mental health or other lifestyle factors such as smoking or the use of alcohol or drugs, then this does increase the risk of someone having an accidental fire.
“It is a sad reality that if you are in the older age group and there is a fire in your home you are more likely to suffer serious injury or even death.”
Firefighters and dedicated fire prevention staff have received training to enable them to deliver the Safe and Well checks.
The system allows firefighters to refer residents on to people who can provide more expert help such as police, local authorities, public health teams and NHS staff.
Mr Kirby said: “I genuinely believe that targeting our effort to spend more time with those who are more at risk is the right thing to do but the fact is that we are visiting significantly less people compared to 10 years ago when we carried out shorter visits to anyone who asked for them.
"Safe and Well visits help the most vulnerable and the intensive training our staff go through means we can also help them with a wider range of problems too.”
The system replaced the original Home Fire Safety Check which solely focused on fire prevention and the fitting of smoke alarms.
It did not take into consideration a homeowner’s demographic or any lifestyle factors which might put them at risk.
While the number of home visits carried out each year has significantly reduced, the fire service said the quality of the checks and the time spent with vulnerable people had significantly increased.
The new system allows fire service staff to spend more time with those deemed ‘high risk’, with the average visit length last year increasing to one hour and 10 minutes.
The Safe and Well programme in numbers
1,149 agency referrals made to 107 different organisations
41 of these related to fuel poverty and cold home concerns
64 of these related to crime concerns identified during the visit
218 of these related to falls concerns where it was felt that customers may benefit from support such as additional home adaptions