London firefighters ask for sign language training

Firefighters should be taught sign language and deaf awareness techniques when they join the service, their trade union has insisted.

Tim Davis, the Fire Brigade Union’s learning co-ordinator in London, said he had been inundated with requests from firefighters and support staff wanting to learn how to support a deaf or hard of hearing person during a 999 emergency or a fire safety risk assessment.

Just 12 fire and rescue service staff had the opportunity to attend a deaf awareness course in 2007. The course was run as a result of funding from the London Development Agency and Unionlearn, the TUC’s learning organisation.

But Davis insisted it should form part of the initial training firefighters receive when signing up. “The course provides advice on communicating with people suffering from forms of deafness, but is also useful for helping to engage with anybody who has difficulties with English,” he told Personnel Today.

A recent survey of the London Fire and Rescue Service found that more than 20% of respondents were interested in learning sign language.

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