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Digital innovation – making our communities safer

Someone using an iPad in front of a laptop

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant we’ve all had to embrace new ways of connecting and working together – fire and rescue services included.

Whilst we can’t currently host our usual programme of events, The Hub at West Midlands Fire Service is delighted to invite you to join us online on 19 January 2021.

fire officer working with laptops

Hear first-hand how we and some of our partners adapted to many challenges of 2020.

Speakers will describe how they’ve found innovative ways to embrace technology and a digital approach to keep our communities safe.

Host Mark Hamilton-Russell, Strategic Enabler of Communications for West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS), will be welcoming speakers from WMFS, local authorities and partner organisations.

Mark said “We’ve been inspired by and are incredibly proud of how staff throughout our service have risen to the challenges of the pandemic.  The event will celebrate and showcase how we and our partners have been adapting to continue providing excellent services to our communities, including some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Hannah Spencer, Senior Resilience Officer from WMFS, will outline how technology has enabled continued communications, learning and resilience.

Paul Withers, Protection Manager for Resource and Transformation at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, will be providing valuable insight on Active Intervention Management (AIM) and how data has been used to help make communities safer.

The agenda also features sessions on the use of Virtual Reality and how training, assessment and education teams are embracing this new world. The event will be closed by Richard Westman from Kaido discussing the impact the digital working world has on our workforce.

This is a free event. Please click here to register and secure your place.

Lateral Flow Tests go live for fire service staff

Firefighters in PPE using COVID testing equipment

West Midland Fire Service (WMFS) staff who live or work in Wolverhampton now have access to rapid turnaround tests for COVID-19, thanks to a partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council.  

The initiative is part of the Government’s continuing UK-wide drive to increase asymptomatic mass testing. 

Firefighters in PPE using COVID testing equipment

The first ‘Blue Light Hub’ has opened at Fallings Park Fire Station today (Wednesday 16 December) as part of the council’s Lateral Flow Test (LFT) pilot 

The swab tests give results within an hour and are designed to identify those with COVID-19 who are experiencing no symptoms, to help drive down the R rate, contain the spread of the virus and save lives.

Following the success of LFTs in Liverpool in driving down infection rates, the testing will be initially open to staff at WMFS who live or work in Wolverhampton and also accessible to colleagues from West Midlands Police. They will be delivered by volunteer testing teams, made up of WMFS staff volunteers.  

Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer for West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We continue to be ready, willing and able to support our communities in whatever ways possible during this pandemic. I am very grateful to our incredible staff who have volunteered to carry out the tests and to be tested themselves.   

We have robust control measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our service, ensuring we can continue to deliver our core services to our communities. It is still possible, however, that our staff can contract it away from work and show no symptoms. 

“Infection rates across the West Midlands still remain high. By regularly testing our staff, we can ensure we remain as prepared and healthy as possible to serve our communities. It will also provide an extra level of comfort and reassurance to our staff and their families, as well as our police colleagues.”  

The next Blue Light Hubs expected to open for WMFS testing will be at Stourbridge Fire Station from tomorrow (Thursday 15 December)specifically for those staff who live and work in Dudley. West Midlands Fire Service is committed to establishing blue light hubs in each of the local authority areas over the coming weeks, including BirminghamCoventry and Sandwell

Testing for members of the public without symptoms of Covid-19 is also currently available at the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Civic Centre from 8am to 7pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The facility is staffed by volunteers from the council and has the capacity to deliver hundreds of tests each day. 

Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: 

“The opening of the Blue Light Hub at Fallings Park Fire Station is excellent news, further increasing the availability of testing in the city and ensuring that fire and police staff without symptoms of COVID-19 are able to regularly check themselves for the virus.  

“This is really important, because COVID-19 is still prevalent in the community and anyone who has it – even if they don’t realise it – risks passing the virus on to friends, family or work colleagues. If they know they have it, they should instead self-isolate which will help break the chain of transmission and reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

“I’d encourage fire and police staff without symptoms of COVID-19 to attend the Blue Light Hub for a test from next week – and remind the general public that they can get a free test at the Civic Centre any day of the week, as long as they are symptom-free. No appointment is necessary and all are welcome.”

Chief Superintendent Andy Beard, Commander at Wolverhampton Police, said: 

“This is a fantastic local resource, to get quick tests to keep our emergency services running – particularly through the festive period.  We look forward to supporting this initiative in the future with Fire Service and City Council.” 

Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of the Fire Authority and Deputy Mayor of Wolverhampton, added: 

“This pilot with the City of Wolverhampton Council is another great example of how organisations have responded to the pandemic. We are planning to set up more Blue Light Hubs across the West Midlands in the coming weeks. I would also like to pay tribute to all of the staff who continue to do great work outside of their normal day job to make our communities safer, stronger and healthier during this pandemic.”

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at  GOV.UK. Details of the Tier 3 Very High Alert restrictions currently in place, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at Covid Alert.  

Reassurance for high-rise residents

Fire engine with firefighters and an ambulance technician outside a highrise block

Residents of high-rise building in Solihull are being reassured about the safety of their home following a sixth-floor fire. 

The incident at Redwood House in Kingshurst, on the evening of 5 December, was attended by 11 fire crews. The design of the building and fire safety measures meant, however, that the severe fire was successfully contained to the flat in which it started.

Fire engine with firefighters and an ambulance technician outside a highrise block

The 12-storey block contains 66 flats for elderly residents. Some residents decided to leave their homes during the incident and then had to be led to safety by firefighters. But others who decided to ‘stay put’ remained safe and their homes were unaffected. 

Area Commander Samantha Burton, of West Midlands Fire Service, said: “The front door to the affected flat stopped the fire and contained it within. Only the communal area outside suffered minor smoke damage.  

“Our Fire Safety Officers have been carrying out further investigations since the incident and have found the same fire safety measures throughout the building.  

We would like to reassure residents that the building’s ‘stay put’ policy is fit for purpose and that the built-in aspects of fire protection are sound. 

“We would like to thank those residents who did stay in their homes. This meant that our fire crews could focus on tackling the fire and concluding the incident aquickly and as safely as possible.” 

Fire safety inspections have found that the building is wellmaintained, complies with fire legislation and has high standards of fire protection.

Last month, Solihull Community Housing (SCH) announced that it is to fit fire sprinklers throughout its high-rise housing stock in the borough. 

Added Area Commander Burton: We recognise and welcome Solihull Community Housing’s continued investment in fire safety. Their installation of sprinklers throughout their high-rise premises will dramatically reduce the risk from fire to both their residents and any of our firefighters who need to respond to any incidents.

“Since the Redwood House incident on 5 December we have continued to liaise closely with SCH and want residents to feel safe and reassured. Anyone who would like us to advise on fire safety in their own flat just needs to contact us via their housing representative and we will be in touch. 

We’ll be continuing to work closely with residents and SCH in 2021, to ensure that the high fire safety standards which proved so effective in this instance continue.” 

Residents are being urged to get into the habit of having a night-time routine to help prevent fire  

  • if you have any concerns, raise them as soon as you can with your landlord 
  • turn off appliances and equipment like cookers and TVs which don’t need power overnight 
  • close internal doors, which can help to stop fire spreading 
  • fully extinguish smoking materials such as cigarettes and matches, and candles, before you go to bed 
  • charge items such a mobile phones and tablets during the day, when you can keep an eye on them. 

In addition: 

  • make sure you know the escape plan for your particular building – your landlord has a legal duty to give you a copy, so ask for one if you haven’t had it 
  • keep exits clear – in your own flat and in shared areas 
  • never wedge a fire door open 
  • don’t make changes to your flat’s front door without seeking advice from the managing agency 
  • keep corridors and stairwells clear and sterile, eg do not dump rubbish or old furniture there 
  • if you have any concerns, raise them as soon as you can with your landlord. 

For further high-rise safety advice, visit: https://www.wmfs.net/safety/at-home/#highrise 

Have a safe and happy Christmas!

Real Christmas tree with decorations

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is urging people to take extra care at home and on the roads this Christmas. 
 
With large gatherings restricted because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many more families than usual are expected to spend the festive period at home. 
 
But those who are heading out are being urged to ‘make it none for the road’ – and to heed police warnings about getting behind the wheel the morning after drinking at home.

Real Christmas tree with decorations

WMFS will be sharing a range of seasonal fire safety tips across its social media channels and website – covering everything from candle safety, through to safe cooking and not being tempted to use smoke alarm batteries for new toys and gadgets.

Pete Wilson, West Midlands Fire Service’s Group Manager for Prevention, said: “An accidental fire at home or being injured on the road is the last thing any of us needs after such a tough year. As always, our firefighters and fire control staff will be available 24/7 if you need them. 

“However, by following our festive safety tips and sticking to national restrictions on how many people can meet up, we hope people across the West Midlands can stay safe and able to look forward to a much happier 2021.

Many people have put up their Christmas trees andecorations earlyfor some much-needed cheerIf you’ve got a real Christmas tree, remember to keep it watered. Fairy lights and a dry tree are a real fire risk. 

“It’s all too easy for safety to slip down the Christmas list when there’s so much to do. That’s why we’re asking people to take just a few minutes to read our tips on our website and social media, plan ahead and stay as safe as possible.

WMFS is also appealing to drivers not to drink-or drug-drive. 

Research by Drinkaware shows some people have significantly increased their alcohol consumption at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. 

The road safety charity, Brake, says that drivers who are only just over the legal limit are still six times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than someone who has drunk nothing. 

Added Pete Wilson: “Please don’t be tempted to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and give your system ample time to recover if you’re drinking at home. So many people make the mistake of thinking they’ve ‘slept it off’, when they’re still over the legal limit.”

Check out WMFS’s festive safety tips at www.wmfs.net/safety/christmas/ and follow @WestMidsFire on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Our tips for a safe and happy Christmas: 

  • keep real Christmas trees watered – they can become a fire risk if they dry out – and keep the water away from lights and cables 
  • make sure your Christmas lights are in good condition. If you’re replacing old ones, LED sets are the safer option 
  • don’t leave Christmas lights or powered decorations switched on when you go out or to bed 
  • make it ‘none for the road’ and remember that you could still be over the legal drink-drive limit the morning after the night before 
  • pause before you plug! Avoid overloading sockets and extension cables
  • LED candles don’t get hot, so there’s much less risk of fire. If you must use real candles, never leave them unattended and always keep them away from flammable items including Christmas decorations and curtains 
  • test your smoke alarms weekly and never be tempted to remove the batteries – even for a short time – to use in toys and electrical gifts 
  • follow manufacturers’ guidelines and only use the chargers and cables that come with your gadgets and electrical presents 
  • don’t drink alcohol before or during cooking, and never leave a cooker unattended when it’s in use. 
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