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A CAMPAIGN by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) to make Manchester’s Northern Quarter safer saved the economy almost a quarter of a million pounds in just one year.
Following a number of serious fires involving businesses in the Northern Quarter in 2013 – one of which sadly claimed the life of GMFRS Firefighter Stephen Hunt – a campaign team was set up to look at how the area could be made safer.
Emergency services at the Almost Famous fire
GMFRS’ Northern Quarter Safety Support Team was established in August 2013 and has been supported by Manchester City Council and CityCo.
The aim was to drive down the number of fires in the Northern Quarter and make the area a safer place to live, work and visit.
Figures reveal that since the campaign team was set up – between August 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014 – there were 55 per cent fewer fire-related incidents in the area when compared with the same period the previous year.
The figures equate to a reduction in costs to the economy of £243,892 between 2012/2013 and 2013/14 with incidents expected to remain low at the end of the current financial year.
During the 2013 to 2014 period, there were no commercial properties damaged by fire – excluding very minor damage to the window box of a pub – and only two flat fires, both of which were caused by food left unattended with minimal damage to the properties.
As part of the campaign, around 70 door supervisors from licenced premises in the area received bespoke training in fire safety and escape plans from specially trained GMFRS officers.
Three of the main door management companies in the area, along with Local Authority licensing officers, were given specific fire safety training linked to the licensing trade.
The project also saw the creation of the UK’s first ever Business Safety Champion to help provide support and advice to the business community on behalf of GMFRS.
Alan Davies with GMFRS' Lee Smart, who led the Northern Quarter safety group
Alan Davies, Cluster Property Manager at the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express hotels, used his 20 years’ experience in health and safety, fire safety and security management to act as a contact point for businesses needing advice.
Whilst the campaign was established to improve fire safety in the Northern Quarter, GMFRS seized the opportunity to educate businesses and the community in CPR and the use of defibrillators.
Working in conjunction with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) three sites were identified for the location of brand new defibrillators, which were provided by NWAS, while crew at Manchester Central provided life-saving training to the community.
Following a serious fire at Almost Famous burger restaurant in June 2013, the support team worked with the restaurant owners to get a fire suppression system installed in the kitchen of their newly refurbished venue which opened in June this year.
In addition, officers visited all commercial premises in the area, held drop-in surgeries and developed a bespoke training package for the Local Authority licencing and neighbourhood delivery teams.
GMFRS’ Head of Protection, Area Manager Billy Myers, said: “The Northern Quarter is a vibrant part of Manchester City Centre but most of the buildings in the area are around 100-years-old – and as well as protecting people and helping the business community to thrive, we are also keen to help preserve our heritage. This campaign has demonstrated just how effective this partnership approach has been.
“In the last 10 years there have been more than 100 primary fires in the area – four of which were so severe that the buildings were completely destroyed. Following the campaign we’ve seen a huge reduction in the number of fires in the area, which is good news for business and good news for the public that live, work and visit this thriving and popular area of the city.
“Protection officers in Manchester Borough will continue to work with local businesses to ensure safety remains paramount and if any businesses would like help or advice on fire safety, they can visit our website here: http://www.manchesterfire.gov.uk/fire_safety_advice/business_fire_safety/.”
The damage caused by the Almost Famous fire
Councillor Bernard Priest, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The Northern Quarter is an important area regularly visited by tens of thousands of people, and the tragic death of a firefighter who was attending an incident there led to us urgently finding ways to make the area safer.
"Businesses have given this scheme their full support and people who live, work or visit the area can now take comfort from knowing a huge amount of work has taken place, dozens more members of staff have received specialist training and the number of fires has reduced dramatically.”
As part of National Business Safety Week, which runs from December 8 to 14, GMFRS is working with businesses across Greater Manchester to deliver fire safety information and advice.
The aim of the week is to encourage businesses – from large organisations to small independent businesses or entrepreneurs – to effectively manage the fire safety of their organisations and protect their staff, buildings and resources.
You can follow Business Fire Safety Week on Twitter using the hashtag #BSW14Figures from “Fire Statistics Great Britain 2012 to 2013” show that over the ten years from 2002/03 to 2012/13, there were: 12,645 fires in retail and vehicle trade premises resulting in 421 casualties, including ten fatalities; 5,643 fires in restaurants, cafes, pubs, etc. resulting in 305 casualties, including five fatalities; 2,984 fires in industrial premises resulting in 109 casualties, including two fatalities; 1,973 fires in hotels, boarding houses, hostels, etc. resulting in 189 casualties, including four fatalities