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Put it out, right out, for No Smoking Day

To mark No Smoking Day (Wednesday 10 March), smokers are being urged to quit their habit or realise its danger, as national statistics reveal that cigarettes and smoking products are the biggest killer in accidental fires in the home.1

Despite this shocking wake-up call, less than half (40%) of smokers are aware that smoking is the biggest cause of deaths in accidental house fires.2 In the last three years, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) attended 195 smoking related accidental fires in the home and, as a result, 25 people were injured and five people lost their lives.3

KFRS Community Safety Officers will be offering free fire safety advice alongside NHS Stop Smoking teams, encouraging smokers to cut out dangerous habits such as smoking in bed and to make sure they put properly extinguish their cigarettes. They will also be handing out free fire safety advice encouraging people to install smoke alarms on every level of the home and test them weekly.

A smoke alarm that works means you are more than twice as likely to survive an accidental house fire.4

Head of Community Safety, Stuart Skilton, said: “Without a working smoke alarm you lose valuable escape time in a fire. Just two to three breaths of the toxic smoke in a fire can render you unconscious - it affects your ability to breathe, just like drowning.”

“People need to be aware of the risks of smoking in the home and how smoking materials can very easily lead to fires. When extinguishing cigarettes, smokers must make sure they ‘put it out, right out’.”

The NHS offers every smoker free help to quit and encourages those who continue to smoke to make their homes smoke-free zones to protect loved ones from harmful second-hand tobacco smoke.

Dan Tickle, Chief Executive of the No Smoking Day Charity, said: "Seventy per cent of smokers want to stop, but aren’t aware that there is free, local help available to them. Your local Stop Smoking Service can increase your chances of success by four times. Why not take the first step this No Smoking Day and feel fitter, healthier and safer in your home.”

For smokers not ready to kick the habit this No Smoking Day, it is important to follow these simple precautions to prevent a fire at home:

• Put it out, right out! Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished
• Fit smoke alarm and test it weekly - a working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999
• Never smoke in bed, take care when you’re tired, taking any sort of drugs or have been drinking alcohol. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning!
• Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended - they can easily overbalance as they burn down
• Use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn.
• Close all inside doors at night - closed doors help to reduce the spread of fire, giving you more time to escape.

Ask the experts – for free home fire safety advice contact Kent Fire and Rescue Service on 0800 923 7000 or go to www.kent.fire-uk.org

1Source: CLG Fire Statistics, 2007; 2Source: 2009 Fire Kills Survey conducted via Opinion Matters on behalf of the Fire Kills campaign amongst a nationally representative sample of 2433 UK Adults in England; 3Source: KFRS figures from January 2007 to December 2008;  4Source: CLG Fire Statistics, 2007

Don't cook up trouble this pancake day!

With many households flipping pancakes to mark Shrove Tuesday next week (16 February) Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is issuing a few simple tips to keep you and your home safe from the risk of cooking fires.

Nearly a third (30.4 percent) of accidental dwelling fires that KFRS attended last year were cooking related.*

Head of Community Safety Stuart Skilton said: “Overheated oil in pans, deep fat fryers or dirty ovens and grill pans along with unattended cooking are the main cause of cooking fires. A moment’s distraction, especially if under the influence of alcohol, could find you faced with a serious fire that could take your home or your life. People also risk serious injury as a result of these types of incidents so take our advice and help keep you and your family safe.”

Residents are advised to take the following safety measures:

• Don’t leave pans unattended. Take them off the heat if you leave the room. Remember, fire starts when your attention stops
• Turn saucepan handles so that they don’t stick out from the hob
• Never fill a pan more than one third full of fat or oil. If the oil starts to smoke, do not begin cooking - remove from the heat and leave it to cool
• Keep the oven, hob and grill clean - a build up of fat and grease can easily catch fire
• Do not leave items on top of a hob in case it is accidentally turned on
• If you are going out for a night out and may be drinking, try and pre-plan for your return home and take a snack from the fridge or cupboard instead of turning on the cooker for a hot meal
• Fit smoke alarms on every floor of your home, and test the batteries regularly
• If there is a fire, get out, stay out and call the Fire and Rescue service.

Oil and fat fires are not minor – they can and do injure and kill!

If you would like any further information on fire safety issues, please call our freephone number 0800 923 7000 to book a home safety visit or visit our website on www.kent.fire-uk.org.

*KFRS figures for April 2008 to March 2009 show that out of 760 accidental dwelling fires attended 231 were cooking related. 

Army withdraws but firefighters still urge caution

The Army units which have supported Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) over the last few days are being withdrawn today but firefighters warn of new safety risks as the thaw starts.

KFRS asked the military to be on standby over the weekend to assist with their heavy all terrain 4X4 vehicles, to supplement KFRS's own capability. That support was extended yesterday while some parts of Kent were still potentially difficult to access because of snow and ice.

With more favourable weather forecast for the rest of the week, conditions have improved and KFRS is now able to cover with our provision of own specialist vehicles including 4x4 vehicles.

KFRS Assistant Director of Community Safety, Steve Griffiths said: “Being able to call on the Army is an established aspect of Kent's resilience planning and we thank them for their swift and efficient response.
“Fortunately the number of callouts over the past few days has been relatively low which is a good sign that the public has heeded safety advice from ourselves and the other emergency services.
“However, as the snow starts to melt, there could be new problems with people experiencing burst pipes or unstable surfaces such as frozen ponds or lakes. We urge residents to call us if incidents of this nature cause a risk to life but as a busy emergency service, we also ask that callers are responsible and consider other steps before calling 999.”

Tips include:
• Make sure you know where your stopcock is and how to turn it off in the event of flooding.
• Check with your insurance company as it can sometimes provide an emergency response.
• Contact Kent County Council or Medway Council for a list of approved contractors and plumbers or call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506
• Following a flood in your home, make sure all electrical circuits are fully dried out and checked by an electrical engineer before switching back on. 

KFRS praise for Army assistance and planning success

Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer Charlie Hendry has thanked the Army for its ongoing assistance during the inclement weather and confirmed that military units will continue to be on standby at certain fire stations across the county for the next 24 hours.

With weekend forecasts of unprecedented weather conditions, KFRS took the decision to ask the army to be on stand-by to assist with their heavy all terrain 4X4 vehicles to supplement KFRS's own capability.

Charlie Hendry said: “As an emergency rescue service we have to be ready to prepare for every eventuality. and being able to call on the army is an established aspect of Kent's resilience planning. We are pleased at how well it has worked so far and want to thank the army for getting their crews and vehicles to our fire stations so swiftly on Saturday and also for the way they have worked so closely with our crews.

“The public of Kent and Medway have responded to our call for ensuring they stay safe and although there haven’t been any significant incidents when the Army’s equipment has been specifically needed, they have accompanied us on a small number of callouts during the weekend and we have asked that they continue to do so over the next 24 hours because some specific areas and communities may still be difficult to reach.”

The military units are based at Ashford, Folkestone, Maidstone, Thames-side in Gravesend, Medway (Watling Street), Thanet (Westwood Cross) and Tunbridge Wells. The units consist of a 4 tonne lorry and a Landrover, both of which have 4X4 capability.

Over the weekend, the unit at Medway accompanied fire crews on eight occasions. The most serious incident was a kitchen fire at Sturdee Avenue in Gillingham on Sunday afternoon when a man in his thirties left cooking unattended and tried to tackle the blaze which then broke out. He required hospital treatment for burns to his hands and face.

Charlie Hendry warns this sort of incident highlights how Kent and Medway residents must continue to take care at home, as well as on the roads, during the bad weather.

He added: “Fortunately, people have generally been listening to safety advice from ourselves and the other emergency services and the number of callouts for our firefighters has been relatively low but until all roads are re-opened, we would continue to urge residents to take extra safety precautions at home.”

It is important to remember the following safety tips to keep you and your family safe during this chilly spell:

• If you plan to use an open fire, make sure your chimney is swept as built up soot and ash can cause chimney fires.

• Portable heaters should be dust free and kept well away from anything that could catch fire

• Candles should be placed on a non flammable surface and never be left unattended

• Snow and ice on the roads are causing dangerous driving conditions. Do not travel unless your journey is absolutely necessary.

• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and test it.

For more information on fire safety please log onto www.kent.fire-uk.org 

Stay safe at home during the snow

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) has put in place practical plans to ensure its emergency response during this period of inclement weather but it is also urging residents to play their part in keeping safe.

With the current heavy snow, operational staff and equipment, including vehicles with off-road capability, are ready to respond to fires and other emergencies.

KFRS has been working in close collaboration with partners such as Kent Police, Kent County Council and the Highways Agency. It is also in touch with neighbouring fire services and agreed to provide mutual assistance where needed.

Although KFRS has well rehearsed plans in place to cope with this patch of bad weather, we would like to remind people not to ring us unnecessarily and that, because of the weather conditions, it may take fire appliances longer to reach some areas than usual. It is also important to remember the following safety tips to keep you and your family safe during this chilly spell.

They are:

• If you plan to use an open fire, make sure your chimney is swept as built up soot and ash can cause chimney fires.

• Portable heaters should be dust free and kept well away from anything that could catch fire

• Candles should be placed on a non flammable surface and never be left unattended

• Snow and ice on the roads are causing dangerous driving conditions. Do not travel unless your journey is absolutely necessary.

• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and test it.

Steve Demetriou, Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s Director of Operations, said: “Together with our partners we have put in place well-practised plans to maintain our emergency response for the county during this cold spell. However, during this time of low temperatures and chilly conditions we urge you to follow our simple fire safety tips. Also, now more than ever, please take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours to make sure they are safe, well and free from fire risks.”

For more information on fire safety please log onto www.kent.fire-uk.org 

Stay safe during cold spell

With the onset of freezing weather conditions, residents are being reminded to take a few simple safety precautions to stay safe during the chilly spell.

More heavy snow is predicted tonight and with temperatures unlikely to creep much above freezing, many are turning to open fires and other heat sources to stay warm.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) wants everyone to be equipped with a few safety tips to prevent fires from breaking out in the home.

If you plan on using an open fire, make sure your chimney has been recently swept as build ups of soot and ash can cause chimney fires.

When going to bed, householders should also make doubly certain that an open fire is either out, or pushed back into the grate and a guard used to prevent sparks hitting carpets or furnishings.

Candles should always be placed on a non flammable surface and never be left unattended.

Portable heaters should be dust-free and kept well away from anything that could catch fire.

John Pereira, KFRS’ Head of Technical Fire Safety, said: “People take extra care on the roads during icy weather and they should take similar precautions at home.

“Always make sure you have a smoke alarm fitted and that it is working correctly. If in doubt, book one of our free home safety visits.”

A home safety visit is free, takes just 30 minutes and can help identify any potential fire hazards.

Free smoke alarms are then fitted where necessary.

To book your visit call 0800 923 7000 or visit www.kent.fire-uk.org 

Have a happy and safe Diwali

With Diwali, the ‘Festival of Lights,’ due to take place tomorrow, Kent Fire and Rescue Service is urging Sikh, Hindu and Jain communities celebrating the festival to do so safely.

Statistics show that there is an increased fire risk around this time of year, due to the increased use of with candles, fireworks and divas. Nationally, candle fires soar by over a third during this period because candles and tea lights play a major part in festivities, and twenty per cent of deaths, caused by candles, occur at this time.

In addition, where cooking is a major part of the festivities, there is a heightened risk of fire in the kitchen.

Head of Community Safety Stuart Skilton said: "This time of year is a very special occasion for the Sikh, Hindu and Jain communities, and we don't want to dampen spirits. It is not only Diwali, we also see an increase in fires in the home during other festive occasions – often safety comes second to celebration.”

He added: "I would especially urge the celebrating community to ensure they have a working smoke alarm installed on every floor of their homes and the batteries tested weekly. By taking just a few simple precautions you can greatly reduce the risks of death and injury for yourself and your family.”
These include:

Diva, candles and nightlights
Treat the Diva as you would any other flame:
• Use only enough ghee for a Diva to last your Puja and make sure that it rests securely on a heat resistant surface.
• NEVER leave burning candles or divas unattended in the home. Never leave unattended when retiring to bed or while attending the Gurdwara/temple for Diwali prayers.
• At all times, keep the flame at a safe distance from curtains, furniture and decorations. Long hair and clothing (especially saris, chunris/chunis and dupattas) are also very flammable.
• Keep the flame out of reach of children and animals. Children should be supervised at all times near flames.

Fireworks
Treat fireworks with great caution:
• Only buy fireworks marked with British Safety Standard 7114 and always read the instructions. For more information on both fireworks safety and new laws on their use, visit the DBERR fireworks website www.berr.gov.uk/fireworks
• Although it is now illegal to use fireworks after 11pm, on the night of Diwali this is extended to 1am.
• Remember - it is also illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in a public place.

Smoke alarms
Smoke alarms save lives:
• Fit smoke alarms on each floor level in your home. Consider buying a ten year alarm - and test the alarm weekly.

Cooking fire safety
Don't leave cooking unattended. Fire starts when your attention stops:
• When cooking deep-fry food, dry it before you put it in the hot oil.
• If the oil starts to smoke, turn off the heat and leave the pan to cool.
• Never fill the pan more than one third full of oil.
• Never throw water over the pan. 

Praise for Kent Fire and Rescue Staff

Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer is writing to the hundreds of staff involved with last week’s Channel Tunnel fire, to thank them for their professionalism and skill in dealing with the 21 hour incident.

KFRS Control Room operators received their first call to the site at 2.57pm on Thursday 11 September after a fire alarm was triggered. At the height of the blaze, more than 20 appliances and over 100 firefighters were at the scene but KFRS’s involvement continued until midday on Friday which meant dozens of different teams from all over the county were involved.

The KFRS stations which attended the fire included: the Channel Tunnel, Ashford, Wye, Aldington, Dover, St Margarets, Folkestone, New Romney, Hythe, Dymchurch, Lydd, Cranbrook, Hawkhurst, Horton Kirby, Hoo, Strood, Chatham, Medway, Sittingbourne, Eastchurch, Maidstone, Lenham, Headcorn, Borough Green, Sevenoaks, Paddock Wood, Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Canterbury, Aylesham, Sturry, Wingham, Faversham, Whitstable, Whitfield, Eastry, Teynham, Margate, Deal.

KFRS Chief Fire Officer Bill Feeley said: “Hundreds of our staff were involved in dealing with this incident; either at the fire itself, in the Incident Command Centre or the Major Incident Room, in our Control Centre or at Gold Command with a number of other agencies. I know many others were involved in standby moves and generally assisting the maintenance of a normal Service whilst all of this was going on.
“Once again we have been tested in dealing with a major operational incident and I am both delighted and proud to say that our staff coped magnificently well. This was a tremendously difficult job carried out extremely well by all involved and I thank them for their efforts.”

KFRS is supporting its French counterparts in their investigation into the cause of the blaze. 

New high-tech fire engine goes on the run

A new fire engine featuring the latest line in firefighting and safety equipment including CCTV, special foam and fan systems, is due to start operation in Medway next week.

The appliance is the first of its kind for Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) because it has a main pump that can provide Compressed Air Foam (CAFs) and carries a Positive Pressure Ventilation fan (PPV), both of which will greatly enhance crew safety. It also has CCTV cameras to combat anti-social behaviour and record incidents at fire-grounds.

Costing around £192,000, it replaces an older appliance at Medway and, after undergoing several weeks of training, firefighters will start using it on Wednesday 18 June.

KFRS Assistant Director of Operations Steve Demetriou said: “This vehicle is the first in a full programme of service fleet improvements which will ensure that our firefighters can continue to provide a first class service to the public. KFRS is committed to continuously improving firefighting vehicles and equipment and significant funding is being provided to this programme.”

Over the last year, KFRS reported 11 incidents of verbal or physical abuse* against its crews and although that number is relatively low – particularly compared to other fire and rescue services – it is hoped the CCTV will further deter anti-social behaviour.

Steve added: “We will not tolerate any abuse against our crews as they carry out often life-saving work. The new appliance in Medway is a pilot project which may be repeated throughout the county if it proves successful but the Kent and Medway communities are largely supportive of our role and I hope the cameras will be used more for training purposes and recording how we tackle fires, than for collecting evidence of violent or abusive behaviour.”

As well as improving crew safety, the CAF and PPV systems minimise the environmental impact of fire fighting. Traditionally, firefighters use large quantities of water to extinguish fires sometimes with adverse affects, which include the impact it can have on water supplies. It also creates steam which can cause scolding type injuries to firefighters and can cause more damage to property, while the contaminated water “run off” from fires has the potential to enter water courses, with the potential to cause further damage to the environment.

With the new CAF system, fire crews are able to mix very small amounts of foam with compressed air and water to make a large quantity of wet or dry foam to fight fires. When used, the foam sticks to the material that is on fire, greatly reducing the possibility of “run off” from entering water courses. It also has less surface tension than water so is quickly absorbed, suppressing and cooling fires faster than traditional techniques.

The PPV fans are used to increase pressure inside fire hit buildings which subsequently drive out heat, smoke, gases and other products of combustion. The fan provides a flow of cool, fresh air, making it much safer for firefighters who may have to enter a building to tackle the fire within or rescue people trapped inside.

Medway Station Manager Jim Ramsden said: “Medway’s fire crews will benefit in several ways from the investment in such equipment. Firefighting with foam is more efficient and environmentally friendly. We will also be able to minimise the damage caused by smoke and fumes by using PPV fans.”

‘’With the addition of CCTV on the appliance, it will mean our firefighters are leading the way with new technology that will not only further protect the community, but also KFRS staff. ”

Note to editors: Journalists and photographers are invited to come and see the new appliance and equipment on Wednesday 18 June at 2.30pm at Medway Fire Station in Watling Street, Gillingham.

There will also be an opportunity to interview Assistant Director Steve Demetriou, Station Manager Jim Ramsden and some of the firefighters who will be operating the new engine.
Please confirm your attendance by contacting the press office on (01622) 692121.

*Figures relate from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008. 

Kent firefighter receives national award

A firefighter who has led the way in raising awareness of hidden disabilities in the work place and in the community has triumphed at the national Fire and Rescue Service Equality and Diversity Awards.

As a dyslexic, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) Strood Watch Manager Chris Caswell knows all to well how a disability can lead to problems with day to day tasks such as reading and understanding written communications and instructions. Chris spent several years masking his disability because he was worried about how his colleagues would react.

Once he declared his dyslexia, Chris realised that Kent Fire and Rescue Service was more than willing to support him and was also prepared to make adjustments so that he could work on a level playing field to his counterparts.

Using himself as an example, Chris strived to ensure that staff and management were aware of hidden disabilites such as dyslexia. This has helped develop an open approach to disability, which has in turn encourgaed other affected staff to come forward and declare that they have a disability without feeling embarrassed.

Speaking yesterday (28th May) at conference aimed at addressing Equality and Diversity in the Fire and Rescue Service, Fire Minister Parmijt Dhanda presented the awards with BBC News and television broadcaster Nicholas Owen. These give recognition to Fire and Rescue Service staff in England - both individually and in teams - who have shown exceptional commitment to leadership, service delivery and partnership working which furthers the aim of improving diversity in the Fire and Rescue Service.

Chris fought off 40 other applicants to win the Communities and Local Government award for Service Delivery.

The panel of judges, made up by both private and public sector peers who had an excellent understanding of equality and diversity issues, said: “This was a marvellous example of demonstrating good practice for other fire and rescue services to follow. Chris’ innovative approach successfully promoted hidden disabilities and prompted significant changes to Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s policies on disability and the way it delivers its service. The benefits of which have been felt in both the workplace and the community.”

Chris said: “I am so pleased to win this award – colleagues in Human Resources, Information Systems (IS) and Training Centre put in a tremendous amount of hard work so that we could effectively address disabilities like dyslexia, not only for the benefit of staff but the public we serve too.

“In recognising hidden disabilities, KFRS has developed different methods for new recruits and firefighters to complete promotional exams, improved the IT facilities that are on offer so that dyslexics and others can receive information in either a Video, Audio or written format. It has also made significant changes to the way it communicates with others – for example, we now have software that enables dyslexic staff to speak an email and then send it to the intended recipient, as well as a read speaker facility on its website that speaks aloud written content.

“By making practical changes and demonstrating that KFRS is an employer that respects, values and supports its staff, regardless of disability, we hope that the members of the diverse communities in Kent and Medway are encouraged to seriously consider careers in the fire and rescue service. Our goal is to have a workforce that truly reflects the county we serve.”

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