700 oil-filled heaters going into Staffordshire homes as part of ongoing project with partners to help most vulnerable

We want to make sure that the most vulnerable people are getting the support they need, and we need your help to tell all vulnerable residents about the scheme and encourage them to apply.

Mark Downes, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's Prevent Delivery Lead

Around 700 oil-filled heaters are going into Staffordshire homes as part of an ongoing project to keep the most vulnerable warm throughout winter.

And they are being issued at an opportune time as Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service reiterated they were safer to use than electricity-powered heaters after a fire in a bungalow was caused by one in the Western Downs area of Stafford on February 14.

The oil-filled heaters have been secured by Staffordshire County Council and are being distributed in conjunction with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the charity Beat The Cold – all part of the wider Staffordshire Warmer Homes scheme.

They were picked up using Covid-19 winter grant scheme funding secured from central government and will help to combat the rise in the number of people suffering hardship and struggling to keep warm during the coronavirus pandemic as unemployment hits the most vulnerable even harder.

The heaters are in addition to 900 winter warmer packs that contain items like hats, scarves, gloves and blankets which can be distributed to the county’s most vulnerable residents. There are also vouchers to go towards utility bills that can be applied for.

Staffordshire Fire And Rescue Service’s Prevent Delivery Lead Mark Downes said: “Historically we’ve worked with councils on the Warmer Homes Project to get gas supplies into homes and sort central heating out for people. This is a bolt-on to that due to Covid-19 difficulties.

“We also give the vulnerable advice on saving cash – are they with the right supplier? How to cut down on energy use etc. We already go into homes to do fire safety checks and work with these vulnerable people, so it fits in with our remit.”

There are three ways that people can benefit from the scheme. Mark adds: “If we go into a property for a safety check and its cold then we can use our professional opinion and issue both heaters and winter warmer packs as we think they are needed.

“We then send our findings to Beat The Cold and they issue the kit and also vouchers for heating costs.

“People can also apply to Beat The Cold direct via their website and they refer them to us if they feel there’s a fire risk. And organisations that look after the vulnerable can also request heaters and come and collect them.”

And officers are also asking people to consider using these safer oil-filled heaters as an alternative to an electrical equivalent after an incident on February 14 where crews from Stafford received a call to respond to the activation of a smoke alarm at a bungalow in Western Downs.

On arrival it was found the fire had started in a fan heater being used by the 94-year-old occupier. Luckily the fire was out on arrival, however, there were burns to the carpet which were cut away by the crew. No injuries were sustained by the occupier.

Most fires involving electrical heaters are preventable, and it’s important to stay safe while heating your home. There are many reasons fires start but typically it can be when:

  • Bedding, blankets or clothes are placed too close to heaters or placed on them to dry them.
  • People with mobility issues who are especially at risk of tripping or falling do so onto a heater. Placing them at a safe distance from where you are sat is all the more important, and consider placing it against a wall or buying a wall-mounted heater to stop it from falling over.
  • Heaters are not well maintained and in good working order.
  • Your heater is on a product recall list.
  • An electrical is getting older and it hasn’t been tested by a qualified electrician or replaced.
  • When a heater is not turned off and allowed to cool first before moving it.

Staffordshire residents who are struggling to heat their home could also get up to £200 worth of emergency support to keep their home warm. Residents will be helped on a first come, first serve basis.

Mark Downes added: “We want to make sure that the most vulnerable people are getting the support they need, and we need your help to tell all vulnerable residents about the scheme and encourage them to apply.”

If you are currently in a situation with no heating in your home because your system is broken and you require a temporary heating solution, email your name, address, and telephone number to ESDG.Prevent@staffordshirefire.gov.uk or fill in the referral form at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/covidwinterrefferal to apply for support. Residents can also online by calling the charity Beat The Cold on 01782 914915.