The Fire Service has been praised for the positive contribution it has made to the community throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, while continuing to carry out its day-to-day business of keeping people safe.
In August 2020, the Home Secretary asked HMICFRS to inspect how Fire & Rescue Services in England were responding to the Covid 19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, fire services have been called on to carry out additional duties to support other agencies in a whole-community response and the inspection looked at how Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) had achieved this aim, and balanced it with its core role of responding to calls from the public and attending emergencies.
The report found that NFRS had struck that balance, helping with driving ambulances, transferring the deceased from hospitals and delivering food and medicine. These extra roles were carried out while staff continued vital fire prevention and protection work that focussed on people and properties with an increased risk or who were more vulnerable during the pandemic. This work included checking on Northamptonshire’s care homes, homeless people in temporary accommodation and schools.
Work that has been carried out over the past year to improve response times to incidents and the availability of fire appliances was also recognised as having helped NFRS to carry on with business as usual, while supporting other agencies with the wider response.
The report also recognised the work that has been done to improve collaboration with other organisations like the police and ambulance service, which has paved the way for even closer cooperation in the future.
And there was recognition for the importance that NFRS placed on the safety and wellbeing of staff, who were under pressure during the pandemic. The report said that: “Staff wellbeing was a clear priority for the service during the pandemic. It proactively identified wellbeing problems and responded to any concerns and further needs.”
In a letter to the Chief Fire Officer, Darren Dovey, announcing the findings of the inspection, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, Zoe Billingham, said: “I am very grateful to your service for the positive contribution you have made to your community during the pandemic.”
Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey said that the service is continuing to plan, so that efficiency and effectiveness is maintained.
“I’m pleased that this report recognises that Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service has worked hard and been willing to do whatever is necessary to keep the county moving and fight against the pandemic. Firefighters and staff have gone the extra mile to look after the vulnerable and to protect lives in Northamptonshire.
“When the pandemic started, we were in the middle of ambitious plans to improve the service and this report shows that not only did we manage to maintain those improvements, but they enabled us to manage our resources well and to avoid any negative impacts on our core role.
“I’m particularly proud that the report acknowledges all the efforts we have made to ensure that our staff are kept safe and well while they are at work. That’s a key priority for us and it’s important that we are seen to be managing it effectively.”
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold thanked the firefighters and staff of NFRS for the work they have done.
“This is a very challenging time for everyone, and this report confirms my confidence that Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are doing a great job for the people of this county. I don’t underestimate the pressure that comes with continuing the day job while taking on roles to support other organisations and I thank everyone for the way they have got on with the task in hand.
“One of the key reasons I wanted to take on the governance of the fire service was because I knew that closer collaboration with the police would bring improvements, so I’m glad that the report notes how well they have worked together in response to the pandemic, and laid the foundations for even closer working in the future.”
You can find the report at the HMICFRS website: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/