SOPHISTICATED new technology will help fire chiefs safeguard Bradford communities from a dementia time-bomb expected in the years ahead.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has revealed it is planning how it will deal with increasing risks as more dementia patients live in the community - a move which has won praise from the Alzheimer's Society.
The service expects that emerging technologies, some unheard of only a few years ago, will help prevent deaths and injuries in future by raising the alarm before fires can develop, or in some cases helping to tackle the flames.
The same equipment will also be used to help safeguard the small but vulnerable 'difficult to influence' element of society who are seen to be most at risk from fires.
Service experts are already looking to buy devices which will automatically shut off the gas supply to cookers in the event of an emergency, robbing fires of a source of fuel.
Portable sprinkler systems may also be introduced to be fitted in homes seen to be most at risk and wi-fi technology is allowing a new generation of 'linked' alarms to be installed, meaning more than just one alarm will sound if smoke triggers one device in a property.
They can also be linked to strobe lights and vibrating pads to help those with hearing impairments to stay safe.
Service chiefs expect new risks to emerge in more affluent areas, where historically residents have been well educated and able to protect themselves from the risk of fire.
A massive reduction in numbers of fires over the last few years has meant fire crews have more time for other duties and the service is now using them to perform fire prevention duties.
That helps to minimise the effect of spending cuts the service has seen, allowing managers the opportunity to press ahead with the new work.
Area Manager Ian Bitcon said: "The next big step for us is assisted technology. We are talking to several manufacturers about what they are able to do."
Operational firefighters are also expected to receive more intense training in how to recognise dementia symptoms and deal with those affected.
"We are trying to gear up for the situation in 15 years' time and one thing we can think about is making our crews more aware. It is about getting actions in place to keep us ahead of the curve," Mr Bitcon said.
Even now, with greater independence among the elderly the service was beginning to see evidence of problems in the more affluent areas where historically they would not have existed.
In future, firefighters will be taught to look for signs that may indicate other issues such as an unkempt garden in a street where all others are tidy.
"We have attended fire deaths where you would never have seen it coming from the outside," he said.
"If we could have got inside, maybe we would. Some of our work with partners and the community will be about gathering more intelligence."
Alzheimer's Society Services Manager for Bradford Paul Smithson said: 'It is great to hear of even more positive work happening in Bradford to support the drive towards making the area dementia friendly.
"Alzheimer's Society has been at the heart of this work in the city and we are delighted at the steps taken by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to support people with dementia which will help them to stay safely in their own homes for longer."