Fire service staff do more than 3,000 hours of volunteering at Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites
Fire service staff have been praised for volunteering to support Covid-19 testing and vaccination programmes.
Along with its core duties, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) has carried out additional activities during the Covid-19 crisis.
During the first wave of the pandemic, the service supported partners with hundreds of deliveries, such as personal protective equipment for NHS and care facilities and essential items for vulnerable people.
Six members of fire service staff were also trained to drive ambulances for the North East Ambulance Service, however this support was never needed.
As Covid-19 community testing and vaccination efforts have ramped up in recent months, fire service staff volunteers have taken on new support roles.
The activities were highlighted in a report presented to the region’s Combined Fire Authority on Tuesday (March 16).
During February 2021, the service was asked by partners to support activities around community testing, vaccination centre support, vaccinators and local contact tracing.
To date, around 168 staff from CDDFRS have volunteered to help partners in the fight against Covid-19.
According to the report from fire chiefs, staff have been provided to fulfil team leader roles at all community testing sites run by Durham County Council, with responsibility for “overall on-site operations at the test [sites], including day-to-day workforce management.”
Other roles included ‘site operatives’ providing assistance with queue management and registration, and ‘testing operatives’ to help prepare tests for analysis and to interpret results.
Fire service volunteers have already provided more than 2,000 hours of leadership and support to community testing sites.
The service has also been supporting the NHS at vaccination centres in County Durham and Darlington, with more than 1,000 hours of volunteer support so far.
This includes logistical support and marshal roles, which involve engagement with members of the public.
Around 15 fire service staff have also been trained as vaccinators with the first jabs administered at Durham’s vaccination centre this week, in agreement with NHS chiefs.
In addition, volunteers have agreed to offer additional capacity to the County Durham Together Community Hub.
The hub calls people which NHS Test and Trace have not been able tocontact for the 36 hours following their positive test result and carries out doorstep welfare visits if needed.
While fire service staff have agreed to support doorstep visits when the hub does not have capacity, there has been no need for the fire service’s support to date.
Keith Carruthers, area manager for assets and assurance at CDDFRS, praised fire service volunteers and said the extent of activities highlighted the “strength of partnership working across the County Durham and Darlington area.”
“The report highlights the commitment of the service’s staff, who should be praised for the way they have stepped forward to support partners and assist the community in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
Councillor John Robinson, chair of the Combined Fire Authority for County Durham and Darlington, also gave thanks to staff and the fire chief.
He said: “Can we say thank you to you Keith, I know you talk about the staff but you yourself have led on this and been at the forefront.
“So thank you very much for everything you have done, a brilliant report with a lot of commitment from our staff which we really do appreciate.”