Life-saving equipment, brought in following recommendations from the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry, has been used for the first time by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire escape hoods, which help to protect the wearer from toxic fire-related gases, vapours and particles for at least 15 minutes, are currently being rolled out across the Service. They are used when people need to be evacuated from or through a smoke-filled location, and other exits – such as using a ladder or a smoke free staircase – are not available or viable.
A procurement for the fire escape hoods started last September, with a training package made available to firefighters in February and the first supplies being delivered to fire stations last month. All fire engines within DWFRS will carry the hoods by the end of April.
Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “The provision of fire escape hoods was a recommendation within the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry and we worked with other fire and rescue services within the South West to agree a common approach. Although prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire, these hoods are not limited to use in high-rise buildings; they are suitable for any situation where a member of the public has to be moved to safety through a smoke-filled area.”
He added: “Fifteen minutes of protection against toxic smoke can make the difference between life and death. We would always prefer an escape route away from smoke, but that isn’t always possible. At a recent fire in Bournemouth, we brought 11 people to safety from a three-storey block of flats; nine of those people were evacuated using a ladder, but two wore our new fire escape hoods and were led safely through the building.”
The hoods were tested by firefighters in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area during four high-rise exercises held in November and December. This allowed the training materials and user guidance to be based on real-life usage.