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James Round

‘Escape hoods’ safety boost for West Mids fire victims

Two firefighters in full personal protective equipment holding a fire escape hood

New ‘fire escape hoods’, designed to protect fire victims from smoke and fumes, are set to be carried on all West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) emergency response vehicles.

The service’s 41 fire engines, 19 Brigade Response Vehicles and a specialist breathing apparatus support unit will be equipped with the hoods from Monday 7 September 2020.

Station Commander Richard Moore, of WMFS’s Response Team, said: “We aim to get to serious incidents in five minutes, because we know this increases your chances of survival.  
Our new fire escape hoods will provide vital extra protection to people who are unlucky enough to be caught in a fire and who need rescuing or leading to safety by our crews.” 
Over the last five yearsapproaching 700 people were rescued or led to safety by West Midlands firefighters. Many subsequently needed treating with oxygen or taking to hospital after breathing in smoke. It is hoped that the hoods will mean far fewer people need treating for the effects of smoke.  
Station Commander Moore added: “The smoke produced by fires contains a lot of harmful toxins. The hoods are designed to filter them out and stop you from breathing them in. 
“Now, depending on the particular circumstances and conditions at fire, our firefighters might ask you to wear one of the hoods so you can pass more safely through a smoke-filled environment. 

A man wearing a fire escape hood to demonstrate how it looks
A photograph of Watch Commander Jim White holding a fire escape hood while stood in front of a fire engine.

“They’ll only ever ask you to wear one for your own safety. They’ll need you to take off a head covering if you wear one, so the hood can fit and work as effectively as possible.

“With your agreement, they’ll help you to put it over your head, check it’s properly fitted and sealed and that you can see, breathe and talk as usual, before getting you to safety.”

The self-contained fire escape hoods, which are fitted with air filters, allow the wearer to breathe safely in a smoke-filled atmosphere for up to 15 minutes.

A recommendation from Phase I of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire required all fire and rescue services to have fire escape hoods for evacuating people through smoke-filled routes.

After conducting a number of trials, West Midlands Fire Service has chosen to carry Dräger PARAT 5550 Fire Escape Hoods on its fire engines, 4×4 Brigade Response Vehicles and its specialist Breathing Apparatus Incident Support Unit (BAISU).

Our Accounts

Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts

As part of our commitment to transparency, our accounts are available to view on our website.

Today we are issuing a formal notice to our communities that from Monday 13th July 2020 anyone on the electoral register is able to inspect our accounts for the financial year 2019-2020. The period of exercise of public rights commences at 10.00am on 13th July 2020 and will conclude at 5pm on 21st August 2020.

Changes for 2019/20
The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 are temporary and cover only the 2019/20 accounting year. The amending Regulations are being made in response to an unprecedented situation across the UK relating to COVID-19 and the need to reduce the pressure on all Authorities to comply with legal deadlines. As such, these Regulations provide the Authority with additional time to complete the 2019/20 audit, given the likely impact of the COVID-19 virus on the availability of staff and auditors to complete the audit process within current deadlines due to sickness or redeployment.

The deadline to publish the Authority’s unaudited 2019/20 Statement of Accounts has been changed from 31 May 2020 to 31 August 2020 with the deadline to publish the audited accounts being pushed back from 31 July 2020 to 30 November 2020.

During the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of inspection may differ from previous years. However our (currently unaudited as at 26th June 2020) Statement of Accounts 2019-2020 can still be viewed in our Documents section which also includes many other publications.

Formal notice of the right to inspect the financial year 2019-2020 accounts is given below.

Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014
The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015
The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

The Authority’s accounts are subject to external audit by Grant Thornton UK LLP of 11th Floor, Colmore Plaza, 20 Colmore Circus, Birmingham, West Midlands, B4 6AT. Members of the public and local government electors have certain rights in the audit process:

1. Notice is hereby given that from 13th July 2020 to 21st August 2020 (excluding Saturdays and Sundays) between 10.00am and 5.00pm any person may inspect the accounting records of the Authority for the financial year to 31st March 2020 and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts) at the address given below. They may also make copies of the accounts and documents.

2. From 10.00 am on 13th July 2020 to 5pm on 21st August 2020 at the request of a local government elector, the local auditor must give the elector, or any representative of the elector, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounting records of the Authority.

3. From 10.00am on 13th July 2020 until the conclusion of the audit process a local government elector for the area of the Authority or his/her representative may object to the Authority’s accounts asking that the auditor issue a report in the public interest or apply for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. Written notice of the proposed objection and the grounds on which it will be made must be sent to the auditor at the address given above, or via the Grant Thornton UK LLP website (https://www.grantthornton.co.uk/) and also copied to the Authority at the address given below.

4. The Statement of Accounts for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority is available to view on the internet during the period of display. The web address is: www.wmfs.net

Dated 26th June 2020

Mike Griffiths
West Midlands Fire Service
99 Vauxhall Road
B7 4HW
e-mail: Mike.Griffiths@wmfs.net

5,000 deliveries reached!

Member of staff socially distanced delivering essential items to a shielded resident during COVID-19.

Our Ready, Willing and Able staff volunteers have this week delivered their 5,000th parcel, to a Brownhills resident who is shielding from COVID-19.

Working alongside Manor Farm Community Association and Walsall Council, two of our staff volunteers dropped off a box of essential items to grateful 80-year-old John Bickley.

Member of staff socially distanced delivering essential items to a shielded resident during COVID-19.

John, who celebrated his birthday last month, loves chatting to people, something he has really missed since lockdown began. A regular at lunch clubs, John also spends much of his time crafting items out of wood.

WMFS volunteer Cody and Watch Commander Diane who made the 5,000th delivery, are two of more than 70 people from WMFS who have been working with councils, charities, community groups and health organisations across six hubs, to ensure the most vulnerable receive essential food and medical deliveries, during the pandemic.

Additional activities for UK fire and rescue services were agreed in March between the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and national employers.

In the West Midlands, these activities have included delivering food and medical parcels which has played a pivotal part in our involvement in the NFCC’s Ready, Willing and Able campaign launched mid-April.

Phil Loach, our Chief Fire Officer, said:

“As a fire service, our communities are at the centre of what we do. I am very proud of the work of the whole team over the last few weeks, from those who have continued to respond to incidents, carry out safe and well visits and support local businesses to those who have stepped forward as volunteers, to deliver food and medical parcels.

“I have heard many heart-warming stories from our staff volunteers and it’s clear that their time, patience, and can-do attitude have made a big difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities during these very difficult times.”

We are delighted that our #ReadyWillingAble staff volunteers put a big smile on John’s face this week and have cheered up many others who have received essential food or medical parcel deliveries over the last three months. These deliveries will continue over the coming weeks to support the most vulnerable in communities across the West Midlands.