A busy South East Northumberland community centre is keeping visitors safer than ever after completing the installation of a new state-of-the-art fire alarm system.
Briardale House in Blyth has used a £7,800 grant from North East renewable energy, property and minerals firm The Banks Group to replace an existing system that, while still operational, was becoming obsolete and harder to use.
The new wireless system is zoned, meaning that the location of any fires can be pinpointed more accurately and the best escape routes for anyone in the centre can be planned in advance.
Local firm RayFire Services was awarded the contract to carry out the installation.
The current Briardale House management team took over responsibility for its operation in 2019 and has been steadily making improvements to the facilities it offers ever since.
It is used by people of all ages from across the local community and hosts more than two dozen different groups and activities, including art, dance and fitness classes, a craft club, youth club, friendship groups, Baby Ballet and an after-school Tea Time Club.
It also runs a community café on weekdays, as well as a lunch club on Fridays and a Meals On Wheels service which sees hot, two-course lunches delivered across the local community every Tuesday and Thursday.
“Briardale House is the heartbeat of its community and brings so many different groups of local people together”
Local charities including Age UK Northumberland, Blyth Stroke Association and the North East Ambulance Service also regularly hold meetings and activities at the venue.
Centre manager Candice Randall says: “We try to be inclusive and welcoming as possible to every part of our community and get around 200 visitors a week, from babes in arms right through to our oldest local residents.
“We’ve been progressively making changes and improvements across the Centre in the last few years, and replacing the fire alarm system had become an increasing priority for us as we’re using more parts of the building than ever before and knew that the existing system was becoming obsolete.
“The zoned system we’ve been able to install can pinpoint exactly where any fire might be and has allowed us to identify the best routes out of the building in any situation, which is especially important if we have children or people with mobility problems with us when it goes off.
“No-one will really see the improvements we’ve made, and we’ll hopefully never see the fire alarm in action, but everyone coming here is that much safer as a result of its installation.
“We try to keep user costs as low as possible to make the Centre accessible to all, but there are always running costs to cover, and in the current circumstances, every penny counts.
“Banks approached us to see what sort of projects we were looking to undertake and their flexibility and responsiveness has enabled us to get this crucial work done much sooner than we otherwise could have.”
Jamilah Hassan, community manager at The Banks Group, adds: “Briardale House is the heartbeat of its local community and brings so many different groups of local people together.
“We’ve been supporting community improvement projects across South East Northumberland for more than four decades and are very pleased to be extending our contribution to this area’s well-being still further.”
Anyone from a community close to a Banks Group project who is interested in applying for funding from the Banks Community Fund should first contact the fund manager via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.