24/10/2002

Belfast City Council boosts smoke alarm campaign

A potentially lifesaving fire safety campaign received a boost from Belfast City Council today.

Councillor Peter O’Reilly, Chairman of the Council’s Health and Environmental Services Committee, presented a cheque for £3,500 to Voluntary Services Belfast, to help fund a joint campaign to provide free smoke alarms for the elderly, families with young children and others in need.

The city council, which has supported the scheme for the past four years, recently agreed to commit additional funds to enable the provision of state-of-the-art lithium-battery powered smoke alarms in homes across the city, as well as the replacement of batteries in traditional alarms already installed in many houses.

Councillor O'Reilly said that from April 2001 through to March 2002, 14 people died in Northern Ireland as a result of fires in the home.

"In seven of these cases a smoke alarm was not fitted, and in a further three cases the smoke alarm was not working correctly – for example it had no battery – or it had been fitted in the wrong location. That represents ten lives which could have been saved by the simple act of either installing a smoke alarm or ensuring that it was working properly," he said.

Under the scheme, the Council pays for the purchase of smoke alarms and batteries and for the travelling expenses of the volunteers from VSB who carry out the actual work, free of charge. Referrals of people eligible for the scheme are made through the council’s own Home Safety Check Scheme and VSB’s Home Security Scheme.

The campaign has proved successful and since it began in November 1998, almost 580 smoke alarms and batteries have been fitted.

The news comes on the day that the UK government announced its campaign to raise awareness of fire safety over the Halloween period and the impending Fire Brigades Union strike.

The government has allocated £1.8m for their fire safety campaign which will comprise press and television advertising supported by leaflets delivered to over four million homes via free newspapers.

Nick Raynsford, Minister responsible for the Fire Service, said: "If a fire breaks out in your home, you should get out, stay out and call 999. Do not attempt to tackle the fire yourself.

"There are a number of things that you can do that can help protect you and your family and prevent fires. Most importantly, fit a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home and take extra care when cooking chips or with hot oil."

For further information visit the campaign's website at www.firekills.gov.uk

(SP)

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