Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer Alasdair Hay last night visited the North East of Scotland where SFRS staff played a significant part in the multi-agency response for the communities of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire devastated by flooding caused by Storm Frank and the severe weather in January.
The unprecedented weather conditions and flooding experienced required a response never before seen over such a long period and the Service deployed specialist resources and staff from across the country to supplement local specialist crews in the worst hit areas of the North East.
The Incident Support Room in Aberdeen was activated, with flexi-duty managers providing logistical support to busy Control Room staff, managing and ensuring the co-ordination of the deployment of specialist resources across the North East.
Following a visit to Operations Control and Service Delivery North HQ, Aberdeen, Chief Officer Hay and Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Andy Coueslant (Head of Service Delivery in the North) went on to Ballater, where they met with Local Senior Officer for Aberdeenshire, David Rout.
LSO Rout, who was Incident Commander on 7 and 8 January, was heavily involved in the co-ordination of assets and the deployment of specialist water rescue crews as part of Grampian Local Resilience Partnership.
During the storm the crews from Ballater Station were helping flood victims before the station flooded and required the crew to move their appliances to higher ground so it was available to protect the local communities and return to active duty.
Despite the houses of seven of the local Ballater crew members also being badly affected by flooding; it was only after assisting members of their community did they return to their own homes.
Crews across Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen were heavily involved in a wide range of activities, ranging from water rescues carried out in life threatening scenarios, working with partner agencies and members of the community to evacuate vulnerable people from their homes and properties prior to serious flooding, as well as assisting with the deployment of sandbags and fitting of flood gates to homes. Staff in Ballater during the following days of the flooding assisted with community resilience by providing door to door reassurance visits to residents and provided them with home safety visits and checks.
Chief Officer Hay said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service exists to provide an emergency service to protect the people of Scotland. Our response to the recent flooding highlights our commitment to provide a first class emergency service to our communities.
“Our staff always put our communities first, which is highlighted by the extraordinary efforts of the Ballater crews who despite being affected by flooding themselves still wanted to help others. This is testament to the character and commitment of SFRS staff across the country.
“Contingency planning is at the forefront of what we do as a Service and the close relationships which exist between ourselves and our multi-agency partners enabled us to respond quickly and effectively to hundreds of calls for assistance from our communities.”
He added: “The area was faced with unprecedented conditions over a sustained period and everyone involved in the response, including members of the communities themselves, can be rightly proud of their hard work and commitment.”
Chief Officer Alasdair Hay highlighted the importance of RDS firefighters to rural communities, particularly when incidents of this nature occur.
He said: “The vast majority of those who responded during the flooding were RDS firefighters and their contribution to public safety can’t be underestimated.
“We are encouraging anyone who may be able to provide similar support to the communities in which they live by signing up to become retained firefighters.”
There are a number of stations across Aberdeenshire and Moray currently looking for new RDS recruits, including one of the worst affected areas, Ballater,
CO Hay continued: “Becoming a retained duty system (RDS) firefighter brings with it a tremendous sense of satisfaction and gives ordinary people an opportunity to do extraordinary work, like the work we have seen here in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”
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