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Oxfordshire firefighters’ film recalls challenges of keeping residents safe during pandemic

13 July 2021

RESIDENTS IN Oxfordshire can now rely on a more experienced and well-prepared Fire and Rescue Service thanks to the knowledge crews have gained while adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the message outlined in a new short film designed to highlight recent collaborations with other Emergency Services and showcase the new ways of working that have emerged and evolved over the last year.

The film is being used as part of the Fire and Rescue Service’s induction and training resources. It will also be shared on social media to thank residents and show the broad range of community safety initiatives offered by Oxfordshire’s firefighters.

Gabby Heycock, area manager for the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, explains in the video: “COVID-19 has been really challenging. Not only in the way we’ve had to respond to those emergencies we’ll always have to go to – using Personal Protection Equipment and adapting our approach – but also in terms of us having been called upon to support our partners and organisations across the county cope with the challenges of the pandemic.”

Heycock adds: “We’ve done things like deliver laptops to schools and driven ambulances for South Central Ambulance Services. We’ve also used our managerial skills to set up COVID Testing Centres. That’s all additional to maintaining an Emergency Service for the public of Oxfordshire.”

Safety advice and support

Local colleagues from various strands of the Fire and Rescue Service appear in the film, including Peter Savage from the home and community safety team. He explains how, during the last year, his team members have visited the homes of vulnerable, high-risk residents, giving them safety advice and support on how to reduce fire risks in their properties. Face masks, hand sanitisers and safe distancing have been essentials when entering each home.

Firefighters Dave Bragg, Graham Reading and Antony Lampitt – based at the Rewley Road Fire Station in Oxford – are interviewed and talk about the camaraderie between crews and how they’ve missed the routine interaction with communities, which has necessarily been curtailed because of social distancing.

Pete Mackay of the Oxford Fire and Rescue Service’s prevention team, shares his experiences of working with the county council in delivering community testing. He proudly recalls how setting up the COVID Testing Centres is something completely new to everyone involved. “Many disparate people who haven’t worked together before united as a team to help save lives.”

Passion and determination

Becky Rimmer, Operational Watch manager at the Faringdon Fire Station, sums up the passion and determination of every firefighter. “I’m not a hero. It’s my job. I love it. For me, the job is all about going out and helping my community. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Further, Gabby Heycock addresses residents directly, offering reassurances in the closing sequence of the film. “During COVID, the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has been working hard to keep you safe. As the pandemic hopefully comes to an end, we are still here for you.”

The film was produced by Stone Barrell, a creative agency based in Oxford.