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News items such as local community initiatives, charity work, work with partners and organisations to improve the community.

Safer Shopping in Sandwell

A woman shopping in a supermarket with a face mask on
West Midlands Fire Service, Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police have carried out more than 1,200 supermarket inspections, to promote safer shopping in Sandwell.
A graphic showing COVID safety tips when shopping

We’ve been supporting the initiative by visiting supermarkets and food shops to give advice and support on how they can keep their staff and customers safe, during the pandemic.

Sandwell Council’s Deputy leader, Councillor Maria Crompton, said: “We set out a challenge to shops in Sandwell to make their businesses safer and we can now see the vast majority of shops have measures in place to help keep shoppers and their staff safe.

“It is heartening to see the majority of staff and shoppers are wearing face coverings and shops have clear signage to inform customers as they enter stores.

“For those shops still failing to meet the minimum standards, we are carrying out further inspections and will look to take further action in relation to those who continue to flout the rules.”

Andy Smith, Group Manager with West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We’ve been determined to play whatever part we can, with our partners, to support our communities and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re proud to be working with Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police on this initiative, which is all about keeping Sandwell businesses and residents safe. It’s great to see businesses acting on the help and advice we’ve been able to share.

“It’s the latest example of our staff being ready, willing and able to do whatever they can – from delivering thousands of food parcels, to training to be vaccinators.”

Superintendent Phil Asquith of Sandwell Neighbourhood Policing Unit, said: “Our officers are continuing to carry out patrol activity with the support of our partners as we work together to make public places, shops and supermarkets as safe as possible.

“As we all take on new changes and challenges, our officers will continue to engage, educate, encourage and where necessary enforce breaches of the Covid legislation. On occasions, when it is more appropriate for an alternative authority to step in, we will capture evidence of breaches and support wider enforcement by our partners.

“It still remains imperative that people stick to the rules to continue to help save lives.”

Officers will continue to carry out inspections and if customers have specific concerns about shops in Sandwell they can report this by emailing

‘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).