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Following the recent developments in the UK’s response to coronavirus (COVID -19), firefighters are asking business owners and building managers to remember their fire safety responsibilities, and check to ensure procedures cover any change in circumstances.

It is likely that most organisations will have seen normal working practices change over the last few weeks. It is important that if these changes impact on the usual fire safety arrangements, the Fire Risk Assessment and policies for the organisation are reviewed to ensure fire safety provisions are in place and effective.

Group Commander Phill Mould from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service said: “If you manage a building or own a business, you have a legal requirement to reduce the risk from fire, keep people safe and make sure they can escape.”

“We are asking anyone with these responsibilities to ensure their premises are safe, review their fire risk assessment and ensure that existing safety measures are effective. It is really important that your procedures are updated in response to changes, for example, a change in use of premises, or number of staff available to carry out essential tests of smoke alarm and fire detection systems.”

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is currently working as part of the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum Strategic Coordinating Group (TVLRF SCG) in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Each organisation is making decisions every day, balancing the need to maintain essential services and support those most affected. Our aim is to follow, implement and share public health guidance to protect the public and our people against infection from COVID-19.

The TVLRF SCG is group through which local authorities, healthcare providers and emergency services jointly develop a combined response to the current rapidly evolving situation across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire. This multi-agency partnership approach helps target our activity directly to the needs of the public.

The group provides a direct link for us, as your local fire and rescue service, into Government departments such as Public Health England. This allows us to share what is happening locally with those who are making decisions at the very highest level.

We want our local communities to receive the best possible service during these challenging times, and working together we will identify additional ways to support the public and each other.

Firefighters are reminding smokers to be careful, and dispose of cigarettes safely, especially if you are spending more time at home.

Fires caused by smokers’ materials caused a third of all deaths in accidental fires in homes in England in 2018/19, according to government figures.

Joanne Cook, Head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Services Community Team, said: “Habits such as smoking in bed or smoking while drinking alcohol in the home increase the risk of cigarette fires. Smokers also seriously lower their chance of escape in a fire by falling asleep with a lit cigarette in hand. Cigarettes and other smoking products are the single biggest killer in house fires.”

“You are likely to be finding yourself spending more time in your home than usual at the moment, and if you smoke you may find yourself smoking more than you normally do, so please be extra careful.”

On Thursday 12 March 2020, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) completed its first donation to Fire Aid, a UK-registered charity that provides ethical and sustainable donations of fire and rescue equipment and training to over 50 countries worldwide.

At its meeting on 12 February 2020, the Fire Authority approved a proposal for BFRS to donate end of life appliances via Fire Aid. You can read the paper that relates to this here.

Mark Hemming, Director of Finance and Assets, said: “This week we donated our first appliance to go overseas, which will be based and put to work in a project in the Ukraine. Given that on average over 4,000 people die each year on Ukraine’s roads, we are pleased to be able to support a project that focuses on enabling a quicker and more efficient response to road traffic incidents by local fire services.”

The vehicle has been allocated to the Scottish Emergency Rescue Association (SERA) who will be delivering it to the Ukraine as part of an ongoing project. You can find further information about Fire Aid’s work in the Ukraine on its website here.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is working with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) as part of a national campaign encouraging people to become On-Call Firefighters.