NFU Scotland has been working with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in recent months to develop a rural risk survey to encourage members to take precautions to protect their farms.
The initiative, which will initially be rolled out to  Dumfries and Galloway region, could help protect farms if a fire was to ever happen and assist in restricting any damage.
Farmers are encouraged to fill out a ‘rural risk form’ with basic details, and are then contacted by SFRS who will come out to farm and map out a plan of the farm. Not only does this help fire fighters to assess any risks, but also to know where livestock are likely to be kept as well as dangerous substances such as slurry.
SFRS has seen an increase in farm fires in Scotland, with 635 primary fires of farm buildings and nearly 2,800 secondary fires, in 2013 to 2015. In many primary fires whole buildings have been destroyed.
Isolated locations of farms can be particularly vulnerable, both to wilful fire raising but also the time it can take for fire fighters to reach the property. When fire fighters respond to an incident, every minute counts.
Having filled out this survey, could be the difference between saving and losing property, livestock, and even lives.
All fire appliances use a computerised system called Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) which stores information on dwellings and premises. As the crew are enroute to an incident, they use the MDT to brief themselves about potential hazards. In a house this could be, for example, oxygen cylinders used by a resident. Only authorised fire service personnel will have access to this information. This is a highly detailed plan of the location, with sufficient details presented to firefighters to support a rapid, effective response to incidents.
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie commented: “A fire on a farm can have devastating consequences, and can happen so quickly. We’re delighted to be involved with this rural risk initiative to assist fire fighters if they ever have to attend your property.
“We would encourage as many farmers as possible to take up this offer of this free survey, that will not be passed onto other bodies, as it could help mitigate any effects of a fire, helping fire fighters to attend a fire more quickly. Don’t wait until a fire happens to contact them – fill out this questionnaire today.”
Tom French, NFU Scotland’s Regional Chairman for Forth and Clyde trialled the initiative, welcoming SFRS onto his farm in recent weeks. Tom commented: “Having previously experienced a fire on our farm, I was keen to be involved to show how a tool like this could have helped to get fire fighters onto our farm quicker, which could have prevented some of the extensive damage that was done.
“All members are encouraged to take up this offer, you may regret it otherwise, if you were to ever suffer a fire. We all know of the potential a fire can have, and how quickly it can take hold – by providing SFRS with this information it could get fire fighters to your property quicker, helping to restrict damage.”
Area Manager Alan Fairbairn, the Local Senior Officer for South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway, has overseen the development of this partnership. He commented: “As firefighters we have a duty to serve and protect everyone in our community. For many years we have developed and refined safety practices to tackle fires in the home and in the workplace.
“We want to ensure that farms are given similar attention. Quite simply, it is our aim to offer the same high standard of protection for farms.
“Working together with NFU Scotland its members, we believe that we can reduce the damage caused by farm fires. But we need the support of the farming community. Together we can make a difference. We are starting this partnership in South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway, but it is our aim to roll it out across Scotland.”

• The brief online questionnaire can be accessed by visiting: www.firescotland.gov.uk/ruralsafety. Farmers will then be contacted by SRFS to arrange a visit. The initiative will be launched in Dumfries and Galloway and South Lanarkshire initially.

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