Don’t be a monkey on Chinese New Year

Monday 8th February is Chinese New Year and 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. The UK has some of the largest celebrations outside of Asia; with Chinatown in London attracting about 300,000 people and large events being held in Birmingham,  Manchester and Liverpool, to name a few.

However, the Year of the Monkey is considered to be one on the most unlucky years in the Chinese calendar. So, here’s some advice to make sure your celebrations go safely.

Celebrating with Fireworks

It is thought that fireworks were invented in 12th century China. Fireworks are a traditional part of the New Year celebrations as they are thought to scare away evil spirits and Nian – the New Year monster.

CFOA suggest that if you like firework displays as part of your celebration it is best to attend a large professionally organised event. These are not only safer but are generally more spectacular than anything you can achieve in your back garden.

If you are still thinking of setting off you own fireworks take some time to familiarise yourself with important advice.

Follow the Firework Code

  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
  • Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box
  • Follow the instructions on each firework
  • Light them at arm’s length, using a taper
  • Stand well back
  • Never go near a firework that has been lit
  • Even if it hasn’t gone off, it could still explode
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
  • Always supervise children around fireworks
  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • Never give sparklers to a child under five
  • Keep pets indoors
  • Don’t let off fireworks after 1am on Chinese New Year, usually this is 11pm

Out of courtesy, it is worth mentioning to your neighbours you will be setting off fireworks. They may not realise it is Chinese New Year and it gives them a chance to make sure pets are indoors and safe.

A licensed firework retailer can sell fireworks all year round. Other licensed sellers will have a short-term licence and can sell three days before the Chinese New Year. Don’t buy fireworks from the back of a van or at the pub; they are not legal and may not be safe.

Firecrackers are traditionally used in China for New Year celebrations but they are not legal in the UK.

Chinese Lanterns

There are plenty of recorded incidents involving these lanterns and for that reason CFOA does not agree with their use and discourages their use at all times. In some areas of the UK, councils have banned the sale and use of lanterns, so it is worth double checking with your local council.

CFOA Position Statement

The Chief Fire Officers Association is calling for an urgent review on the use of the floating paper lanterns as they operate in an unregulated and uncontrolled way.

There is now video evidence of a lantern causing a major fire in the West Midlands  in 2013, which required more than 200 firefighters, 39 fire appliances and 3 hydraulic platforms.

CFOA do not support the use of these devices and asks members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them. While these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.

Lanterns have caused fires, damaged livestock and have been mistaken for distress flares, which has used valuable police and coastguard resources.


About 60% of house fires start in the kitchen. If you’re trying out some Chinese treats for New Year have a look at our advice for cooking.

Cooking Safety Tips

  • Make sure hobs and grills pans are clean, the build up of fat can cause a fire
  • Don’t get distracted when cooking and never leave cooking unattended
  • Take care not to lean over hot hobs and keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob
  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol
  • Take care when cooking with hot oil – it can easily overheat and catch fire
  • Never fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil
  • If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool

As it’s Chinese New Year maybe the safest option is to order a Chinese meal from your local takeaway.



Fire Works: A collaborative way forward for the fire and rescue service

On Thursday 16th July, the localism think tank New Local Government Network (NLGN) published Fire Works: A collaborative way forward for the fire and rescue service, an independent report supported by CFOA, which looks into future options for reform for the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). The report draws on several months of research involving case studies, questionnaires, interviews and focus groups and covers three main areas, which it argues can be developed together:

  • Widening the prevention agenda into areas such as health and wellbeing
  • Collaborating with other blue light services, in particular colleagues in the ambulance service
  • Achieving greater efficiency by sharing resources and merging with other FRS where appropriate

It makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Exploring the possibility of creating a national organisation for fire service back office functions
  • Rolling out co-responding schemes nationally
  • Enshrining a wider community safety and wellbeing role for the Fire and Rescue Service within the FRS Act

Report author Dr Claire Mansfield said: “Firefighters have been fantastically successful in moving from a responsive to an interventionist service. We believe that this should be recognised and better understood at a national level. Instead of the fire and rescue service being residualised, its remit must be expanded to offer different types of interventions – including in preventative health and social care. By working with local councils and health and wellbeing boards, local fire services can be really effective partners in improving the overall health of their neighbourhood.”

CFOA President, Peter Dartford, had this to say on the report: “I’d like to thank the NLGN for completing this independent piece of research, which will be useful in helping to shape the future of the Fire and Rescue Service. It provides an additional perspective on the wider role fire and rescue services could, and perhaps should, be undertaking to improve outcomes for the communities they serve.”

You can download a copy of the report, find out more about its creation, and get information on the NLGN from its website here.

Summer conference day 2: Think nationally, deliver locally 

Today’s session kicked off with Dave Etheridge discussing the new CFOA strategy, designed to challenge government thinking and promote debate while showing what CFOA feels FRSs can achieve.

Made up of a number of strategic areas, Dave discussed ops guidance, successes of managing risk, advice to government of IRMP process and campaigning on fire safety and other issues. 

It was tied into the health work already taking place and also covered how CFOA would push this strategy out to a much wider audience.

 It will be discussed with the minister at a meeting with the fire minister next month and work is underway with the LGA on elements of the new strategy. 

CFOA Summer Conference – Fire as a health asset

Steve Hynes from North West Ambulance Service spoke at the CFOA Summer Conference next, in a session with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) CFO Pete O’Reilly titled ‘fire as a health asset’. Steve first looked at the national ambulance service, and then the north west regional service. He outlined the Ambulance Service’s workload and the challenges faced – and the improvements that have been made in patient outcomes through working with partners across the NHS.

Steve looked at the drivers behind change – and described how this change is taking place in Greater Manchester. He described the progress made in ensuring that patients are provided with the care they need, and the evolving role of enhanced assessment and treatment, patient management, and working more closely with GPs and community services. Steve outlined the collaboration activities that have taken place between the Ambulance Service and other blue light services, including multi-agency sites.

Pete O’Reilly looked at the journey towards the multi-agency relationships that have developed and strengthened in Greater Manchester. GMFRS’ aim is to protect and improve the quality of life of the people in Greater Manchester – in very many different ways. This has developed from early initiatives to fit smoke alarms for those in need, through to today’s NHS ‘Five Year Forward’ plan from NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens. Pete recognised the new financial realities that are being faced, and said that to keep firefighters and the public safe, and to reduce fire damage, the service will need to embrace, adapt, and adopt new technology, and change their approach to safety in the home and their wider community role.

GMFRS has 200 partnerships, which enable people to be referred to the fire service, and to refer those in need on to appropriate partners. Pete highlighted GMFRS’ track record in prevention  – with a 50%+ reduction in demand over 10 years. He suggested that value can be added to prevent accidental deaths in the home with work on areas such as falls and accidents, and in responding to cardiac arrests.

Pete talked about the Community Risk Intervention Team (CRIT) activity that GMFRS undertakes, involving multi-agency working. They had support for their Fire Transformation Bid to help fund this work from a huge range of partners. He described some of the case studies that the intervention teams have worked on. Relationships have been built, allowing services to know the appropriate people in other agencies to speak to about issues.

The work of Seattle Life Support Service was outlined – and the learning that can be taken from this. Pete concluded by describing how the fire service is acting as a health asset in Greater Manchester – through the CRIT teams, through being first responders, through Community Risk Reduction Teams, and through CPR training. As Strategic Health Lead for CFOA, Pete explained how this work is leading change, including through a project group that will produce principles and guidance and aim for consensus with partners.

CFOA’s Summer Conference is underway

CFOA’s President Peter Dartford opened the two-day conference discussing health and the different roles fire and rescue services can play.

This included the work underway with  NHS England CEO Simon Stevens, and how FRSs can work alongside health professionals on the prevention agenda, as a health asset, including how to reduce demand on the fire service.

PPRS Conference is underway 

This year’s PPRS Conference has now started and the next two days looks to be a packed agenda, with some very interesting speakers and subjects.

Lewis Ramsay opened the event, discussing challenges faced by the UK Fire and Rescue Service and ways to work together.

CFOA president Peter Dartford also took to the stage to talk about the iTN productions project and the floor is now hearing about the Scottish FRS reform.

We will be updating from the conference and the main themes emerging.  


Academic Research Event: Survivability – The Evidence

On Monday 27th April, CFOA were pleased to be supporting West Midlands Fire Service’s sharing and learning event at Coventry University, which brought together academics and subject matter experts from across the United Kingdom to discuss survivability and human behaviour during fires.

The first speaker was Rob Fenwick, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner with Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, who discussed the latest research on extrication and interventions for trapped patients, in particular from vehicle crashes. Rob emphasised the critical role of fire and rescue services in protecting and saving the lives of people in this situation through early trauma care. His research also indicates that the established approaches to vehicle extrication may not be much safer than quicker snatch rescues, but in fact place patients at increased risk due to the delay in getting them to hospital to receive treatment. Watch Rob’s full presentation below.


Next up was Richard Walker, a West Midlands Fire Service Fire Engineer working with the University of Central Lancashire on Fire Survivability and the importance of response times. Richard’s research has used real life testing to look at the spread of smoke and flames within a building and how long a person can survive in such conditions. He has focused particularly on accidental dwelling fires, and also considers the full range of factors that determine the attendance time of fire appliances. We will upload a recording of Richard’s presentation shortly.

In the afternoon Dr Gail Steptoe-Warren and Thomas Evans from Coventry University’s Psychology department looked at the behaviour of both firefighters and the public when a fire occurs. Dr Steptoe-Warren considered the psychological skills and heuristics utilised by firefighters when fighting fires and making command decisions. The first part of her presentation is below.


Thomas Evans discussed the ways members of the public react when they suffer a fire at home, which has implications for fire safety education. It emerges that many do not follow the established get out, stay out, dial 999 procedure, for a number of reasons.


Michael Wright from Greenstreet Berman then presented the latest research on the impact of response times on life chances in fires, RTC and special service calls. In particular he looked at the increasing response times caused by both traffic and also changes to service provision.

Finally, David Wales from Kent Fire and Rescue Service presented on the LifeBid programme, which like the research discussed by Thomas Evans, considers the ways in which victims respond to a fire in their home. It makes use of sophisticated tools to get an idea of the full range of actions undertaken by fire victims, and their responses and reasoning. We will upload a recording of David’s presentation shortly.

The presentations delivered by each of the speakers can be accessed below:

For more information, please get in touch with the CFOA communications team: