Firefighters, Combating Community Issues Head On

The World Health Organisation has warned that young people across the EU may die at an earlier age than their […]

The World Health Organisation has warned that young people across the EU may die at an earlier age than their grandparents if the region fails to tackle smoking, drinking and obesity. Firefighters have been set the challenge to take up new roles as social workers and tackle such pressing medical issues, before it is too late. (1)

Openhouse explores what makes a community firefighter a great social worker?

Trusted Professionals

Firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis to help save people from life threatening situations. Being able to risk your own life in the attempt to save another is a crucial part of the job.

The Local Government Association states that firefighters remain one of the most trusted professions, commanding respect across all age groups and in a diverse range of communities. This makes them uniquely placed to help to provide medical advice, support and protection to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Kent Fire and Rescue have focussed their attention on supporting members of the community suffering with long term medical conditions such as dementia. More than 400 of their staff have become actively involved by becoming ‘dementia friends’. Over half of all fire fatalities occur in homes of people over the age of 60, according to the Chief Fire Officers Association. By visiting the over 60’s residents and conducting fire safety inspections they aim to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. (2)firetruck firefighter safety training professionalsThe team have recently conducted a number of advice sessions to help promote fire safety at home. Thameside watch Manager, Dave Mayhew said, ‘We need people to be our eyes and ears in the community, awareness sessions like these are about highlighting some of the risks and explaining how carers can help keep the people they care for safe from fire. It is about the wide range of free services we can provide, there’s lots we can do to help those people who are most at risk.’ (3)

Experts in the Dangers of Smoking

Each year, UK hospitals see around 9,500 admissions of children with illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. Doctors can help to treat the medical effects of second hand smoke and advise on how to prevent further damage but who is able to protect the children, who are all to often affected in their home? Firefighters are both educated in the dangers of secondary smoke, alarm emergency fire smokerespected in the community and are able to conduct safety inspections within the home.

Being highly educated in the dangers of fire, smoking and other serious and life threatening issues make firefighters ideal candidates to conduct talks and lead presentations in schools, colleagues and places of work to teach young and impressionable members of the public about these issues.

People put their trust in firefighters and other emergency responders, and will tend to listen to their advice and guidance over anyone else. As firefighters are often trained to help educate the community on the prevention of fires, they understand how to conduct safety inspections and can ask the public to conduct their own safety checks such as ‘pressing the button campaign’. Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said, “We’re continually trying new and innovative ways to get the message out there, about the importance of having smoke alarms and checking them on a regular basis.” (4)

Fitness Ambassadors

Firefighters are naturally great fitness ambassadors, especially for children. To fight fire you must be at the peak of your physical fitness, which means you will understand how to keep fit and healthy both through diet and exercise.

Firefighters in Wigan have become ‘health champions’ in their local community, according to The Local Government Association. All 190 firefighters have been given specialist training in public health as part of the local council’s Making Health Everyone’s Business initiative.

firefighter firemen safety trainingThe scheme, launched seven years ago, has so far educated the local community on childhood obesity and how to live a health lifestyle. Wigan Borough Manager Steve Sheridan said, ‘With the work we do, we gain access to people in the community who may need help – not just withfire safety but with wider issues. We can help link them in with the health and social care agencies that are best able to help. So if Mrs Wigan is in a property and looks to be living in poverty and is cold, fire crews will refer her to the relevant agency that might come in and assess fuel consumption and other health needs.’

Firefighters make brilliant community health workers, promoting a positive and healthy lifestyle to all. With their wide range of skills and experience, they are working to combat life threatening issues within our society. Health affects everyone and so it should be everybody’s business. 

Openhouse provide bespoke medical bags and equipment to the emergency services in the UK.