I mentioned in my last blog I spent the day on Rochdale Borough
yesterday and I wanted to use that opportunity to say more about
our volunteers and the co-ordinators (and the whole machinery that
supports volunteers of course).
I met three of our volunteers yesterday and was able to talk
about how they get involved, what they do and crucially what they
get from their involvement. And, frankly, it was
inspirational stuff and it's not too big a statement to say that in
a couple of cases it really has changed their lives (for the
The volunteers have grown from strength over the last few years
- about three years ago we realised we had a 'confused' ambition in
terms of what we wanted volunteers to do. It was also mostly the
case that the people who volunteered saw it as a stepping-stone in
to the Service so when we froze recruitment we lost a lot.
Subsequently we have refocused and the volunteers stand on their
own as a key arm of the organisation - that supplements or
complements our core activity and can do things in a way that we
couldn't sustain in any other way.
A couple of great examples - the post fire incident team now has
nearly 40 people who voluntarily operate a 24/7 roster and attend
incidents after the event to help the people involved get back on
their feet. The time they commit would not be possible with
operational crews but it'S a 'value added' service that is truly
appreciated by those who receive it.
Volunteers now run the majority of fire cadet units and we have
grown from a couple in 2011 to 12 by the end of last year - and
more in the pipeline.
And yesterday I was told of an amazing initiative that I thought
was a work of genius to be honest.
In Rochdale (and there may be other areas but I was told about
it in Rochdale) they analysed the data - as we do nowadays - which
revealed that a lot of fires in a particular area were cooking
fires and involved a lot of vulnerable and elderly people. Quite
simply, they were grilling food and not really washing the grill
pan properly, leaving fat deposits that then caught fire. The
average cost of a house fire now is nearly £30k, never mind the
trauma for the person concerned and also the knock on costs of
rehousing and so on.
So the Community Safety Advisors deployed the volunteers to work
through the area in question simply offering to wash the grill pans
of elderly or vulnerable people. There is no way we could justify
or deploy firefighters to do this kind of thing - but the
deployment of the volunteers as I say was a 'stroke of genius'.
Cooking fires in that area all but disappeared saving literally
hundreds of thousands of pounds in 'the system' as did the trauma
and costs for the people concerned. And the volunteers really
quite enjoyed and got a lot of fulfilment from the work, knowing
they had potentially saved someone's life by preventing the fire -
and we know we are talking about real fires here.
There are many other examples I could give but I think you get
We now have over 400 volunteers and they continue to grow from
strength to strength - and what is becoming evident is that folks
across the organisation now see them as really valuable and a
really important addition to the service we can provide our