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Safety

News items related to general safety, public safety information, key safety initiatives or projects.

Think ‘Gas Safety’

Photo of a boiler

As winter approaches, and with many people continuing to work and spend more time at home because of COVID-19, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is joining calls in Gas Safety Week 2020 to ‘think gas safety’.

The initiative, now in its tenth year, aims to raise awareness of the importance of gas safety – as well as of the dangers of poorly-maintained gas appliances.

Gas hob with two rings lit

In the three years to March 2020, WMFS firefighters attended 15 fires where gas was the main source of ignition (domestic and non-domestic settings). They also responded to 615 gas leak incidents – with just over 80 per cent of these being at people’s homes.

Pete Wilson, WMFS’s Group Manager for Prevention, said: “Many of us rely on, and perhaps even take for granted, our gas appliances. However, if you don’t keep boilers, heaters and cookers in good working order you risk gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It’s important that you only use a registered and qualified Gas Safe engineer to carry out servicing and repairs. Never attempt to work on a gas appliance yourself.

“We’re also urging people to have carbon monoxide detectors and alarms in their homes. It’s a highly-poisonous gas which can kill quickly, with no warning, but an alarm will alert you if there are dangerous levels in your home.”

It is a legal requirement for anyone carrying out domestic and commercial gas work to be registered, and comply with the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998.

Gas Safe Register is the official register for legally-qualified engineers and can help you find an engineer in your area: GasSafeRegister.co.uk.

More top tips to help you stay ‘gas safe’:

  • if you smell gas or think there might be a gas leak, call the free 24-hour national gas emergency number immediately on 0800 111 999
  • know the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning: headaches, nausea, breathlessness, collapse, dizziness and loss of consciousness
  • keep up-to-date with Gas Safety Week updates on social media by following @GasSafeRegister and the hashtags #GSW20 and #GasSafetyWeek.

Gas Safety Week 2020 starts Monday 14 September.

Gas safety register logo and telephone number

‘Escape hoods’ safety boost for West Mids fire victims

Two firefighters in full personal protective equipment holding a fire escape hood

New ‘fire escape hoods’, designed to protect fire victims from smoke and fumes, are set to be carried on all West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) emergency response vehicles.

The service’s 41 fire engines, 19 Brigade Response Vehicles and a specialist breathing apparatus support unit will be equipped with the hoods from Monday 7 September 2020.

Station Commander Richard Moore, of WMFS’s Response Team, said: “We aim to get to serious incidents in five minutes, because we know this increases your chances of survival.  
 
Our new fire escape hoods will provide vital extra protection to people who are unlucky enough to be caught in a fire and who need rescuing or leading to safety by our crews.” 
 
Over the last five yearsapproaching 700 people were rescued or led to safety by West Midlands firefighters. Many subsequently needed treating with oxygen or taking to hospital after breathing in smoke. It is hoped that the hoods will mean far fewer people need treating for the effects of smoke.  
 
Station Commander Moore added: “The smoke produced by fires contains a lot of harmful toxins. The hoods are designed to filter them out and stop you from breathing them in. 
   
“Now, depending on the particular circumstances and conditions at fire, our firefighters might ask you to wear one of the hoods so you can pass more safely through a smoke-filled environment. 

A man wearing a fire escape hood to demonstrate how it looks
A photograph of Watch Commander Jim White holding a fire escape hood while stood in front of a fire engine.

“They’ll only ever ask you to wear one for your own safety. They’ll need you to take off a head covering if you wear one, so the hood can fit and work as effectively as possible.

“With your agreement, they’ll help you to put it over your head, check it’s properly fitted and sealed and that you can see, breathe and talk as usual, before getting you to safety.”

The self-contained fire escape hoods, which are fitted with air filters, allow the wearer to breathe safely in a smoke-filled atmosphere for up to 15 minutes.

A recommendation from Phase I of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire required all fire and rescue services to have fire escape hoods for evacuating people through smoke-filled routes.

After conducting a number of trials, West Midlands Fire Service has chosen to carry Dräger PARAT 5550 Fire Escape Hoods on its fire engines, 4×4 Brigade Response Vehicles and its specialist Breathing Apparatus Incident Support Unit (BAISU).

#ThinkSprinkler!

Sprinkler campaign details

We’re supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) National Sprinkler Week campaign, from 19 to 24 May.  

NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) research into sprinkler systems’ effectiveness and reliability found that they operate on 94% of occasions and extinguish or contain the fire virtually every time.  

The evidence also demonstrated that in both converted and purpose-built flats, sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires. 

A diagram showing how a water sprinkler works

NFCC lead for sprinklers, Chief Fire Officer Terry McDermott, said: “The evidence speaks for itself. Sprinklers are very effective and provide strong fire safety protections as part of a fire safety package.  

“Wales and Scotland recognise this and have implemented measures to make their communities safer from fire. We want to see the same changes in England and Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency. Fire does not discriminate and is just as dangerous in England as it is in the rest of the UK.”  

You can follow the national campaign on Twitter, using the hashtag #ThinkSprinkler. 

Station Commander Dave Hodgkins, of West Midlands Fire Service’s Fire Safety team, said: “Sprinklers not only save lives, property and businesses but also enhance firefighter safety. 

“We wholly support the installation of sprinklers and other suppression systems, where appropriate, which can only help to make the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier.” 

We encourage the installation of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) where people or premises are identified as being ‘high risk’ in our Integrated Risk Management Plan. AFSSs include:                  

  • commercial and industrial sprinkler systems
  • residential and domestic sprinkler systems
  • water mist systems
  • foam systems
  • wet chemical
  • inert gas systems
  • powder extinguishing systems
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