A local fire door safety campaign to inspire hope and raise awareness of fire safety in Southend-on-Sea following the tragic death of a mum-to-be is one of three initiatives to receive awards this month from the British Woodworking Federation (BWF).
Rutendo Chitiga and Terry Brown from the Balmoral Estate Tenants Association in Southend-on-Sea organised a week-long fire safety campaign for their community, building on the information and resources made available through the BWF’s Fire Door Safety Week initiative.
Their campaign was launched after the death of expectant mother Khabi Abrey and her unborn child, following an arson attack in the building on the Balmoral Estate where she lived. After the fire it was realised that the residents did not have the necessary fire safety information about what to do in the event of a fire. Residents were also unaware of the critical role that fire doors play in holding back fire and smoke. Many residents said that they were unaware of what to do in a fire and did not know that their flat front doors were in fact fire doors.
Earlier this month, Rutendo and Terry arranged for the distribution of fire door safety information to residents, door-to-door visits by local fire officers to test smoke alarms and a week of educational activities with local schools. They also held an exhibition of artwork created by the Turning Tides Kids Club and launched a book of poetry written by Khabi, and unveiled a plaque in her memory.
Hannah Mansell, Technical Manager of the BWF and BWF-Certifire, said: “This campaign was born from tragedy and loss, but inspires hope and a positive and proactive attitude towards increasing fire safety in the community. We’ve been honoured to be able to support Rutendo and Terry’s work, and absolutely delighted to see the impact of Fire Door Safety Week making a difference to people’s lives.
“The Fire Door Safety Week awards are our way of saying thank you, and recognising the creativity, commitment and collaboration shown in these initiatives to take what we’ve started, to own it, and to spread the word about the critical importance of fire doors to save lives and property.”
Rutendo Chitiga welcomed the award on behalf of her residents association. Rutendo added: “Although there was an underlying tinge of sadness, the support we received from Hannah Mansell and from the Essex County Fire & Rescue Service have given us the confidence to go forward boldly with the campaign. We managed to reach more than 500 local residents with information on fire door safety. We hope this can become an annual borough-wide event.”
London Fire Brigade Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Dan Daly was also presented with a Fire Door Safety Week award for the LFB Fire Safety Team, for its ongoing support and commitment to the campaign.
Building contractor Willmott Dixon received the third award, for carrying out the largest ever fire door inspection during Fire Door Safety Week 2016, involving 3,000 employees who were urged to check fire doors in their buildings and to report any concerns.
“Checking a fire door and reporting concerns to those responsible for fire safety is an easy thing to do,” said Hannah. “We hope other building owners and employers will do the same and ensure that the building that they are legally responsible for is fire safe, and that the residents are informed about the fire safety plan for the specific building.”
This year’s Fire Door Safety Week 2017 will take place from 25th September to 1st October 2017. The focus of this year’s campaign will be on high-risk buildings and users, such as rented private accommodation, HMOs, and specialised housing for vulnerable residents. The campaign will also focus on how to stay safe in a fire and the risk of smoke inhalation, one of the often-overlooked causes of death and long-term illness caused by fires in buildings.
Find out more about Fire Door Safety Week and how to get involved at: firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk