Fire PRO

From the committee

Chair's column- comms teams step up following seismic events

JamesIt is a mark of the sheer magnitude of the incident that it is already hard to remember a time before Grenfell Tower.

The last FirePRO newsletter highlighted the raft of changes taking place across the fire sector at the start of 2017, yet all of that has been dwarfed and superseded by the events of June 14.

There are few words left to write about the event itself and if you’ve not yet had the privilege of reading the column from London Fire Brigade’s head of comms Glenn Seabright on their team’s response to Grenfell, then you can read them in this newsletter

As Glenn highlights, Grenfell followed quickly off the back of the terror attack in Borough Market and was then followed just as quickly by another attack in Finsbury Park. Blue light colleagues in Manchester had also barely drawn breath from dealing with their own major incident at the Manchester Arena.

Watching from a distance, it was hard not to be in awe of the response of the comms teams to these seismic events. The speed of response on social media. The continual updates and provision of information as soon as it was readily available. The regular media interviews and flawless spokespeople.

And this was what we only saw in public. Behind the scenes, there was doubtless an endless stream of staff comms, briefings and advice being produced too.

To a lesser extent, this was a picture was being repeated in FRS comms offices across the UK. High-rise advice. Reassurance for residents. Briefing media on evacuation policies (and myriad other complex fire safety matters). Public meetings. (It’s worth revisiting this post on the FirePRO forum to marvel at what the Essex FRS team, among others, had managed by 4pm on June 14.)

Anyone ever need to explain why comms is an indispensable frontline function? Replay them the days after Grenfell and you’ll have few people argue back. I revisited our Service’s action log for the first five days after the Grenfell fire - 32 out of 42 actions were comms or comms-related.

The fire sector has been changed irreversibly by the events at Grenfell Tower but one thing that won’t change is the commitment and professionalism of the comms teams who face up to these monumental challenges.

- James Morton is External Communications Manager at Hampshire Fire & Rescue and Chair of FirePRO


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