National recognition for efforts to keep Essex Safe

  • Date

    Tue 26 Nov 19

Team members pick up an award for a fire safety initiative

A partnership between academics and fire officers in Essex is helping to keep vulnerable people safe across the county and has been recognised nationally as an example for others to follow

Judges for the annual Research Excellence Awards, organised by FIRE Magazine and Gore, said the Safe and Well project, which provides fire, crime prevention and health and wellbeing advice to residents in their own homes, was a great example of what could be achieved when research was used to improve services.

 Experts from the University of Essex were asked to evaluate fire safety programmes run by Essex  County Fire and Rescue Service and make recommendations for improvements, Based on their research, which included examining fire data for the last 10 years to find out the most common causes of house fires, the new-look Safe and Well campaign was born.

It involves specially-trained volunteers, working alongside professional Safe and Well Officers, to provide home safety visits offering advice on preventing fires, burglaries and falls in the home. Around 9,000 homes are visited each year.

Dr Gina Yannitell Reinhardt, from the Department of Government, led the research. She said: “We know that fire prevention programmes can be very successful, particularly because they help to build trust in emergency services. This trust is important because the more the public trusts the emergency services can, and will do their job, the more effective they can be.

“But it is vital that programmes are evaluated to make sure they remain fit for purpose and cost effective. We were able to provide the academic rigour necessary to review existing programmes and make suggestions to make them better.”

Andrea MacAlister, from the fire service said: “Essex County Fire and Rescue Service benefited from this partnership in a number of ways, from access to academic expertise and research to growing and developing our own internal capability to evaluate our prevention activity.”

The partnership between the University and the fire service began as part of the broader Catalyst project, which aimed to improve a range of public services. It continues as part of Dr Yannitell Reinhardt’s ARISE Initiative (Advancing Resilience and Innovation for Sustainability in Essex). The Research Excellence Award was presented at the recent Fire Related Research and Developments Conference.