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SFRS enact "robust contingency plans" during coronavirus pandemic

31 March 2020

Scotland’s chief fire officer has reassured communities that the fire and rescue service is taking all necessary measures to minimise disruption to its emergency response amid the coronavirus (COVIDー19) pandemic.

Martin Blunden, chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), said “robust contingency plans” are in place to manage increasing levels of sickness and self-isolation among firefighters and staff.

This includes the temporary suspension of the Service’s Home Fire Safety Visit programme; halting attendance at external events; and inviting recently retired firefighters and specialist staff to return to the frontline to cover potential absences.

Chief officer Blunden said: “This is an unprecedented time for Scotland and the whole the UK, for ourselves as a Service, and for our emergency service partners.

“We’ve been working hard over the last ten days to put plans in place to ensure our staff are safe, and that we’re able to supply an emergency response for the people of Scotland who require our assistance and to support our partners.

“As a service we have already taken a number of steps to protect all of our staff and the public, as the coronavirus pandemic develops.

“This includes instructing many staff across the country to work from home; stopping our Home Fire Safety Visits, aside from carefully managed very high risk visits; limiting access to community fire stations to essential personnel only; and making sure that we don’t attend any external events outside of fire stations, including some training events.

“As well as protecting staff and the public, these measures help to ensure that we can continue to provide a 999 response when required.” a

Speaking of the potential impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on the Service’s core emergency response, CO Blunden said: “We continue to work to attend every 999 call that we receive.

“However, should we have a significant staff absence, our highly trained Operations Control staff will assess calls that we receive to make sure that we attend the calls where we can save life, or where we can prevent significant damage to buildings or properties.

“They will make that assessment, and we may eventually have to place calls into a queue until resources can be made available.

“But I can assure you that for every 999 call where you need our response, we will attend, and we will do everything we can to assist and save life.”

He added: “To minimise the impact on our emergency response during the course of this pandemic, we are also looking at ways to invite people who have recently retired – firefighters and others with specialist skills – to come back and cover any predicted shortages.

“I’ve been blown away by the number of people who have already contacted the Service, and we will have more on this soon.”