Measures introduced by West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) in response to COVID-19 have ensured that the availability of firefighters, fire engines and other emergency teams has been maintained at near-normal levels during the crisis.
A report by Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, to West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority details how the availability of frontline WMFS resources has stayed on a par with 2019 – in spite of the potential for “unprecedented” staff illness.
Fire control staff and firefighters have stayed available 24/7 since March, with crews responding to emergencies in high-risk areas in an average of 4mins 30secs.
The report explains how WMFS’s detailed business continuity plans, complemented by the setting up of an expert medical and scientific team, helped to protect emergency response resources.
The arrangements also allowed the service to continue providing essential fire prevention and protection services to the most vulnerable people and businesses.
And they made it possible for volunteers drawn from the WMFS workforce to undertake extra activities in support of residents most at risk from coronavirus, delivering thousands of vital food and medical parcels.
The extra activities also included the sensitive and challenging task of moving virus victims’ bodies, often from their homes. WMFS also played a key role in ensuring the fire safety of the new NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham.
CFO Loach said: “I could not be prouder or more inspired by how our staff have risen to the challenges of the pandemic. By focusing all of our efforts on their safety and wellbeing, we have been able to protect delivery of our core, frontline services and deliver more besides.
“The entire service quickly had to innovate and adapt to new ways of working, with a digital approach wherever appropriate and practical. Time and again our staff proved they were ready, willing and able to do what was needed. I am confident that the lessons we have learned will serve us well while the pandemic continues.
“I am also sure that our many new ways of working will transform and shape our work across the West Midlands for years to come, including those activities we undertake alongside our partner organisations such as local councils and the health sector.
“We will soon launch a public consultation on how we propose to deliver many of our services for the next three years. I hope that as many people as possible will share their views on how we make the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier.”
Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA), added: “Members of WMFRA have been kept updated throughout the pandemic on the impressive efforts of WMFS staff. Their resilience and resourcefulness has been second to none, and I thank them on behalf of their very grateful communities.”
To read the full report to the fire authority, please click here.