Harrogate's emergency services speak out on impact of coronavirus outbreak
The Harrogate district's emergency services say they are are constantly having to adapt and be poised to change plans at the 'drop of a hat' in order to protect their frontline staff and members of the public from the potential threat of coronavirus.
North Yorkshire Police's Assistant Chief Constable, Mike Walker, said the 'rapid and fast-moving' way in which information and advice is emerging means that changes to policing could well be on the cards.
He said: "North Yorkshire Police has plans in place to maintain policing services across the county and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the organisation.
“The position is reviewed daily and although the situation has been business as usual, we expect this to alter over the coming weeks. At the moment the public won’t see a difference in policing in the county other than increased hygiene practices, protective equipment if necessary, and other practical measures taken to protect our workforce.
"However, this may change over the coming weeks and plans are in place to respond to what is a rapid and fast-moving situation. We continue to work with our partners in local authorities, other emergency services, national police colleagues, the government and Public Health."
Mr Walker added that looking out for one another and listening to government advice is key.
He said: “We know the communities of York and North Yorkshire will look after each other and that’s the message from all of us at North Yorkshire Police, please take care, look after one another, particularly the vulnerable, and keep up to date with the government’s advice. And remember we are here for you if you need us.”
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service told the Harrogate Advertiser that it has restricted what operational crews do in terms of prevention and protection work, such as school visits, to minimise contact with the public and the risk of infection to frontline teams. However, this element of the service's work has been picked up wherever possible by community safety officers.
Harrogate district station manager Ben Cairns said this approach has been taken in order to maintain the service's emergency response and prevent firefighters from needing to self-isolate.
He said: "This is really difficult to plan for, I think for us our biggest focus is on maintaining an operational frontline response to emergencies, and we have also got to recognise we are no different to anyone else, no more resilient to catching this virus in our home life. However, we can put some plans in place to hopefully mitigate and minimise our risk whilst at work, which is what we are doing.
"We have to be adaptable and change our plans at the drop of a hat when new information arises from the government, but equally we are really focused on maintaining our ability to respond to emergencies, so with our frontline operational staff, we have restricted a lot of their movements in terms of contact with groups and members of the public in order to maintain our ability to function as an emergency response. It's important to say that nothing has changed in terms of our emergency response.
"Our senior management team are constantly meeting to discuss the next stages and try and map out and plan for some of the eventualities that may well occur. We've just got to try and be reactive and understand what implications this may have and how we can overcome them."
Nationwide, members of the emergency services have taken to Twitter urging members of the public to help the emergency services by taking basic precautions during the coronavirus outbreak, tweeting: "help us help you."
Mr Cairns said community spirit will be integral to the Harrogate district overcoming what lies ahead.
He said: "People need to heed the advice that's coming from the government and the Department of Health, be vigilant, but also be resilient in terms of supporting people who may be more vulnerable than others, and stay up to date with the advice, because it's an ever-changing and dynamic situation.
"I think acts of kindness in the community will be integral to pulling through what is not just an issue for the Harrogate district, but nationally and internationally. It's almost in inevitable that will these acts of kindness will happen, because it's in times of crisis that people actually recognise what's important and come together.
"When the chips are down and people are involved in an emergency situation, they generally pull together. For us, that type of behaviour is normal, and it's heartening to see this emanating across the Harrogate community.
"I think it's important we are kind, that we care for our vulnerable members of the community, and we respect the advice that is coming from the government.
"The way in which the public can support us is to heed the advice of the government, and keep up to date with all of the latest information."