Northamptonshire fire safety advisor shares what he does on a home visit to help prevent emergencies

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The fire service has seven advisors who conduct at home visits

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has a prevention team to work on preventing fires, and a big part of the team are the home fire safety advisors who visit people in their own properties.

In 2021/22, more than 4,000 home fire safety visits (HFSV) were carried out. Approximately two thirds of these will have been done by fire crews in their communities, but a third of them will have been enhanced visits for high-risk customers conducted by home fire safety advisors.

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Dave Billing is one of seven such advisors for NFRS and has worked part-time in the role since October 2017. Prior to this he had a 30-year career as a firefighter.

Dave Billing out on a home visit.Dave Billing out on a home visit.
Dave Billing out on a home visit.

Dave will typically visit people who have been referred from a number of agencies, including EMAS, social services, family or friends, housing officers or associations, fostering agencies or Northamptonshire Police.

An example of a visit

One recent visit saw Dave advise a husband and wife, both of whom were in their late 80s and had been referred to NFRS by Age UK. One customer was unable to see and the other had a hearing impairment.

After showing his ID and being welcomed inside, Dave starts by carrying out a test of the smoke alarm and observing their response. He then makes a referral to a company that can help install specialist smoke alarms for people with hearing impairments.

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Dave and his team follow up on referrals from other agencies.Dave and his team follow up on referrals from other agencies.
Dave and his team follow up on referrals from other agencies.

He fits a new 10-year battery operated smoke alarm instead of the current alarm, which needs new batteries every 12 months. He also tests whether the Carbon Monoxide alarm is working and moves it to a more accessible place for the couple.

He also fits a new heat alarm in the kitchen, advising them to check regularly whether it is working by pressing the test/silent button using their walking sticks.

He tells them: “The most important thing I can do to protect someone is to fit smoke alarms, because it means you will know in the early stages if there is a fire. This will give you more time to get out.”

A typical home visit will involve Dave looking at the layout of the property and advising on the best escape route.

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The visit appeared to go down very well with the elderly homeowners, who say they will donate to The Fire Fighters Charity in return for the free help.

He also takes down the details of a friend of the couple, a woman in her 90s, who has asked if NFRS will visit her too. This will be added to the spreadsheet to ensure that she also receives a HFSV, either from the safety advisors or a local fire crew.

It is not just visits to elderly or vulnerable people that the home fire safety team will carry out. They can also conduct visits alongside the arson task force for people whose property may be deemed at risk of arson. This can include fitting safety devices such as a letterbox lock to make it harder to break in and enter, or pour flammable liquids through the letter box.

“It’s definitely a rewarding job, and what is most important is that we’re helping to make people safer in their own homes,” Dave added.