Mark Rist, Assistant Director of Response
Kent firefighters are supporting their blue light colleagues in the fight against Covid-19 by lending their services to the wider community.
Crews and staff at Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) are working alongside South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) to help meet the growing demand on medical response across the county, as a result of the worldwide pandemic.
Next week, firefighters will undergo training before being deployed to drive ambulances, while other KFRS employees have been helping to deliver medical supplies and equipment, as well as prescriptions and medicines to those most in need.
Mark Rist, Assistant Director for Response at KFRS, said: “Here in Kent, we are fortunate to already have a mature and established relationship with SECAmb. Our firefighters have interchangeable emergency skills and are trained to a SECAmb standard, and we also share properties with the ambulance service, so this is an obvious role extension for us during this pandemic.”
As of last week, KFRS began driving five large vehicles to-and-from SECAmb’s distribution centre in Kent, so larger quantities of medical supplies can be delivered to paramedics and hospitals, seven-days-a-week.
Mark added: “For non-operational staff who are unable to continue with their usual day job, such as our response vehicle driving instructors, this is an opportunity to provide essential work and assist our communities.
“We all want to help where and when we can, and to unite Kent together.”
Firefighters who are qualified to drive an emergency vehicle and meet the necessary criteria to volunteer as an ambulance driver, will next week undergo training with SECAmb to familiarise themselves with the lifesaving vehicle, before they will be paired with a paramedic on set shifts.
"To begin with, the majority of volunteer drivers will be our on-call firefighters,” Mark said. “These people usually provide evening or weekend cover for us and have a separate daytime job.
“However, given the current circumstances, many are currently unable to carry on with their daytime role, so this is an opportune situation to offer this enhanced service, without causing disruption to our usual service.”
In addition, fire crews and KFRS colleagues will be delivering medicine, prescriptions and food to those most at risk, as well as offering support at district hubs and food banks, while still being available to respond to emergencies.
To ensure KFRS teams remain safe and responsible while out in the community, staff are observing social distancing guidelines and regularly washing hands and using hand sanitiser.
The enhanced partnership between fire and ambulance services across the UK comes in response to the scale of the national crisis and the urgency of the response required.
SECAmb's Executive Director of Operations Joe Garcia said: “I would like to thank our colleagues from Kent Fire and Rescue for the logistical support they have already provided with helping transport items across our region.
“We have been fortunate that we have been able to build on an already existing strong relationship. I am pleased further partnership work and training will be taking place and I know this strengthened relationship will prove even more vital in the weeks ahead.”