Dismore questions Deputy Mayor over response to coronavirus

At today’s Mayor’s Question Time, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden and Chair of the Assembly Fire Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee questioned Deputy Mayor for Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Dr Fiona Twycross over the GLA response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Dismore raised the impact on the Fire Brigade:

‘What steps has London Fire Brigade put in place to maintain acceptable response times and fire safety work through the coronavirus pandemic, now likely to continue for many months?

‘If an operational firefighter catches the virus, it is very likely others from the same watch and indeed other watches on the same station will also be affected as operational personnel spend a lot of time in close proximity to each other. Similar risks will apply to Control and civilian staff. What measures are you introducing for fire stations, Control, and Brigade HQ to resist the spread of the disease and how will LFB maintain sufficient staffing across its operational and other staff to meet response times so that target times do not have to be relaxed?

‘People who are vulnerable are those who are most likely to die or be badly injured in fires at home. They are also the people now being told to self-isolate due to the virus. Are you concerned that there could be an increase in fires affecting the vulnerable as a result of self- isolation? Could home fire safety visits be re-oriented to check on vulnerable people who are self-isolating or social distancing whilst also protecting the workforce?

Dr Twycross said that like others in the GLA Family, the LFB are following Public Health England and Government advice. Only essential visitors are now allowed to visit the Control centre. Firefighters have signed up to a pre-arranged overtime system. Already there have been 1000 applications, for which she expressed gratitude to the FBU for encouraging their members to sign up. The aim for the LFB is to maintain their current response times. (6 minutes for the 1st fire engine, 8 minutes for the 2nd, on average across London)

The Deputy Mayor has also made sure staff are working from home where possible, especially those living with vulnerable people. The LFB are keen to keep the service going, and aim to maintain their current response times. In order to assist in this, the brigade has suspended some home fire safety visits.

Dr Twycross said that there are increased risks of people staying at home, which is why she is trying to keep a joined-up service. The LFB are also trying to ensure firefighters do not spread the virus through having a coordinated approach, and reviewing communication messaging to take into account that people are self-isolating. People should also take a pro-active approach to fire safety, such as installing and testing home fire alarms. She also confirmed that the current (post Grenfell) inspection regime would continue.