AF&RS and ASP break down communications barriers

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) and Avon and Somerset Police (ASP) are aiming to make Thornbury a better place to live and work by taking part in Makaton training.

The two Services spent Monday evening (27/01) learning Makaton, a basic form of sign language that uses facial expressions and symbols, in the hope of making Thornbury more welcoming.

Everyone involved recognises that being able to communicate is one of the most important skills in life, and even more so when it comes to emergency response and community safety,

Almost everything we do involves communication; everyday tasks such as learning at school, asking for food and drink, sorting out problems, making friends and having fun.

Along with this, it is recognised that all children and adults with learning or communication difficulty should be able to access the same services and facilities as everyone else.

Across the town, there are already a variety of Makaton friendly businesses and it is hoped that more businesses and community leaders will come on board.

John Riddiford, Thornbury Watch Manager for AF&RS, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for us as a station to better connect with our local community and help ensure all residents are safe.

“There are around 500 people in the local community who use Makaton so for us to undertake this training not only means we can better communicate and make everyone feel welcome, but we can also utilise it as part of our fire safety messaging and community safety.

“It was great fun to get the whole station together along with the police for this and we are delighted to have taken part.

“Over the coming months, we look forward to continuing to develop our skills and use it within the community.”

PC Paula Hanson-Manos, of the Thornbury Neighbourhood Beat Team, added: “It is important for our force to get key messages out to the public and with Makaton’s growing popularity this is another way we can do that.

“It was not something our officers have been involved with before so we are really grateful for this week’s training.

“Efforts are being made to make Thornbury Makaton friendly and it is fantastic to be a part of that as it is bound to be something we need to use more and more.

“It was a really enjoyable evening and we hope to build on our learning in the future and make Makaton a useful tool for our team to use.”

The Makaton Charity, which runs the scheme, is passionate about making communication happen and ensuring that all members of the community can access services.

Michelle Galliott, from Thornbury Welcomes, said: “It was a great step forward for us to have the Fire Service and police take part in the training and join up to the scheme.

“Both services are so crucial for members of the local community and it is great to have them on-board.

"Ourselves, along with Better Communications, also made a Christmas video with the Fire Service wishing the local community a Happy Christmas in Makaton and we were overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to be involved. 

“With both services and a wealth of local businesses taking part, we really can make Thornbury a welcoming town.”

For more on Makaton, visit