Hampshire firefighters join hospital’s intensive care unit

Firefighters have been deployed to work side-by-side with medics on the frontline

Ten volunteers from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have joined doctors and nurses at University Hospital Southampton’s (UHS) intensive care unit (ICU). They have been working long and demanding shifts in the hospital’s busiest department, helping to prone patients suffering from Covid-19. Proning is a vital technique used in the treatment of Covid-19 and involves turning patients onto their front to relieve pressure on their vital organs and assist their breathing.

The firefighters volunteered to lend their specialist skills to help local healthcare colleagues who have come under intense pressure during recent weeks. Five firefighters from HFRS’s Urban Search and Rescue team were the first in – and their work has now paved the way for more volunteers to assist in ICU.

Medical Response and Health Lead, Station Manager, Alex Rhodes, said: “We understand the importance of the life-saving work being undertaken in the ICU departments up and down the country and all felt that we would like to support the doctors and nurses carrying out this vital role. We are used to working under sustained pressure for long periods of time, in some of the most challenging environments, and that is why I knew our teams would be able to adapt quickly to life in the ICU.

“Our search and rescue and firefighting roles mean we have all been exposed to traumatic situations before and that’s really important from a wellbeing perspective. Our teams are supported by team leaders and managers who place that wellbeing uppermost in the deployment plans.”

Eastleigh Station Manager, Simon Forster, is part of the USAR team and added: “We spend long periods in full ICU PPE, working arm in arm with the regular ICU staff and the whole experience has been really positive. Our driving force was to help and put our training to good use. It is a very demanding role but incredibly rewarding.”

David French, interim chief executive officer at UHS, said: “We are immensely grateful for the offer of support from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service at this crucial time. It coincides with our Trust being asked to step-up our intensive care capacity across the region and so extra staff on the ground who are able to assist in looking after our most vulnerable Covid patients will help ease the pressure on our already stretched ICU teams.

“We have always worked closely with our emergency service partners who are highly skilled, used to working under pressure in challenging situations and whose skills are easily transferable to the complex working of an ICU department.”

He added: “The pandemic has brought many challenges to our hospital, however it has also brought us together as a community and with our partner services such as HFRS. The team will become part of the UHS family. We welcome and thank them as they join our dedicated clinicians working on the frontline.”

Area manager, Dan Tasker, said: “We are immensely proud of the way personnel from across Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Services have responded since the very beginning of the pandemic. Our teams are well-placed to cope with the demands of working in the hospital’s ICU department and we know that they have a valuable role to play.”

The team at FIRE magazine would like to send a personal message of thanks to fire personnel on the Isle of Wight for assisting with former FIRE publisher Tony Greville’s transport to ICU. We are pleased to report that Tony is now on the road to recovery – Ed.

Humberside personnel lend a helping hand

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service volunteers are ready, willing and able to support the local rollout of mass vaccinations at Hull City Hall in support of the national effort against Covid-19

Staff from various roles and sections across the Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) have volunteered to play a part in the continual fight against Covid-19 by supporting the mass vaccination efforts at Hull City Hall.

HFRS volunteers are on hand to assist City Health Care Partnership (CHCP) by:

  • Ensuring the smooth arrival of people coming in for vaccinations,
  • Welcoming people and answering any questions,
  • Identifying people through the waiting areas and registration,
  • Maintaining cleanliness, sanitisation and infection control,
  • Managing queues and ensuring people leave safely, whilst respecting social distancing.

CFO Chris Blacksell said: “I am proud of the continued dedication our staff have shown throughout to help bring an end to this pandemic. The service has recently been praised nationally by inspectors (HMICFRS) for our working with partner agencies to support our communities during the pandemic, while still maintaining our core responsibilities as a fire service.

“Our staff volunteering to help the CHCP with the mass vaccinations rollout is testimony to the dedication shown throughout this pandemic. Many staff live in the communities they work hard to keep safe and only by working closely together in these unprecedented times will we be able to save as many lives as we possibly can.”

West Sussex fire training centre and fire station approved by planners

A new fire service training centre and fire station has been approved by the by members of the county council’s planning committee

The £21 million development will be built on land off the A24 at Highwood Mill, near Horsham for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. It has been West Sussex County Council’s aspiration for well over a decade to create a new fire station for Horsham.

The new facility will be the first of its kind in West Sussex and will offer industry-leading facilities for fire and rescue service staff, as well as a new 24-hour operational fire station for Horsham.

The project was unanimously given the go-ahead by the county council’s Planning and Rights of Way Committee.

A number of planning conditions and an informative were agreed on the build which included:

  • That there is further detail and agreement about the colour of the cladding on the outside of the live fire training building
  • The inclusion of a travel plan for the development
  • Amendments to the construction plan for the development, including limitations on external lighting, and waste management during the construction and subsequent operation of the site
  • Extending the landscaping maintenance plan from five years to ten years
  • The training centre has an emphasis on real-life scenario training. The centre will include:
    • Combined training tower and breathing apparatus facility
    • Realistic live fire training facility construction to zero emissions standards
    • Residential recruit training
    • Multi-agency incident command training facility
    • Realistic road traffic collision training area
    • Training rooms used for digital simulations.

The new site has an emphasis on renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and air source heat pumps to provide heating, as well as electric vehicle charging points, in-line with the county council’s drive to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Cabinet Member for Fire and Rescue and Communities, Duncan Crow, said: “I am delighted that this project has been approved. The new development represents a significant investment in our fire and rescue service that will allow our firefighters the very best in training facilities. This benefits not only our firefighters, but also the safety of West Sussex residents.”

Chief Fire Officer, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, said: “This is a fantastic commitment from the county council to the training and development of all of our staff, and one which is going to have an incredible impact upon our service. I cannot wait for work to begin to turn these plans into a fully functional fire station and training centre.”

Work is expected to start in May and will take around 18 months to complete.

For more information visit: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/campaigns/horsham-training-centre-and-fire-station/

Kent hosts virtual Embracing Difference Together conference

More than 250 emergency service staff from across the UK joined Kent Fire and Rescue Service for a virtual morning of learning and sharing of emotional personal experiences, around the challenges faced by the LGBT+ community

The service hosted the Embracing Difference Together conference via Microsoft Teams in February, with a of variety speakers including a TV star, a priest and an LGBT+ human rights campaigner.

The event described by participants as “hugely inspirational, informative and insightful” set out to highlight how we can all drive positive change to ensure everyone is able to bring their full selves into the workplace without fear of prejudice.

Ann Millington, Chief Executive at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We were really proud to host a virtual Embracing Difference Together conference for people from a wide range of organisations across the country, including a number of other fire services.

“It was an educational, inspirational and emotional morning from which we hope participants learned a lot. It was an opportunity to understand how we need to keep making our services accessible to everyone, and the challenges that face the LGBT+ community. We also heard personal stories and received advice about what we all can do to embrace difference.

“Together we laughed, we cried and I feel like we all came away with a sense of empowerment to keep driving positive change forward.

“I’d like to thank all of the amazing speakers for their time – their expertise and their open and honest personal stories changed how we see the world.”

Taking action against hate crime

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Watch Commander Stuart McNiven has told how he is determined to challenge homophobia and bullying after seeing the devastating effects of hate crime on LGBT+ youth

Watch Commander Stuart McNiven is working with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s partners and charities such as LGBT Youth Scotland to tackle discrimination across Falkirk and West Lothian. Stuart began working with LGBT+ groups in 2017, and saw how offensive graffiti, verbal bullying and discrimination could impact the mental health of young people.

Now Stuart is working closely with LGBT+ youth to support them in their health and wellbeing, give advice and educate other young people about LGBT+ issues. He said: “Having family members in the LGBT+ community might explain it, but when I found there had been a brief, but significant, spike in hate crimes against LGBT+ youths in the area I wanted to get involved.

“There was offensive graffiti and insults being shouted at young people who already had mental health issues and were being socially isolated in one way or another.”

Stuart began working with LGBT Youth Scotland, Scotland’s national charity for LGBT+ young people and that plays a leading role in the provision of quality youth work for them that promotes their health and wellbeing. He continued: “We ran awareness sessions around gender pronouns and certain hot topics that were affecting young LGBT+ people, which culminated in an evening at Falkirk Fire Station.

“There were firefighters in attendance that night with more than 25 years’ service and children older than the young people they were learning from. Moments like that leave an indelible mark on you.”

More than three years later, Stuart continues his work as an LGBT+ ally with young members of the LGBT+ community and has joined the SFRS LGBT employee network to help his colleagues too. Talking about why he joined, Stuart said: “Being a white, straight man, I’ve never had to deal with physical or mental harm because of my gender or sexual DNA. But when you join the Fire Service, you’re driven by a duty to help cure the ills of what causes inequalities in society.

“We don’t have magic wands but we’re a motivated workforce with the ability to identify danger, risk or harm and we’re armed with the power to take steps to help alleviate those things.”

In his spare time, Stuart works closely with an LGBT+ youth group in West Lothian called the Glitter Cannons, but says the pandemic has changed how they interact. He said: “The group is run by some absolutely wonderful people. We had big plans for 2020, which included delivering lots of two-way training, but naturally Covid-19 has restricted what we can do.

“We keep in touch and maintain links to ensure no-one feels isolated, finding time for others during the pandemic can go such a long way.”

In 2020, many Pride events were cancelled or went virtual for the first time. Stuart is on the committee for West Lothian Pride, which went virtual and the service showed great support for the event. Stuart explained: “Colleagues across the service showed their support for the event, including the Chief Officer whose message went a long way with the audience.”

The role of an LGBT+ ally is different for everyone, for Stuart it is about being inclusive and supportive. He said: “Someone once said to me, ‘allies have a far greater impact when it comes to helping the fight for true equality and one can’t take that lightly’, and it’s always stuck with me. I would ask others to consider if they could be an ally, and also say to anyone out there who is struggling – there is help available.”

Introducing Heads Up!

Last month saw the launch of Heads Up, East Sussex FRS’s site dedicated to highlighting real fires and the often unexpected ways they can start. The site replaces the existing Black Museum web page

Heads Up contains a catalogue of case studies ranging from chip pan fires through to fires caused by wheat bags. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are unveiling the site to highlight potential causes of fire and important safety messages that the public may not be aware of.

Each case study details:

  • How the fire started
  • The effect it had
  • The cause (where known)
  • Important safety messages.

Heads Up also contains useful information, advice and guidance on sprinklers together with up-to-date product recall information.

The site was created to be used in various ways, including providing firefighters and home safety visit teams with another tool to use when providing fire safety advice to the public. Links to the website can be passed on to residents so that they can see for themselves some of the things that we in the Fire and Rescue Service are already aware of. It is hoped that the website may also prompt businesses to upgrade fire precautions, as they see the benefits of good fire precautions in some of our example cases.

Duncan Holloway, Fire Investigation Manager, said: “I believe it is essential for a person to have an understanding of the conditions in which a fire can take hold to protect themselves and their families. The new Heads Up website brilliantly highlights these safety messages and I would, in particular, recommend members of the public to browse the case study section to get an understanding of the often unusual and surprising circumstances in which a fire can take hold.”

The site contains case studies from around the UK and can be used by all fire services to help inform and educate members of public and businesses.

For more information visit: www.heads-up.biz/

Oxfordshire road safety campaign on mobile distraction

Drivers are being warned about the dangers of using mobile phones while driving in a campaign launched by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Research has shown that using a mobile phone can impair driving ability more than being over the drink drive limit.

Andy Ford, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Community Safety Education Manager, said: “Most drivers are responsible and do not use their mobile phone whilst driving. But the few that continue to take risks by texting, surfing the internet or making or receiving calls are putting other road users and themselves in danger of harm.”

Drivers on their mobiles are much less aware of what is happening around them and can fail to see road signs, maintain a proper lane position or a steady speed. They also end up feeling more stressed and frustrated and are more likely to tailgate the vehicle in front or enter unsafe gaps in traffic.

Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Motorists are four times more likely to be involved in a collision whilst using a mobile phone or being distracted in a vehicle, and their reactions are 50 per cent slower.

“Think twice before answering a call using hands free, and never take your eyes off the road. It is not worth the risk.”

The campaign is in collaboration with Thames Valley Police. Their officers will be focusing on detecting and prosecuting drivers who use their mobile phones behind the wheel.

Welsh fire services praised for vital ambulance service support throughout pandemic

The National Fire Chiefs Council has praised staff volunteers at the three fire and rescue services in Wales for their hard work and commitment to supporting local ambulance colleagues during the Covid-19 pandemic

Since May 2020, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service have worked in partnership with colleagues at the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST), with a pool of volunteers ready, willing and able to carry out a number of support roles.

Over the last eight months, volunteers at Mid and West Wales FRS have undertaken 349 shifts and completed an estimated 4,105 hours of work with WAST. Four volunteers at North Wales FRS began their WAST support in December 2020 and have since carried out 128 driving shifts, approximately 1,536 hours’ cover. And at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, volunteers have been supporting WAST since July 2020, carrying out 4,560 hours’ support in over 380 shifts.

Speaking about the UK FRS response, NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher, said: “I am immensely proud of crews in Wales for offering this vital support during Covid-19, while continuing to respond to emergencies. WAST colleagues have expressed their appreciation for the FRS support which has allowed them to increase their capacity and effectively carry out their essential emergency work.

“I am grateful too, to all FRS staff that have supported their local ambulance service during the pandemic and who have gained extra skills and insight as a result of this additional activity. This commitment to their communities during such a critical time is typical of fire and rescue services and a true reflection of their continued humanity and care.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 22 FRSs in England and Wales (almost half) have supported their local ambulance service with 12 FRSs having carried out over 9,300 blue light and non-blue light patient transfers in the last four weeks alone.

Commenting on the support his staff have offered to the WAST, CFO Chris Davies, Mid and West Wales, added: “The three fire and rescue services in Wales have been working in partnership with the Welsh Ambulance Service for the last 20 years so it was only natural that we continued that support by providing driver resilience and ensuring our operational staff are on hand to drive non-blue light vehicles.

“I am very proud of all of the Welsh FRS colleagues who have stepped forward and come together as one team to undertake this vital duty and I am grateful to WAST for providing the appropriate training that has allowed staff to be mobilised as needed.

“Also, Welsh firefighters have been assisting health boards to enhance the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine to their communities.

“I am delighted that we have been able to fulfil a request for assistance from our partners to assist with the transportation of people within their communities to and from mass vaccination centres, set up to assist in the administering of the Covid-19 vaccination.”