In the last year (2016/17), South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Control room received calls resulting in over 17,300 emergency incidents; with 4% of those being to accidental dwelling fires (ADFs).
While, it is the firefighters of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) that are the frontline heroes, ensuring the safe rescue of any individuals trapped inside their home due to a fire. It is, however, the Service’s Control operators who should be considered the ‘hidden heroes’ of an emergency; as they are not just the first point of contact, but they also mobilise the Service’s appliances to incidents across South Wales and provide fire survival advice should there be persons reported at a house fire.
At a recent incident in Llanishen, Cardiff on 1st April 2017, one of SWFRS’ Control operators, Hayley Poulsom, was the point of contact for Sue Ford, who was trapped in her attic conversion and unable to escape due to a fire and heavy smoke from a room downstairs. Four appliances were mobilised to the incident – Caerphilly, Cardiff Central, Ely and Whitchurch – and Hayley continued to stay on the line with Mrs. Ford, giving her fire survival guidance and reassurance throughout the incident.
Mrs. Ford said of the incident and the advice given by Hayley from SWFRS, “I can’t remember much but I’m amazed by what people like Hayley, and the firefighters who came into the house to rescue me, do. I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for them and my kids still have a mum because of them. You can replace things, but you can’t replace people and I can’t thank the team enough. They’re real heroes.”
Group Manager Knill Baird-Murray from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, who was the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the incident on 1st April commented, “All of the emergency personnel at the incident worked effectively together to bring the incident to a successful conclusion. Also, had it not been for the calmness of Mrs. Ford when making the emergency call, as well as the professionalism and composure of the Fire Control Operator in giving that vital survival guidance, the incident could have had a very different outcome.
“Mrs. Ford was alerted to the fire because of a working smoke alarm and which prevented not only the fire ruining the property, but it could have had more serious or fatal consequences. As a Service, we encourage our communities to test their smoke alarm regularly, replace batteries when needed and to know your escape plan.”
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service recommends that if you are unable to leave a property due to the location of the fire, to do the following:
• Tell the operator where the fire is, how many people there are inside and the type of property you live in• Get everyone in the property into one room and close the door, as well as blocking any gaps and open a window• Stay close to the ground and breathe slowly, you can also put a cloth e.g. a handkerchief to your mouth • Tell the operator which room you are in and describe the best access to you, try to pass as much information on as you can• Attract attention by hanging something e.g. a bedsheet from the window
There was a fire investigation following the incident, where the cause was found to be accidental.
For more information about South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and its home safety advice, visit www.southwales-fire.gov.uk
Tel: 01443 232000 Fax: 01443 232165
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