South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
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Service busts open firefighting myths with bold new women’s day campaign

“Not fit enough. Not strong enough. Not brave enough.”

These are just three of the myths around women in the fire service that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has set out to bust as part of its latest International Women’s Day campaign.

With a brand new video launched today, Monday 8 March, the service is looking to celebrate its current group of female firefighters, control operators and support staff.

It’s also trying to encourage and empower women who have previously considered a role within the fire service but been put off by traditional stereotypes.

This comes ahead of a round of full-time firefighter recruitment process that will be opening up, for budding firefighters across South Yorkshire, this summer.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again but, whilst I’m proud of how far we’ve come in recent years, there is still a long way to go to fully dispel the long-standing myth that firefighting is a job for men,” said South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), and the Choose To Challenge theme, provides us with the perfect opportunity to do that. We want to make it totally clear that women are fit enough, strong enough and brave enough to do this job.

“We’ve been doing it for years already and we’re here to stay. The fantastic women within my service, a small handful of which are featured in our video and up-coming podcast, are living and breathing examples of that.

“So if you’re a woman who has long considered applying for a career in the fire service, but perhaps needed a little nudge, then consider this that nudge. As South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer, with 30 years’ service, I’ve done it, and so can you.”

As well as launching its new video, the service is set to release a special IWD episode of its podcast series, Shout, later this week.

The ‘pod’ features Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, Watch Managers Kirsty Wright and Caz Whiteman and Firefighter Helena Rooke.

Following the same ‘Choose To Challenge’ theme, the feature length episode sees the group breaking down old stereotypes and sharing their career experiences to date.

It’s hoped that the service’s latest show of support for International Women’s Day will boost the number of women registering their interest in fire service careers.

This can be done here via the service’s website – with those who register their interest in firefighting jobs the first to know about any future recruitment.

Last year, the service saw a huge increase in registrations from the LGBT+ community after hitting back at trolls on social media.

Prior to that, previous campaigns around International Women’s Day and Black History Month saw a big increase in female and BME registrations respectively.

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Firefighters needed at on-call stations across South Yorkshire

The county’s fire service is calling for people in Askern, Rossington, Birley and Stocksbridge to step up and serve their communities as on-call firefighters.

After a hugely successful recruitment campaign in September, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) says three out of their seven on-call stations now have no vacancies.

But there are still spaces for on-call staff in Askern, Rossington, Birley and Stocksbridge, prompting the service to launch another recruitment push during March.

Anyone interested is urged to register their interest on the service’s website, here, with next steps then being sent out in due course.

“On-call firefighters are local people who live or work within five minutes of their stations – they are trained to the same standard as full-time firefighters but carry a pager when they are on-duty that alerts them if they are needed,” said SYFR Station Manager, Chris Tyler.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased after September’s campaign – filling the vacancies at four stations is quite the achievement – and we’re hoping to have more success with our final three stations during this next push.

“Being an on-call firefighter is a big commitment and the nature of the role means it takes an extraordinary person but our message is clear – if a small part of you thinks you can do it, you most likely can, and we’ll help you along the way.

“Should you be interested, even in the slightest, I’d encourage you to take a look at the information on our website and register your interest for more details.”

On-call firefighters are able to fit their duties around other work and family commitments – they get paid an annual ‘retainer fee’ and then get paid for each incident they attend.

They also get paid for any training and work done in the community. More information on the role and what it entails can be found here.

Those interested must live or work within a five minute drive of Askern, Rossington, Birley or Stocksbridge fire stations – with there potentially being a small bit of flexibility with this.

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Campaign launched to curb South Yorkshire cooking fires

Firefighters are urging people to stop leaving their cooking unattended in a bid to crack down on house fires across the county.

New figures, released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, show that half of all house fires across South Yorkshire last year started in the kitchen.

An even deeper look into the issue, fire officers say, shows that the majority of these fires could be prevented and start when people leave pans on the hob or food in the oven.

The service is now appealing to people across Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster to ‘stand by your pan’ to avoid a kitchen fire disaster.

As part of the campaign, officers are also asking people not to cook after consuming alcohol and, instead, get a takeaway.

“Public awareness and safety around house fires has increased dramatically in recent years but one bad habit we haven’t quite kicked, yet, is leaving cooking unattended,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“Pretty much every kitchen fire we attend originates from an oven or hob and, generally, the fires have started because something has been left on.

“Examples range from a cooker being left to pre-heat to somebody falling asleep whilst their food is cooking and, whilst we know it’s not usually intentional, fire happens fast.

“We don’t expect people to stare at their food whilst it cooks and clearly pre-heating an oven is fairly standard, this isn’t an issue.

“What’s an issue is where people leave the kitchen entirely and either forget that the cooker is on or get distracted with something else, such as the TV or having a quick shower.

“What’s also an issue is where people get in the kitchen and start cooking having had something to drink – this is never a good idea and often ends up in the worst kind of fires.”

The service’s new campaign comes off-the-back of a smoke alarm push in which firefighters urged people to ensure they have working smoke alarms on every level of their home.

It’s based on figures that show there were 230 cooking fires, across South Yorkshire, in 2020 – making up 47 percent of the 491 house blazes attended by firefighters last year.

“Our message is really clear – don’t leave cooking unattended and don’t cook drunk. This isn’t just about reducing pressure on us, it’s about keeping yourself safe,” added Matt.

“What people often don’t realise is that getting hurt is just one risk when it comes to kitchen fires – very often you can escape harm but be left with a huge bill for redecorating.”

More information on cooking fire safety, and details of how to book a free fire service home safety visit, can be found on the service’s website, www.syfire.gov.uk.

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Fire cadets spread joy over the festive period

Kind hearted fire cadets have been showered with praise after delivering Christmas gifts to care home residents across Barnsley.

The young people, who are based out of Cudworth and Dearne fire stations, funded the gifts with £600 they raised through donations and the sale of handmade Christmas cards.

They delivered around 200 presents in total to residents at four different care homes within the Barnsley district, dancing and singing along the way.

Then, with their first act of kindness done, they handed the remaining gifts out to members of their local community who were facing a lonely and isolated festive period.

Once they’d delivered the gifts they also took the time to talk to the residents and get them involved in a little sing-song – all in a COVID-secure way.

Some of the people they visited laughed, some even shed tears of joy. Others just smiled, said thank you and expressed their gratitude.

However they reacted, all of them were extremely touched by the gesture. That’s according to Watch Manager Fleur Holland, who has worked with the fire cadets on their project.

“I’m so proud of them all for what they have done – to raise £600 was one thing but to then buy and deliver around 200 gifts was an amazing gesture. Thinking about it still makes me emotional,” she added.

“The pandemic has limited what we can do but we refused to be beaten. It’s never been more important to share some Christmas joy and we’re glad, thanks to everyone who supported us, including our Chief Fire Officer, we’ve been able to do that.”

Courtney and Phoebe, from Cudworth, and Charlotte, Paige, Nicole and Lewis, from Dearne, are all part of the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Fire Cadets scheme.

The programme is run at stations across South Yorkshire for people aged between 13 and 18-years-old – it’s designed to build confidence and self-esteem, as well as practical skills.

Their latest effort, to raise the £600 for Christmas gifts, is the second fundraiser they’ve done this year. In May they raised £700 for The Fire Fighters Charity.

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Building Risk Review – frequently asked questions

What is the Building Risk Review programme?

This is a national effort, led by the Government, to make high-rise residential buildings safer, and give us a better understanding of high-rise residential buildings across the country. It has come off the back of the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster and is now in its second phase.

The first phase of the programme focused on Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding. This saw us, and other fire services right across the country, work with building owners to identify buildings with ACM cladding and report back to the Government.

The second phase, which began in October, involves the inspection of all high-rise residential buildings that are over 18 metres high or have six or more storeys. The target is for all buildings in South Yorkshire that fit this criteria to have been inspected by the end of December 2021.

What is the South Yorkshire Building Risk Review team?

This is the team, made up of experienced fire safety inspectors from within South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, that are carrying out these Building Risk Review (BRR) inspections.

They came together in October 2020, thanks to a specific grant from the Government, and have already started inspecting buildings that meet the criteria.

They have around 200 ‘in scope’ buildings to look at within our county.

What will the team actually be doing?

First and foremost, they are contacting the responsible person for each ‘in scope’ building within the county to organise an inspection to assess the fire safety measures in place.

They will ask some initial questions, and go through a desktop audit process, to decide which buildings need to be inspected first.

They will then physically inspect each building, one by one, and raise any issues they find with the building management.

It’s important to note that the team is there to raise issues and offer advice and guidance. They are not able to physically deal with the issues themselves. As a result of their advice, action may be needed such as the removal of cladding or the introduction of waking watches. It is for the building owners to take such action.

What happens if you find something wrong with a building?

The team will raise any issues they find with the building management and work with them to get the problems dealt with as soon as possible.

In some cases, the team may feel the issues are serious enough to warrant an enforcement notice. This is where serious fire safety deficiencies are identified. Our inspectors, through the notice, will set a time frame for when the remedial work has to be completed.

In the most extreme cases, the team may have to issue a prohibition notice. This is where, using the powers given to us by the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005, we will prohibit the use of the building, or certain parts of the building.

Regrettably, this would involve evacuating residents until the issues are dealt with. People should be assured, though, that it is rare to issue such a notice and we would, of course, work very closely with the building management to get people back in their homes as soon as possible. This option is a last resort and is only used when we feel a building, or a part of a building, is unsafe for people to be living in.

Who is responsible for dealing with issues raised?

As already stated, the building management and owners are responsible for dealing with the issues raised. Our job, as the fire and rescue service, is to raise issues and offer advice on what needs to be done to sort them out. We will then re-inspect buildings to ensure they are safe and that the necessary work has been carried out.

Why has this work not been done before?

It has. We have been inspecting buildings, including high-rise residential blocks, for many years.

This project is simply about accelerating the pace of these inspections so that we can implement the learning from the Grenfell Tower disaster sooner rather than later.

What about other buildings across the county?

Inspections will still take place at other buildings that aren’t ‘in scope’ for this project. We have a wider team of inspecting officers who will be carrying on their work to inspect all buildings in South Yorkshire, regardless of height.

We must stress that all responsible persons should ensure they are fully aware of their fire safety responsibilities, high-rise or not.

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Safety advice for businesses over the festive period

We know this is a very difficult time for everyone, including businesses, but it is vital that your business, and the people working for you, remain safe from fire.

With the Christmas period upon us we’ve put together some fire safety advice to help keep your business and those within the premises safe.

If you’re considering the introduction of any Christmas decorations into your premises over the festive period you should consider the following advice and also review your fire safety risk assessment before decorating.

Some of our key, general tips are:

  • Do not place Christmas trees, decorations or lights in the means of escape
  • Do not obstruct escape routes or escape doors
  • Do not obstruct or obscure fire escape signage, fire fighting equipment, emergency lighting, break glass call points, fire alarms sounders, emergency isolation points etc. with decorations.

Reviewing your fire safety risk assessment

Christmas decorations may increase the fire loading (flammable items/materials) and fire risk in your premises.

Your fire safety risk assessment should therefore be reviewed by a competent person prior to putting festive decorations in your premises.

There are five key steps to a fire risk assessment:

  • Identify the fire hazards
  • Identify people at risk
  • Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
  • Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan & provide training
  • Review and update regularly

More information on fire safety risk assessments can be found here.

Decorations

Take care with decorations and trees. Always use flame resistant/fire retardant products:

  • Decorations made of paper, cardboard and cotton wool should not be used – they are extremely flammable and can burn easily
  • Any Christmas decorations should be non-flammable/fire retardant – fire retardant decorations are available from suppliers
  • Positioning of decorations should not be in close proximity to sources of ignition
  • Decorations must not obstruct or obscure fire escape signage, firefighting equipment or other safety features

Christmas trees

  • If you have a natural Christmas tree ensure that it is watered daily because a Christmas tree which has dried out can be highly flammable
  • Avoid placing Christmas trees in areas where they could be easily knocked over
  • Christmas trees should be placed in a suitable stable container to prevent it from falling over
  • Christmas trees should never be put in positions where they obstruct or obscure escape routes or escape doors, fire escape signage, firefighting equipment or other safety features
  • Do not place Christmas trees, decorations or lights in the means of escape

Electrical lights and decorations

  • Don’t overload electrical circuits
  • All electrical lighting and electrical decorations should be tested before use by a competent person
  • All electrical lighting and electrical decorations should conform to the relevant British Safety Standard (marked with the appropriate Kite or CE mark)
  • Do not place electrical lights or electrical decorations in close proximity to combustible materials
  • Switch all Christmas decorations off at night

Extra stock over the festive period

  • Storage of extra stock should be considered by your fire risk assessment
  • All means of escape, doors, routes, stairways must be kept clear and unobstructed – goods and excess packaging should not be allowed to reduce widths in these areas – even temporarily
  • If you have extra stock you should ensure you have capacity to store the stock safely without blocking the means of escape or any fire exit doors or impinge upon any fire door which has to be kept clear or closed
  • Do not wedge open fire doors
  • You should make sure stock is not in close proximity to ignition sources, or too close to smoke detectors or sprinkler heads as this could affect their operation

Staff training

  • It is essential that all permanent staff and additional staff who may be employed on a temporary basis to cover this busy period are adequately trained regarding the action to be taken in the event of a fire and are made familiar with all fire precautions applicable to your building

Capacity

  • Do not exceed the recommended occupancy limits for your premises (your occupancy limits should be identified in your fire risk assessment)

Covid–19 and fire safety

Should you require further fire safety information please visit our business advice pages.

If you would like to speak to a member of our team please contact your local fire safety officer.

For safety advice in the home please click here.

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Fire safety team to inspect all high-rise residential buildings across South Yorkshire

A team of fire safety inspectors is embarking on an ambitious project to inspect all high-rise residential buildings across South Yorkshire, over 18 metres or with six or more storeys, by the end of next year.

This comes as part of a Government-driven ‘Building Risk Review’ programme that seeks to ‘significantly increase’ the pace of high-rise residential inspection activity across the country.

Made up of staff from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s (SYFR) business safety department, the specialist team has been funded by a specific Government grant.

As part of their work, the team will be contacting the responsible person for each high-rise residential building across South Yorkshire to arrange an inspection to assess the fire safety measures in place.

“Our aim, between now and the end of next year, is to physically inspect every high rise residential building in South Yorkshire,” said SYFR Area Manager, Simon Dunker, who is head of the service’s prevention and protection departments.

“We hope this work will provide reassurance to residents we are continuing to work to effect changes identified by the Grenfell inquiry and that resident safety remains our priority. We will work with building owners and managers to ensure any necessary work is carried out.”

Whilst this project is specifically targeted at residential buildings over 18 metres in height or with six or more storeys, inspectors are keen to stress all responsible persons should ensure they are fully aware of their fire safety responsibilities.

The service’s inspection officers, who are not directly involved in this project, will continue to inspect all buildings across South Yorkshire regardless of height.

Further information about the Building Risk Review project, and your fire safety responsibilities, can be found at www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice.

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Stark warning from man left with severe burns after garden fire disaster

A man from Sheffield, who set himself on fire when using petrol on his seemingly unlit garden fire, is urging people not to follow in his footsteps and make the same mistake.

Paul Wyatt, 50, was burning hedge trimmings in his garden earlier this year. He put paper on the bottom and hedge trimmings on top, before adding a match, which didn’t light the fire.

He decided to apply a drop of petrol, planning to step back and throw a match on. Unbeknown to him, the original match was still smouldering.

Immediately after pouring the fuel onto the fire, the oil drum he was burning his garden waste in ‘went up light a jet engine’ and set his upper body on fire.

Later that evening he was placed into an induced coma at the Northern General Hospital, with his face burnt and swelling, and doctors concerned about damage to his airways.

He has since made a good recovery but now has to use cream on his burns four times a day, has to wear factor 30 sun cream for a year and has nerve damage to his hands.

Paul, and his wife Ann, now hope that by sharing their story, they can prevent this happening to other people in the future.

“Having spoken to our friends, family and colleagues since the accident, it seems it’s a really common thing to use petrol to fuel a fire,” said Paul, who has to now do exercises to stretch his skin.

“The injuries I have will be with me for the rest of my life, but I know how lucky I am – the hospital staff said it was a good job I didn’t breathe in whilst my head was on fire as I could have damaged my airways and paid a much bigger price.

“I’ll certainly never add any kind of accelerant to a fire again and I’d really urge other people not to make the same mistake I did – it really isn’t worth it.”

Paul’s warning is being supported and echoed by fire officers from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, as part of their latest Operation Dark Nights bonfire campaign.

“We always tell people not to use accelerants on bonfires, in fact more recently we’re asking people not to have bonfires at all, and what happened to Paul is exactly why,” said Station Manager Steve Jones, who helps lead the joint police and fire community safety department.

“When it comes to petrol, even the vapours can set alight, and make the fire spread rapidly to the person holding the can. In this incident, it only took a split second and the top half of Paul’s body was totally ablaze.

“Ideally people won’t be having garden fires over the coming weeks but, if you must, don’t even think about adding an accelerant and make sure those you care about don’t, either.”

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Bonfire and firework advice

Bonfires

If you’re planning to have a bonfire at any time, but particularly during this firework period, please follow some simple safety guides to help you, your family, pets and wildlife stay safe.

Building your bonfire

  • Build your bonfire well away from, and clear of, buildings, garden sheds, fences, hedges and overhanging branches
  • Keep it to a manageable size and evenly built, so that it collapses inwards as it burns
  • Do not include plastics, household items or rubber in your fire

Lighting your bonfire

  • It is dangerous to use flammable liquids to help start a bonfire such as petrol or kerosene, use firelighters.
  • Do not burn dangerous items such as aerosol cans, paint tins, foam furniture or batteries
  • Do not throw anything in the fire
  • Tell neighbours you are going to have a bonfire to avoid non-essential 999 calls

Double check

  • The bonfire’s construction is still sound before lighting it
  • There are no children or wildlife hiding in the fire
  • No hazardous items such as aerosols, sealed cans or fireworks have been thrown onto it

Remember

  • Never leave bonfires unattended – we recommend a bonfire should be supervised by an adult until it has burnt out
  • Once you are finished with the bonfire, dampen it down fully with water making sure that the embers are extinguished and surroundings are made safe before leaving
  • Keep a bucket of water or hosepipe nearby in case of an emergency
  • If the bonfire becomes out of control and catches foliage or property alight – call 999 immediately
  • If your clothes catch fire remember to STOP, DROP and ROLL and cool burns under running water for at least 20 minutes

Fireworks

Fireworks are something that can be enjoyed by all the family, but should be used safely, carefully and lawfully. Have a person dedicated to lighting your fireworks who is over 18 and remember that alcohol and fireworks do not mix.

If you are planning on having a firework display, you can help to avoid an emergency and/or upset by following our top tips:

  • Ensure the firework is the correct way up and secure – light at arms length using a taper and stand well back
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box away from the lighting location
  • Only buy fireworks that are CE marked and follow the instructions
  • Never go back to a firework that has been lit and don’t throw them or put them in your pocket
  • Keep pets indoors and let your neighbours know you’re having a display
  • Stick to the law – you can’t set off fireworks in public places and can’t set them off between 11pm and 7am – except for Bonfire Night when the cut off is midnight

Sparklers

  • Supervise children with sparklers at all times
  • Stick the end in a halved carrot to make it easier for little hands to hold
  • Light one sparkler at a time and wear gloves
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for used sparklers
  • Let them fully cool before throwing them away

Useful information

Working Together on Firework Displays – The Blue Firework Guide –  This guide is specifically intended for organisers of firework displays, or events where fireworks are to be used, where the display is setup, fired and derigged by a professional display company and professional display companies as the basic information to enable them to communicate effectively with an event organiser to achieve a safe and effective display.

Giving Your Own Firework Display – The Red Firework Guide – The advice in this publication covers only those firework displays, normally at pubs, clubs or charity gatherings, where the organisers set off the fireworks themselves and have no specialist knowledge.

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Emergency services issue guidance ahead of ‘different’ bonfire period

South Yorkshire’s emergency services are urging people to be sensible and stay safe over the coming weeks, during what they say will be a ‘very different’ bonfire period for everyone.

Trick or treating is being discouraged, in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19, as are Halloween and bonfire parties that break the current social distancing rules set out by the Government.

Meanwhile, firefighters are asking people to take extra care with fireworks and to avoid having garden bonfires that could grow out of control and tie up fire service resources.

The guidance comes as part of Operation Dark Nights – a campaign that is run jointly by the county’s three emergency services each year.

“We know how much people look forward to Halloween and the bonfire period, and clearly we don’t want to spoil the party after a tough year, but it’s so important that people stay safe,” said South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Station Manager Steve Jones, who helps lead the joint police and fire community safety department.

“With big, organised bonfire and firework displays being cancelled across the county, we expect people will be tempted to do their own. This is fine, but we do ask that people be sensible and take note of our advice around this.”

“Firstly, we really don’t want people be having garden bonfires. They spread so easily and tie up our resources. However, if you must have one, keep it away from trees, sheds and fences, and never use petrol or other accelerants to get it going.

“Secondly, if you’re going to use fireworks, only use genuine ones, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and, please, be sensible. Also, remember there are laws around when you can and can’t set them off.

“Last, but not least, is a plea around helping stop the spread of coronavirus. Please ensure you stick to the current laws and guidance. We all need to keep doing our bit and not use Bonfire Night as an excuse to let our guards down.”

Traditionally, staff from both the police and fire service have visited schools to talk to children about anti-social behaviour, trick or treating, fireworks and all things Bonfire Night. These visits won’t be taking place this year, due to the pandemic.

However, a joint effort between both agencies means that school pupils will still be getting vital input on these subjects. Instead of visiting each school, firefighters and police officers have filmed a series of videos that will be played in classrooms across South Yorkshire.

South Yorkshire Police Superintendent Sarah Poolman said: “We know this year will be different for everyone, but we want to ensure that however you celebrate, you are safe.

“It is important that whilst celebrating we don’t forget about Covid-19 and remember that we all still have a responsibility to keep each other safe.

“Your neighbourhood officers will be on patrol in the evenings to tackle any anti-social behaviour and breaches of the Covid-19 guidelines.

“As we increase our patrols, please remember that this is an extremely busy time for officers and call takers in the control room. We are asking our communities to think before you call 999 or 101.

“We have to prioritise the calls coming in to ensure our officers can respond to the most time critical and serious of incidents. We are asking those reporting a non-emergency crime do so through the online reporting form on our website.”

Speaking on behalf of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Locality Manager, Jeremy Seymour, said: “The volume of work for Yorkshire Ambulance Service has significantly increased over the last two weeks and this has been reflected in the change to the local COVID Alert level this week in South Yorkshire.

“The Ambulance Service, as well as all local hospitals, are working extremely hard to provide the services everyone needs and deserves. We will continue to provide the emergency pre hospital care and support whenever and wherever we are needed.

“Please help us to protect you and the people closest to you by continuing to follow the advice given and support the Ambulance service to concentrate on those most in need.”

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