28th May 2012 AGM and Great Yarmouth Fire Brigade Talk

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Minutes of Annual General Meeting

Held on 28th May 2012 at 2:30pm
At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

David welcomed everyone to the AGM.

Apologies had been received from Lee Richmond, Charlie Johnson, Maureen Ransome and Pat Clarke.

The 23 members and guests present introduced themselves. Guests included Sandy Griffiths from the NHS, Penny Parker NCOPD, Ian Hardy GYBC, Paul Bowerbank Sensory Support and the guest speaker, Andy Wells from Great Yarmouth Fire Service

In his Chairman’s report, David said that the Group had continued to encourage the Borough Council, Highways Department and bus companies to take notice of the concerns of visually impaired people who use their services.

He reported on the first Members’ telephone survey about mobility issues around the Borough. Queries and specific problems had been passed on to the relevant agencies who had responded in a positive and helpful way, and several accessibility issues had been resolved as a result of this consultation. It was hoped that further telephone surveys would be carried out in future. The Committee had worked hard to ensure that the list of Members’ contact details was up to date.

Paying tribute to the tireless campaigning by the late Penny Cox on behalf of visually impaired people, David was pleased to report that the use of yellow and black tape on scaffolding had now been adopted throughout Norfolk. If Members were aware of instances of the old red and white tape still in use, they should let either David or Shaun have details.

Some Group members had taken part in a consultation about the Borough Council’s Equality Scheme, and as a result Tracey Jones and Karla Simms had attended a Group meeting to answer questions and follow up suggestions from the Group about how information from the Borough Council could be presented in a choice of more VIP-friendly formats. They also agreed to look into some specific access issues raised by Members at the meeting.

The contact details of all guest speakers had been included in minutes of meeting held during the year, and Members were encouraged to contact them if they had any further comments or queries.

David and Shaun had met with Brandon Lewis MP to discuss the implications for visually impaired and blind people of the Government’s change of Disability Living Allowances to Personal Independence Plans. Mr Lewis had taken details of these concerns which he would pass on to Ian Duncan Smith.

In concluding his Chairman’s report, David wished to record his thanks to Judy Pritchard for recording minutes; Shaun McGarry for his expertise and advice on computer-related issues; Wendy George for all her work as Treasurer and Judy Morrow for her invaluable help with “all sorts of things”. He also thanked Paul Easton and Liz Kitchener for support at meetings; Ian Hardy of Great Yarmouth Borough Council for his invaluable advice and support; Penny Parker from the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People for her support and for the generous grant of £1000 from the NCOPD this year; and Nelly Adhiambo and Helen Johnson for their advice and support whilst working for Voluntary Norfolk.

David was thanked for his report.

Wendy then presented the Treasurer’s report, as at 31st May 2012. Donations during the year had included £200 from the Fitzmaurice Trust, £1,000 from NCODP, Members’ donations and a total to date of £100 for the Chairman’s sponsored slim. Other income from Members’ voluntary subscriptions and contributions towards transport costs, proceeds from the Belton fete and a repayment of money owed by David Mercer brought the total income for the year to £1844.76.

Expenditure included taxi fares, purchase of a Screen Reader and Plextalk (which are the property of the Group and used by the chairman and vice chairman), website expenses and sundry donations and expenses totalling £1771.86.

Wendy was thanked for her report.

Ian Hardy then took the Chair for the election of officers for the coming year. These were as follows

Chairman David Wilkinson (nominated by Shaun, seconded by Tim)
15 votes in favour

Vice Shaun McGarry (nominated by Wendy,
Chairman seconded by Tim)
15 votes in favour

Treasurer Wendy George (nominated by Judy M, seconded by Shaun)
16 votes in favour

Group Judy Morrow (nominated by Wendy,
Secretary seconded by David)
16 votes in favour

The new Committee thanked the Group and were delighted that Darren Hendry volunteered to be a Committee Member for the coming year. Anyone else interested in becoming a Committee Member should contact the Chairman.

Guest Speaker

Andy Wells, Crew Manager at Great Yarmouth Fire Station was welcomed to the meeting. He introduced himself as a full time Fireman with Great Yarmouth Fire Service and part of his role was to give talks at schools and different organisations about how to keep safe in the event of a fire. His talk was supported by a slide presentation.

He began his talk with statistics. 60,000 people have fires in their homes each year; around 1,000 are injured; approximately 500 people die as a result of fires in their homes.

He urged everyone never to underestimate the effect of smoke and fire, or to think that “It won’t happen to me”. Each fire starts with just a small flame.

Statistics show that 66% of domestic fires start in the kitchen, and 15% in the living room, due largely to the number of electrical appliances in those rooms. He emphasized the importance of closing interior doors, especially at night, to contain the spread of fire, and urged everyone never to take risks and to get everyone out of the house immediately. Ignore the old advice to try to put out a chip pan fire with a wet tea towel – personal safety is the main priority.

He advised using common sense at all times. For example, treat candles with respect, and never leave them burning unattended, or near curtains or without a container on the edge of a plastic bath.

Andy recommended using fused strip blocks rather than square block multi sockets, not to overload cables and not to put cables under carpets where walking over them breaks down the insulation material. Use circuit breakers when using equipment such as lawn mowers and hedge trimmers. Never use electric blankets and hot water bottles at the same time. He described how a real Christmas tree treated with a chemical to stop needles falling, standing in the corner of a room, took only 15 seconds to fill a room with smoke. Every 3 days someone dies in a fire caused by cigarettes.

In the event of a fire the best advice is to just get out of the house, shutting doors if possible to contain the fire. If trapped upstairs, shut the bedroom door, stuff a pillow at the bottom of the door to prevent smoke coming into the room and call from the window for help. Don’t jump out of upstairs windows. GET OUT- STAY OUT – CALL 999

Each household should have an escape plan to get out as quickly and safely as possible, even on to a garage roof.

If clothes catch fire remember the instruction
STOP – DROP – ROLL.

Smoke detectors should be tested once a week (a broom handle is useful for this) and batteries changed once a year. There is assistive technology for blind and deaf people in the form of a vibrator which can be placed under a pillow at night to warn of danger. The Norfolk Fire Survey will carry out a free personal home Fire Safety check, and if required will supply smoke detectors free of charge. A contact telephone number will be included in the VIP Newsletter.

Tim asked whether plug in air fresheners were safe to use, and Andy said that they had to meet EU safety standards and were generally safe. Televisions and radios were not designed to run continually and should be switched off completely at night

Andy had brought along a supply of information leaflets, which unfortunately were not in a format which could be read by most Members present! He would report back to the relevant personnel that large print (not less than 16 font), Braille or audio were the preferred formats for most visually impaired and blind people. Shaun suggested that the Grapevine Committee might be willing to make a recording of the important Fire Safety in the Home information, and perhaps also include material on the VIP website. There is a related fire safety website www.firekills.gov.uk.

David thanked Andy for his interesting and informative presentation.

Other VIP Group Business

Members were asked to let David know if they had any ideas for topics for discussion or speakers at future meetings. Meetings were open to all visually impaired people and their carers, and everyone’s views and ideas were valued. One suggestion was for a speaker from Age UK (Suffolk) to talk about services available.

Sandy Griffiths explained that the services formerly provided by the PCT were being superceded by HealthEast Community Interest Company, the local GP organisation which commissions healthcare for everyone in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area.
Sandy would be retiring at the end of July. She was thanked for help and support for the Group and individual VIP Members.

David reported that the Disability Forum had been dissolved.

Paul Bowerbank reported that on Friday 1st June, Sensory Support would be moving to the NNAB Offices in Norwich. On the VIP front, it was hoped that in June/July a Low Vision Committee for Norfolk would be set up, and that in September, National Eye Health Week would be celebrated in Norfolk, and any ideas of how this should be marked in the Great Yarmouth would be very welcome.

David reminded the Group that on 12th June he and Wendy would be representing the Great Yarmouth VIP User Group at the Royal Garden Party at Sandringham as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The next meeting would be on 23rd July at 2pm at Wherry Way.

The meeting closed at 4.15pm.

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