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Inspectors report on how fire service has risen to the challenge of global pandemic

22 January 2021

"This awful pandemic has seen loss of life and a great deal of suffering. In these circumstances, we are proud that the report findings highlight the great work being done by our team across the county to protect Norfolk, and the public should feel confident in our abilities during this pandemic,” said Chief Fire Officer Stuart Ruff, following publication of a report into his service’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has today released a report following its inspection of all fire services to assess their initial response to the coronavirus pandemic. The inspection was carried out during the Autumn of 2020.

HMICFRS wanted to look at how services were reacting to and dealing with the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and published its findings today.

Their report into Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service highlighted the following:

  • Ability of the service to maintain response levels to emergencies and adapt the way in which it kept communities safer through fire prevention activities
  • Recognition for putting staff health and wellbeing at the forefront of all decision-making
  • Praise for how the service adapted and responded to the pandemic effectively
  • An increase in operational response availability (up from 83.4% in April - June 2019 to 92.2% on April - June 2020)
  • Good arrangements to safeguard staffing levels in the emergency control room and arrange resilience with other partners

The report went on to praise high communication levels with staff and to say staff wellbeing was a clear priority for the service.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: “I am very proud of the service and all the staff, who have been able to maintain their usual duties as well as taking on many new responsibilities during the pandemic. This report recognises the efforts made, and which continue to be made, by all our teams to ensure we protect Norfolk throughout this pandemic.”

Chief Fire Officer Stuart Ruff said: “I am very pleased that during such a difficult time for us all, we have been recognised for doing our absolute best to support partner agencies and the people of Norfolk. The public should have great confidence in the report findings, which offer reassurance that we are here to help and not only maintain our usual duties, but step in to support wherever we can.”

During the pandemic Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has carried out many additional duties, including:

  • 73 staff working ambulance driving 982 shifts for EEAST between April and July 2020
  • Driver trainers from NFRS and Norfolk police training student paramedics and community volunteers to drive patient transport vehicles
  • Moving medical supplies and PPE around NHS sites across Norfolk
  • Supporting Norfolk Police in additional highways work to protect life on the road network
  • Supporting police and EEAST in forcing entry to property in the case of medical emergencies

Current support

More recently, 40 NFRS staff have joined the bank staff team driving ambulances for EEAST as needed, in addition to their fire service duties.

In response to a call through Norfolk’s Resilience Forum for mutual aid, this week firefighters have also started supporting Norfolk’s acute hospitals by carrying out Covid-19 swab testing and also helping staff at the James Paget and Queen Elizabeth hospitals with fitting of specialist face masks.

Further staff are also due to start assisting at mass vaccination centres being set up across Norfolk, in the coming days.

View the HMICFRS inspection report for Norfolk via justiceinspectorates.gov.uk.

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