A project involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service saw more than 100 dangerous heaters removed from the homes of some of the most vulnerable people in the community and also helped to save lives.
In November 2011 the Emergency Heating campaign was launched by a partnership of public, private and voluntary organisations in Liverpool and aimed to saving the lives of vulnerable people over the winter months.
The project targeted the most at risk elderly people who used hazardous heating or had no heating at all. It also identified risks of carbon monoxide from dated gas fires and provided safety and heating advice and winter warm packs and, where it was necessary, free oil-filled Dimplex radiators. The packs included gloves, scarves, blankets, hats and socks.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service worked with its charitable arm Fire Support Network (FSN) to help get the oil-filled radiators into the homes. In total 140 unsafe heaters were removed from properties in Liverpool.
FSN also held briefings for carers in Merseyside who initially identified those most at risk and in need of help from the project. Referrals were made for the heaters by organisations including Age Concern, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Community Safety Teams, Liveability the NHS and Local Solutions.
Out of 177 properties visited as part of the Emergency Heating initiative, 33% had no central heating. A total of 52% of properties did have central heating but 37% of this reported the system was broken and just 15% said it was working.
As part of the campaign, 51 gas safe interventions were made, including oven and fire isolation switches, appliance disconnections and gas or boiler safety checks.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said: “This project was focused directly at improving the safety, health and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. This has shown what partnership work can really achieve and it is not an understatement to say that this initiative has truly saved lives. It has not only helped elderly people but those with dementia and disabilities stay safe this Winter.
“Now we look to build on these superb foundations and we are supporting Fire Support Network in their work to gain more funding for heaters and other measures to make people safer in Merseyside.”
National statistics show that the UK has the highest winter death rates in Europe and Liverpool suffered a total of 222 excess winter deaths in 2009/10.
Many vulnerable people resort to unsafe means of heating such as old electric bar or paraffin heaters which can significantly increase the fire risk.
Manufacturer Dimplex agreed to donate a number of oil-filled radiators free of charge and provided more radiators at a special price so that the campaign could ensure as many vulnerable people are provided with heaters as possible.
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Chaplain Bill Sanders approached English Churches for donations and was the first to raise £5,000 for the heaters as their gift to the vulnerable. Other organisations who have given their support include: Liverpool Mutual Homes, Riverside Housing Group, Mersey Care NHS Trust, LCC Housing, LCC Electrical Safety, Arena Housing, Toxteth TV, BBC Radio Merseyside, Liveability, Liverpool PCT, Healthy Homes, Gas Safe and Liverpool Advocacy Rights Hub.
Fire Support Network Chief Executive Officer Linda Mitchell said: “Following funding from the Department of Health and Liverpool City Council the initiative was expanded to areas of Sefton and the Wirral last year and continues this winter, helping the most vulnerable. This additional funding also allowed gas isolation switches to be fitted reducing the risk and chance of a fire in some areas of the city.”