Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) have a prevention team to work on fire prevention and a large part of the team are Home Fire Safety Consultants who visit people on their properties.

More than 4,000 Home Fire Safety (HFSV) visits were carried out in 2021/22. About two-thirds of these will have been performed by firefighters in their communities, but one-third of them will have been augmented visits for high-risk clients conducted by home fire safety consultants.

Dave Billing is one of seven such consultants for NFRS and has worked part-time in the role since October 2017. He previously had a 30-year career as a firefighter.

Dave Billing on a house call.

Dave will typically visit people who have been referred by a range of agencies, including EMAS, social services, family or friends, housing officers or associations, fostering agencies or Northamptonshire Police.

An example of a visit

A recent visit saw Dave counseling a husband and wife, both in their late 80’s and had been referred to NFRS by Age UK. One customer was unable to see and the other was hard of hearing.

After showing his ID and being welcomed inside, Dave begins by testing the smoke alarm and observing their response. He then refers him to a company that can help install specialized smoke alarms for the hard of hearing.

Dave and his team follow up on reports from other agencies.

Fit a new 10-year battery-powered smoke detector instead of your current alarm, which needs new batteries every 12 months. Also check if the carbon monoxide alarm works and move it to a more accessible location for the couple.

He also installs a new heat alarm in the kitchen, advising them to regularly check if it works by pressing the test/silent button using their walking sticks.

He tells them, “The most important thing I can do to keep someone safe is to install smoke detectors, because it means you’ll know soon if there’s a fire. This will give you more time to hang out.

A typical home visit will involve Dave going over the layout of the property and recommending the best escape route.

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The visit seemed to go very well with the elderly homeowners, who say they will donate to The Fire Fighters Charity in exchange for the free help.

She also jots down details of a friend of the couple, a woman in her 90s, who asked if NFRS would also visit. This will be added to your spreadsheet to ensure you too receive an HFSV, either from safety consultants or a local fire brigade team.

It’s not just visits to the elderly or vulnerable that the home fire team will carry out. They may also conduct visits together with the Arson Task Force for individuals whose property may be considered at risk from arson. This may include installing safety devices such as a letterbox lock to make it more difficult for break-ins and flammable liquids to enter or spill through the letterbox.

“It’s certainly rewarding work, and what’s more important is that we’re helping to make people safer in their homes,” Dave added.

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