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Think ‘Gas Safety’

Gas flame on a gas cooker showing a single ring lit.

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

Business Safety Week 2020

A fire safety officer doing an inspection in a business premises

Don’t let your COVID-19 precautions increase your risk of fire.

The stark warning to businesses and organisations comes from West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) at the start of Business Safety Week 2020.

An image showing graphics

WMFS is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) call to ensure fire safety stays a top priority.

It’s feared that organisations’ legitimate focus on being ‘COVID secure’ could compromise fire safety arrangements – putting staff, visitors and premises at risk.

WMFS is encouraging business owners and ‘Responsible Persons’ (RPs) to review their Fire Risk Assessments, taking account of any new measures they’ve introduced to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Group Commander Steve Ball, of WMFS’s fire safety team, said: “While all of our efforts are rightly focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19, we also need to do all we can to stop the spread of fire and, should one break out, that people are safe and can escape.

“The pandemic has presented many new challenges to businesses. However, in Business Safety Week, we’re reminding them that fire safety is as crucial as ever.

“Having an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment is the first step towards protecting your business from fire. And, for those who need extra support, we’re here to advise on how to keep your business in business – including how not to fall victim to arsonists.”

Businesses are being urged to ensure that:

  • COVID-19 protective screens don’t obstruct smoke detection
  • fire doors are kept shut to stop fire spread (not propped open to minimise contact or improve airflow) and not blocked with furniture or stock
  • they have enough trained staff to support evacuation procedures
  • social distancing arrangements don’t impede evacuation procedures or the ability of emergency services to respond
  • escape routes are maintained, paying extra attention to any one-way systems that have been introduced to counter COVID-19.

For more fire safety advice, including how to review your Fire Risk Assessment, please see this page on our website and visit www.gov.uk

You can also email our fire safety team: firesafety.admin@wmfs.net or give them a call on 0121 380 7500.

Fire and rescue services nationwide will be supporting this week’s NFCC campaign – search for the social media hashtag #BusinessSafety2020 to find out more.

‘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).

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