Safety Central West Yorkshire

November 2011

Creating a fire and road safety hub for West Yorkshire

Gayle Elvidge is manager of Safety Central, a safety awareness and education centre provided by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. She oversees a wide range of on-site activities as well as initiatives that take the centre’s resources and expertise out into the wider community.

Safety Central was originally intended to be a place where children in West Yorkshire could come to learn about fire and road safety. But a feasibility study showed that that for some schools, the distance they’d have to travel to the centre was a real barrier. The team decided to extend the centre’s remit – as well as offering on-site interventions, they’d create resources for use in schools and in the community, and would work with at-risk adults as well as children and young people.

Safety Central’s work contributes to the fire service’s overall risk reduction measures which are to be achieved by 2015. These include:

  • reducing the number of accidental fires in dwellings by 24%
  • reducing deaths from accidental dwelling fires by 26%; and
  • reducing injuries by 36%.

The approach

Working with partners

Safety Central works wide a wide range of partners on awareness and education programmes, including police, schools and health organisations. “Fire safety tends to figure quite low on the priority list for national and local government,” says Gayle. “Working with partners and finding complementary agendas where fire safety can be part of a bigger picture is the most effective way for us to get our messages out.”

The team takes a tailor-made approach to partnerships, developing activities and messages that complement the work of the partner organisation. “You can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to working with partners. We treat each partnership as a unique opportunity – we listen to the partner and explore different ways that we can work together. We aim to find areas where there’s a natural fit for our messages.”

Identifying ‘at risk’ members of the community

Safety Central aims to develop programmes that meet the specific needs of people who are most at risk of death or injury from fires or road accidents. The team analyses incident data which provides basic geographic and demographic information, including how the fire happened, who was involved and any deaths or injuries.

The team also has access to in-depth information that the fire service’s High Risk Team collates about particular incidents when they feel there’s more they can understand and learn. Safety Central’s Community Outreach Officer adds even more detail to this picture by visiting communities where there has been a higher than expected number of fires, to gather intelligence from community groups, voluntary agencies and residents. This, coupled with the data available from partner agencies working with the fire service, enables Safety Central to build a clearer picture of emerging issues and to respond accordingly.

Outcomes

Bonfire night safety

Each year in the run-up to November, the fire service’s five district teams and operational crews visit schools to educate children about bonfire and firework safety. Gayle led the Safety Central team in developing a new programme which would help the whole service to get their safety messages out to more children. “Our district teams and crews were all using different approaches for their bonfire night safety sessions and they were limited on the number of schools they could visit in person,” says Gayle. “We wanted to find a way to deliver a consistent, high quality programme to as many schools as possible.”

The outcome was a package of resources aimed at students in years 4-9 that can be used by the district teams in schools in high priority areas and age groups, but also by teachers themselves when the team can’t visit personally. The resource packs include activity worksheets, lesson plans, film clips, games and activities. Teachers can pick and choose from the resources, available online, which are all linked to the curriculum.

To help the Safety Central team refine the sessions and resources, each resource pack included a feedback form or link to an online survey for teachers and students to complete. Safety Central also consulted with district staff and crews to gather their experiences of working with the new resources. “The Safety Central team developed a highly interactive session for year 5 groups and the delivery teams sometimes found the experience of delivering this talk a bit overwhelming. But the feedback we got from schools was really positive,” comments Gayle. “Based on this we’ve brought the interactivity down to a level which is simpler to deliver and we’re now doing some work to help our teams feel fully prepared and comfortable delivering the content.”

Linking with the healthy eating agenda

As well as running their own programmes, the Safety Central team looks for opportunities to integrate their safety messages into education and awareness campaigns on other topics, such as nutrition and healthy eating.

“Nutrition is a very high profile issue at the moment and there’s a natural link between eating well and cooking safely. We’ve been working to get fire safety messages included in Cook and Eat after-school programmes for children and their parents. Just five minutes of fire safety education or printing a simple message like ‘Remember to turn off the cooker once you’ve finished’ on a recipe card can make a difference – particularly for children who might be going home and cooking for themselves after school,” says Gayle.

What we can learn

  • If you have resources that you use to deliver safety awareness sessions in schools, adapting them so that teachers can use the resources themselves can help you to reach a much larger audience.
  • Look for opportunities to integrate your own safety messages into campaigns on wider safety issues or topics such as healthy eating. For this approach to be effective there needs to be a natural fit between the two sets of messages.
  • To develop good working relationships with partner organisations, you need to find ways to fit together without it feeling too much like hard work for either side. This requires a willingness to listen and be flexible in how you work.
  •  At the end of a project, it’s important to get feedback from people who have been involved in different ways. The methods you use to gather feedback should depend on the nature of the project and the audience.

Further information

For more information about Safety Central please contact Gayle Elvidge on 0113 3874350 or gayle.elvidge@westyorksfire.gov.uk

Updated February 2014