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Royal School for the Deaf Derby and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service forge a collaboration


Children from Derby’s Royal School have begun a year-long project with firefighters to improve communication between deaf people and the emergency services.

The historic school on Ashbourne Road has been campaigning for better training for emergency service crews after a member of staff had to be told over Facetime that her husband had died when none of the paramedics could communicate with her.

Now the school has formed an alliance with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) and is teaching a group of firefighters how to use British Sign Language (BSL) in the hope that they will be able to ask vital questions such as ‘where is the fire’, ‘are you hurt’ and ‘is anyone inside the building’.

Children working with firefighters at Royal School for the Deaf Derby

A group of 10 firefighters are attending weekly sessions at the school in order to take their level one examination in BSL, while two senior fire officers are attending level three training.

The collaboration has already been recognised for its impact after the Asian Fire Service Association nominated the project for the ‘Partnership of the Year’ award at their National Conference 2023 in November.

Head teacher Paul Burrows said: “Sign language is a vital means of communication and it is priceless for our emergency services to be able to speak with the deaf community, so we are delighted to have set up this collaboration.

“We hope that some of the firefighters attending our lessons will go on to take their level two qualifications and that we can continue to have a strong relationship with the service moving forward.”

The aim of the partnership is to create BSL champions in every fire station within Derbyshire and there are plans to co-produce deaf awareness videos which will become part of mandatory training for all fire crews.

The fire service is supporting the school in raising safety awareness within the deaf community and have staged fully signed demonstrations, including a controlled chip pan fire.

While primary school pupils enjoyed a visit from a fire engine when they were learning about the Great Fire of London.

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