We are coming to the end of ‘Stoptober’ 2014 (see my previous thoughts on this here). I don’t smoke and don’t allow smoking inside the house. I mention this as smoking is still one of the main causes of fire deaths in Greater Manchester. Over the last 7 years 40% of people who have died during fires in Greater Manchester, perished in fires started by a cigarette. Across the UK, 1770 people are either killed or injured by fires caused by smoking at home. A fire caused by smoking happens once every 3 days. During this year’s Stoptober, fire-fighters in Greater Manchester have been out disturbing leaflets which describe the dangers of smoking, and smoking in the house.
2 years ago I took full advantage of having a home safety check undertaken by these fire-fighters at the Bolton House. The result was the fitting of state of the art smoke detectors, said to last 10 years without any need to change batteries or anything else, and complete peace of mind. However despite not smoking, I was slightly alarmed [sorry] when one of the detectors started to make a most peculiar scratching sound. After contacting the fire service once more, an enthusiastic fire-fighter attended the house and in minutes had changed all the detectors. They were from the same batch, so it was the safest thing to do. It was a great service, and peace of mind was re-established.
The Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) provides a service for communities across nearly 500 square miles. It employs 2174 fire-fighters. It has its Headquarters in Pendlbury, Greater Manchester. I was there last week. The BIKINI security level alert was Black and Severe – (an attack is highly likely). I was struck by just how unaware I had become of such things.
I was there to discuss how colleagues from the School and other parts of the University could work in partnership with GMFRS in taking their new Community Risk Intervention Team (CRIT) project forward and to evaluate its effectiveness in preventing and reducing the number of fires, the number of older people who fall, who are the victims of distraction burglaries, and increasing mental health and general wellbeing of people. The GMFRS have secured nearly a £1m to pilot the scheme in Wigan, Salford, and Manchester and a further £3.7m to roll it out across the whole of Greater Manchester.
The notion of early intervention and prevention is aimed at reducing the demand for fire, ambulance and police resources. Prevention work such as the fitting of smoke detectors, Stoptober campaigns has helped reduce the number of 999 calls GMFRS receive and have to deal with. Whilst the CRIT project draws upon a soon to be employed dedicated workforce, the intention will be that fire-fighters will eventually take on this work. I was excited as the project provides an opportunity for our colleagues from sociology, social policy, nursing, and social work to join with colleagues from other Schools across the university to work together on a project that will improve peoples lives.
Well that was last Thursday. On Friday, I had a meeting with other Deans and Heads of School from across the North West to discuss some changes to our NHS contracts – a difficult meeting in part. Coming after the meeting with GMFRS, in my mind it reinforced the need to think how we might change our Schools educational and training portfolio to reflect a rapidly changing world of health and social care service provision.
I was able to leave the School at 15.00 to take the road back to the House in Scotland. There were no problems on the journey home, but it was dark when I arrived. On my way to the Anchor Hotel for a Friday dinner out, I was confronted by what seemed to be an unnaturally large amount of flashing lights where there should really be complete darkness. It turned out to be Mark Newton and his mobility scooter. Somewhat reminiscent of a pinball machine on wheels (younger readers can ask your parents what a pin ball machine is) his scooter was parked outside of the Hotel and was lit up like a Saturday night at Blackpool.
Mark was a serving member of the armed forces when he suffered a life changing injury to his right leg. By 2009 his mobility was considerably reduced due to his continued deterioration in his physical condition and he was presented with a mobility scooter by the Queens Dragoon Guards (his old regiment) and the Royal British Legion. He was inspired to take to the road by a chance conversation where someone remarked he could travel around Britain on his scooter. And that is what he is doing. He is busy raising money for Help the Hero’s, and the Royal British Legion, and the Queens Dragoon Guards. As I write this blog Mark has raised nearly £38k for these charities. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.