London Fire Brigade

Tottenham youths to get firefighting experience

05 October 2011

Teenagers take part in LIFE schemeYoung people in Tottenham, one of the areas worst affected by August’s civil disturbances, will this week experience what it is like to be a firefighter, as they take part in the London Fire Brigade’s flagship youth programme.

Teenagers taking part in the scheme, known as the Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE), will learn to use ladders, breathing apparatus and hoses, as well as developing casualty rescue techniques. The scheme is designed to improve young people’s discipline, confidence and team building skills.

The week long LIFE scheme was originally set up in Tower Hamlets in 2002 to reduce anti-social behaviour directed at fire crews. The programme is targeted particularly at young people aged between 13 and 17 who have either offended, are not succeeding in mainstream education. Participants may also be suffering from low self-esteem or have been victims of crime.

While the children attending the course at Tottenham Fire Station may not have been involved in August’s civil disturbances, the London Fire Brigade believes that working the capital’s young people is vitally important, especially after the recent unrest.  

Early this year the London Fire Brigade approved a £1 million funding boost for LIFE and the Brigade is continuing at how it can get further funding for the programme from external organisations.

Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Community Safety Committee, Cllr Susan Hall, said:

“The recent riots hit Tottenham extremely hard. By working with young people in the area, the London Fire Brigade hopes to gain their respect and show what it really takes to be a firefighter. We know that by encouraging discipline and hard work in young people, the LIFE programme can really change their lives.

“Our youth engagement work makes a real difference to the lives of young people in the capital. London has one of the lowest rates of attacks on firefighters in the country and LIFE has played a major part in driving down this figure.”

Since it began, nearly 5,000 young Londoners have benefited from the LIFE programme and there are now 12 LIFE centres across the capital taking referrals from organisations such as schools and working with young people from almost all London boroughs.

A report on the civil disturbances showed that firefighters tackled on average one fire every nine minutes and came under attack at incidents. Nine fire engines had their windscreens smashed and three senior officers’ cars were also damaged. One firefighter sustained cuts to the face after bricks were thrown through a fire engine windscreen, however no other firefighters reported being injured while on duty.

Notes for editors

The award winning Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE) has completed over 500 courses.

Activities carried out by teenagers on the LIFE programme include the use of ladders, breathing apparatus, casualty rescue techniques and hose line practice – all of which are designed to improve motivation, confidence and team building skills. Evaluations have shown that young people with a history of offending or anti-social behaviour are less likely to engage in this sort of behaviour after taking part.

The LIFE centres are based in Barking and Dagenham; Newham; Tower Hamlets; Islington; Brent; Sutton; Lambeth; Bexley and Camden. The success of LIFE in London has paved the way for similar schemes across the UK and seven other fire and rescue services are now using the scheme. It is also being adopted by New Zealand Fire Service.

For more information on LIFE, ring 020 8555 1200 and ask for the Youth Engagement manager.