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COVID-19 declared major incident by fire service

The impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major incident being declared by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

With the amount of confirmed cases continuing to rise throughout the UK and the government advice for those showing symptoms, or knowing someone showing symptoms, to isolate for extended periods, the Service is getting ready to face staffing challenges.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland said: “Please be assured that we currently have enough staff across the county to crew our fire engines. However we are fully aware that the pandemic will take its toll on us in the coming days and weeks, so we must work hard to plan and prepare for the potential impacts to ensure we can provide the best possible service to the people of Cambridgeshire.

“Much like any other protracted incident, we need to make plans to ensure we can not only cope with dealing with the current situation, but make sure we can respond to any other emergency that might arise. Declaring this a major incident simply allows us to put in place clear structures and mechanisms, for our staff and for working with our partner agencies in the local resilience forum. We’ll be calling on our tried and tested resilience plans to keep the public safe and well informed. This has not been initiated because of a significant rise in cases of COVID-19 in our area or because of the capacity of us or other agencies. We are predicting what might happen and we want to ensure we have everything in place to respond as effectively as they can, even in the face of reduced staffing levels.”

Many residents across the county will be facing significant periods of time at home, either working or looking after children, or both. While at home residents are urged to maintain good fire safety standards and ensure crews are not called out unnecessarily.

CFO Strickland continued: “There are many steps people can take to ensure they are keeping their homes safe from fire. Testing their smoke alarms regularly and encouraging their friends to do so is a great help, as well as making sure they are clean. Also if you are planning on making use of the time at home to sort out the garden, think about other ways to dispose of garden waste other than a bonfire.

“Businesses can also do their bit to help ensure our crews are not called out unnecessarily. For example making sure the buildings are secured and any rubbish or combustible material is stored securely, preferably away from the building.”

CFO Strickland concluded: “We are facing an unprecedented public health situation in this country and it’s more important than ever that we all work together to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. I want to assure everyone that we are all working extremely hard to make sure we able to respond when we are needed. Now more than ever we need the support of the public to help us continue to provide an emergency service. We urge the public to follow government advice, to stay at home and only go out if they really need to. We need people to practice social distancing, and to continue practicing good hygiene, to help protect our emergency service staff and those who are most vulnerable in our communities.”