Government inspectors praise Fire service’s response to the pandemic

Ben Fox
Ben Fox
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell

Government inspectors have praised Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s commitment to maintaining its emergency response to the public during the coronavirus disease pandemic.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) also praised the Service’s support to the NHS and communities.

This included working with the ambulance service to enable firefighters to drive ambulances, fit masks and other personal protective equipment for NHS and care home staff, deliver essential items to vulnerable people, and to support the vaccination programme.

In its report published recently, the inspectorate found that the Service’s plans and use of data was innovative and allowed it to make an effective initial response to the pandemic and refocus its activities to areas of greatest need.

The Service introduced home safety visits by telephone to provide advice to the most vulnerable members of our community and also pay-protected on-call firefighters who were furloughed from their main employment.

Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said: “I’m really pleased that the report is positive about the way we responded to the pandemic. It’s been a challenging year for everyone, especially our staff, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way we’ve worked to support each other, our communities and our partners throughout the pandemic.

‘As well as dealing with incidents, we’ve helped our communities by driving ambulances, delivering essential items to vulnerable people and are now extending that work to support the vaccination programme. We remain committed to helping in any way we can.

‘It’s been equally important to look after each other within the Service,
keeping our staff as safe and healthy as possible to maintain our services to
the public.”

The inspectorate has recommended that the Service makes sure the good practice and innovation shown during the pandemic is continued into the future.

Many of the non-incident related activities carried out by whole-time firefighters, such as attending community events and auditing businesses, could not continue during the pandemic.

Making better use of whole-time firefighters’ extra capacity was also recommended by the inspectorate. Firefighters are now calling residents and businesses remotely to give safety advice when they are not dealing with urgent work.

The Service has looked at the changing risk our communities have faced on a weekly basis and used this to adapt their service and public advice.

HMICFRS carried out inspections of all fire services to review their response to the pandemic and published the reports on
its website.

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