Anton's School Reunion

Anton Ferdinand launched the fire safety wristband initiative when he returned to his former school, Blackheath Bluecoats Secondary School, Old Dover Road, Blackheath recently.

The 20 year-old England Under-21 star has become an established member of the Hammers first-team after progressing through the famous West Ham United Academy.

Wristbands which carry anti-poverty, anti-bullying, and anti-racism messages are already a hit with young people and highly sought after. The Brigade's borough team at Greenwich came up with the idea of using wristbands for a campaign following their popularity in the hope of increasing the number of vulnerable people taking advantage of free home fire safety safety checks (HFSCs).

The home fire safety check scheme - in which firefighters visit people's properties to offer fire safety advice and fit a smoke alarm for free where appropriate - was introduced across London in November 2003. It aims to reduce the number of accidental fire-related deaths among older and vulnerable residents.

People who are over 60 are most likely to die in fires and many of the initiatives have so far focused on these groups. Fires in the home are the main cause of fire deaths and the Brigade has increased its community safety initiatives in all London boroughs.

Greenwich Borough Commander Cyril O'Brien will visit participating schools in the borough and speak to year groups during their assembly about the availability of the checks and general fire safety advice. Pupils will then be given information on HFSCs to take home, together with a referral form for their parents, guardians or relatives to sign approving a visit by firefighters. Families and individuals will then be contacted to arrange a convenient date and time.

Pupils who brought back a completed referral form when the Brigade returned to the school the following week were rewarded for their effort with a specially commissioned free wristband only available from the London Fire Brigade and which carries the messages "Hoax Calls Kill" and "Live Long".

"We hope the wristbands will capture the imagination of young people and the wristbands catch on," said Borough Commander Cyril O'Brien. "This is an another way in which to get across a wide range of fire safety messages, promoting working smoke alarms and getting the families and relatives of young people to take advantage of home fire safety checks.

"Last year, we received over 300 malicious false alarm calls," he said. "Every one of these could affect our ability to respond to genuine emergencies and the wristbands are a means of making sure young people in the borough know how serious the consequences of making hoax calls could be."

Val Shawcross, Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), said: "This is a fantastic scheme and one which I'm sure will take off. Wristbands are very popular among young people and let's hope ours become the latest craze.

"Young people can play a vital role in helping us to protect older and vulnerable members of their family, or neighbours who may be at risk from fire.

"We hope that young people wear the wristbands with pride and that they encourage community safety, citizenship and the promotion of vital fire safety messages."

"At the heart of the London Fire Brigade's work is making communities safer by preventing fires happening in the first place.

"One of our top priorities is to reduce fires in the home through community-based preventative work and partnerships with other agencies such as work with schools. This is having an impact and over the last five years the number of serious fires in the home in Greenwich has fallen by three per cent a year on average."

If you would like a visit or would like to arrange a free home fire safety check on behalf of a member of your family or a friend, or know of someone at risk, please check with them first and contact the Fire Brigade on free phone number 0800 0 28 44 28.