The end of April 2018 saw the retirement of Gareth from just over 30 years of service in the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS).
I was sad to see him go, though just thrilled with the way he had planned an adventure for his retirement with his wife. I managed to see him in Exmouth the day he set off France and knew he had lots to look forward to and tasks ahead to use that great positive energy he has.
Gareth and I got to know each other back in 2014 when we were piloting a scheme to address the fire risks posed by hoarding. We hosted on open event for Hoarding Awareness Week (which this year coming up on 14th – 18th May) at an Exeter Fire Station, and we spoke directly to those affected in their homes by hoarding.
No let me correct that, we LISTENED carefully and empathically to what those whom attended said about their anxieties, circumstances and belongings.
We then conducted joint Home Fire Safety Visits where initial discussions had flagged up stockpiling belongings was causing a fire risk. The householders gave permission for us to both attend and Gareth gave great advice about electrical point loading, access and exit points, fuel and ignition sources, and he fitted up to date smoke alarms. I spoke to the householder about what was being stored where and why and got a sense of the capacity of the home, and the anxieties of the householder so I could give advice about what may be possible to make them safer.
I learnt a lot from those joint visits and years later as we formed a more formal referral process I could say hand on heart in all my work with clients, training for social services, and talks to community groups that if they called for a Home Fire Safety Visit that it was non-judgmental and genuinely helpful. That was my experience of Gareth anyway. His careful and positive approach to householders in all circumstances was an excellent model for my early work as a professional organiser.
More than that, when he retired I was able to say that our work together had made genuine improvements the lives across Devon. We could recite the specific cases where we knew we had exercised our professions and made a tangible positive difference. It is so rare that you can say that.
My blog statistic this month is that 20% of fire deaths in the UK are connected to poor housekeeping. You are at greater risk from fire and falls if your possessions make corridors narrow and block doorways. See the great advice by DSFRS at: https://www.dsfire.gov.uk
Hoarding Awareness Week is in May and if you know of anyone who is affected in Devon or Somerset, I would strongly encourage them to ring 0800 05 02 999 and arrange a Home Fire Safety Visit.