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Fire services receive praise following COVID-19 inspection

Published: 22nd January 2021 09:55
 Hampshire and Isle of Wight fire services have been praised for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has highlighted the way both services have adapted and responded to the crisis in order to fulfil their core role of protecting the public.

During the inspection, it was found that Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) and the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (IWFRS) had up-to-date plans that understood the risks a pandemic presented and were able to continue to carry out Safe & Well visits and fire safety audits whilst remaining COVID-19 safe.  

Both services continued to respond to calls from the public in a timely manner, effectively responding to fires and other emergencies, while also supporting neighbouring services and sending specialist resources to support nationally co-ordinated incidents. 

Firefighters and other staff volunteered outside of their normal day-to-day roles to take part in additional work to support the response in tackling COVID-19. This included firefighters in both services driving ambulances, HFRS giving fire safety advice for the new Nightingale hospitals and delivering shopping to vulnerable people. IWFRS staff also delivered prescriptions to the most vulnerable members of their community. This meant that the people of Hampshire and Isle of Wight were better supported through the pandemic thanks to these volunteers.

The inspection found that the overall availability of fire engines in HFRS was better during the pandemic than it was during the same period last year. Between 1 April and 30 June 2020, the service’s average overall fire engine availability was 85.9% compared with 80.3% during the same period in 2019. In the same period, the IWFRS engine availability was 87.8%. 

HMICFRS praised both services for communicating well and using technology to help reach the widest of audiences. The services made sure all staff had the resources they needed to do their jobs effectively, which included giving PPE to all who needed it and extra IT.  

During a staff survey, respondents said that they could access services to support their mental wellbeing if needed. And support was put in place, which included one-to-one calls with line managers, counselling, mental health first aiders, trauma risk management services, support to balance caring arrangements and work, a bereavement guide, access to COVID-19 testing, and access to wider wellbeing, financial and legal advice.  

The services continued to successfully promote fire safety despite the changing circumstances, with HFRS providing safety programmes for young people online. Two new Fire Cadets schemes were also set up. 

Chief Fire Officer Neil Odin said: “I am proud of the part our services have played in supporting partners and the wider community throughout the pandemic.  

“We have maintained full fire and rescue cover in all corners of the county and on the Island, and have not only delivered our services, but we have reached much further to make life safer for our communities.

“We will now continue to play our part across the communities we serve and are ready to assist in whatever ways we can.”

Chairman of the Fire Authority, Councillor Chris Carter said: “It is humbling to know that so many people work tirelessly to make the communities of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight safer and stronger. 

“The commitment and desire to go the extra mile to help others is apparent in the actions they carry out every day. I, and the authority, feel extremely proud of Hampshire and Isle of Wight fire services.” 
The inspection into HFRS and IWFRS took place between 20 October and 3 November 2020. 

The full inspection report can be found on the HMICFRS website.  

 

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