Firefighters opt to learn sign language

Firefighters from Bispham Fire Station have been learning basic sign language with the Fylde Coast British Sign Language Centre. L-R are firefighters James Butcher, Chris Maggs, Ian Lloyd and John Hancock with Michelle Lynn and Janice Crossland-Jones from the Fylde Coast BSL Centre.

Firefighters from Bispham Fire Station have been learning basic sign language with the Fylde Coast British Sign Language Centre. L-R are firefighters James Butcher, Chris Maggs, Ian Lloyd and John Hancock with Michelle Lynn and Janice Crossland-Jones from the Fylde Coast BSL Centre.

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FIREFIGHTERS have signed up to a training course with a difference.

For 14 crew members based at Bispham opted into the free session, held by Fylde Coast British Sign Language (BSL) Centre volunteers, to learn a valuable skill with which to reassure deaf people involved in emergency situations.

The crewmen – seen here spelling out the word “fire” – learned the British fingerspelling alphabet.

John Taylor of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Sign language is not needed if we’re rescuing people – we go in and just grab them if need be.

“But it is something we can do afterwards to help reassure people, or if we have been called out for any matter.

“Conceivably, if they manage to grasp more signs, they will be able to do things like a safety check without the need for an interpreter.

“All credit to these firefighters – the lesson went down very well with them.”

Watch manager Michael Spencer said crew used their new-found skill just weeks after their first session.

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He added: “With a skill like this you never know when you are going to need it but within a few weeks we were called to an alarm in Bispham and it was a profoundly deaf man.

“One of the crew was able to tell him his name and reassure him that it was just an alarm.

“The man was very surprised someone could communicate with him.

“It’s funny to watch the crews now, sat around the brew table trying to work out various words.

“Who knows when we’ll need to use it next? It could be in 20 years or the next call out.”

Many of the firefighters have expressed an interest in taking the training further.

Deaf awareness tutor Janice Crossland-Jones said: “Our objective is to teach the BSL alphabet to as many people as possible in our area.

“We are doing this by offering free finger spelling – and a few basic signs – tuition to local businesses, schools, hospitals and medical centres.

“The tuition takes the form of a one-hour lesson which is held in the workplace for example during lunchtimes to minimise disruption to the working day.”

Signing in the Community, the volunteering arm of the BSL, has held 37 fingerspelling lessons, teaching 773 people how to sign.

Anyone who wants to take up the offer of a free fingerspelling session should call 07801 781976 or visit www.signinginthecommunity.org.uk.

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