Phil Loach, the Chief Fire Officer of the West Midlands, has today urged the public to pay extra attention to their safety at home, on the roads and at work during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.Emergency 999 response services provided by West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) continue, for now, as normal.
However, the service has instigated business continuity plans, in readiness for the virus’s potential to affect the activities that can be delivered by its firefighters and support staff.
An agreement has been reached nationally to enable firefighters to support the coordinated efforts of this pandemic and we will ensure our staff are available to support when required.
These activities will be carried out with the safety, health and wellbeing of all staff balanced against our desire to be able to do what we can in supporting our affected communities whilst also ensuring that we are able to maintain our critical emergency response functions.
CFO Loach said: “I am acutely aware of the impact that the pandemic is having on our communities and on our own staff.
“We have well-established and tested plans in place although, clearly, we have not previously had to meet a challenge of this scale. We are working closely with our colleagues in the West Midlands Local Resilience Forum, the National Fire Chiefs Council and Government.
“Our 999 emergency response is currently unaffected. However, we are adapting how we provide our fire safety activities in people’s homes, workplaces and at other venues and prioritising those at highest risk. One example of how we are adapting is our staff exploring the use of digital communications such as video to engage with individuals, families and businesses.
“With more workers and children staying at home, fire safety is as important as ever. We have updated our website with some useful advice. We are also asking businesses and organisations to think carefully about their fire safety precautions. We want road users to stay focused and safe.
“The safety and welfare of our firefighters, our fire control team and our staff in support functions is central to our plans. So, as well as adapting many of the ways we work and introducing new ones, we are giving very close attention to how we will support our staff and their families in the weeks and months ahead. I would like to thank them all for their amazing efforts so far in response to the ever-changing picture.”
A Major Incident has been declared across the West Midlands and Warwickshire by the Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG) of the West Midlands Conurbation and Warwickshire Local Resilience Forums. This initiates procedures which allow for greater coordination with our local partners including Public Health England, the police and councils.
Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “I never cease to be impressed by the professionalism, resilience and flexibility of our entire workforce. They are rising to this challenge in typical fashion and I hope that our communities across the West Midlands will be heartened and reassured by this.
“Of course, our staff are all affected personally by the unfolding events, and I know that great efforts are being made to support them in every way possible so that they continue to provide outstanding service.
“We are all having to make changes to our daily lives, but I would urge people to heed our safety messages to help prevent fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies.”Please visit our COVID-19 advice page (no longer live) for more information on keeping you and your family safe.