Verne Lewis, Marketing Communications Manager for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, tells FIRE all about the on-call experience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, our people are our service, and those people have shown a dedication to the community like no other. This is the story of our on-call colleagues, how Covid-19 affected their role and how it has shaped their future.
Engagement: Keeping Healthy, Keeping Happy
The wellbeing of all our colleagues is our ultimate priority. We knew our on-call firefighters would have personal issues to contend with and acknowledged we were not their ultimate priority, so our main message was always: you and your family’s health and wellbeing come first.
Immediately our Occupational Health Team worked with our HR Team to produce a wellbeing leaflet. This simple guide signposted people to useful resources, ranging from mental health to financial support. A hard copy was sent out to all sites and a digital copy was sent to all staff.
Because of the nature of their roles, our on-call colleagues have historically been our hardest to reach employee group, so we needed to find ways of informing them with the latest guidance and Service information, which was changing rapidly.
Tom Rodwell, Employee Communications Manager, said: “Clear and regular engagement eased anxiety and feelings of isolation and helped people navigate growing pressure – which meant a happier and healthier workforce and a better service.
“One success story was our use of Facebook Workplace – 77 per cent of on-call colleagues signed up. They were able to join a dedicated on-call group for information and guidance – particularly at a time when station access was restricted.
“We also used weekly livestreams for all colleagues, hosted by our Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive and Critical Incident Team/Recovery lead. These could be watched using any personal or work device, anywhere – either live or at any time after. It gave people the chance to ask questions and have them answered immediately. It’s something we’re planning to continue even after the pandemic is over.”
Our TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) continued throughout – if any operational colleague attends a difficult incident, a letter highlighting available resources is sent to their home address. They can then meet, either at social distance or remotely, with a TRiM Practitioner if necessary.
Read the full article on our digital issue, pages 22-23.