Best practice from across the sector
There has been some brilliant work from fire service communicators since lockdown began - especially on social media. One service that seems to have stood out in particular is Cambridgeshire. We asked Communications Officer, Robyn Hall, for an insight into what they've been up to, what they've seen from other services and what they think the future holds...
This was something launched by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue early on. Many other fire services quickly followed suit. In the absence of school visits and Safety Zones, the competition was a great way to engage with young people and support parents and teachers with a useful home schooling resource, while getting clear safety messages across. Fire services engaged with local communities in relevant parenting groups on Facebook and though contacts within the service to help spread the word.
Virtual station tours
Stations across the country have been inviting residents into their stations virtually. With hundreds of kids missing out on station tours through local clubs, groups and school visits, firefighters have been creating videos to educate children on what’s behind the bay doors.
The first one shared in Cambridgeshire has been watched almost 40,000 times by children and adults alike. Not only an educational video but also creating a sense of community, with many people sharing their fond memories of former visits and stories of their children being inspired on the posts. Bedfordshire did a great one, too, which you can see here.
Light hearted content
Despite the seriousness of the pandemic, we’ve still been able to put a smile on people faces. During the first week of lockdown, firefighters took part in the Saturday Night Takeaway audience segment. Their quickly choreographed routine has been viewed over 300k times and received hundreds of comments on how it had cheered them up and lifted their spirits in what was and is a really difficult time. It might not be informative, have a safety message behind it, but sometimes it’s the right content and the right time.
Junior firefighter Darcey Cook stole the show with her firefighting skills. When we were sent this video, we had no idea how much it would take off, nor did we anticipated we’d be inundated with media requests and contracts about whether people could use the video. The video has been shared worldwide online and on TV and has been viewed millions of times.
Sure, it’s a cute video. But it’s also a great reminder that girls can be interested in being firefighters too, and recruiting more women in the fire service is an objective for most services. Since the video was shared we’ve been tagged in a few videos where families have replicated the activity with their young ones. It also demonstrates the importance of building relationships with colleagues to be sent stuff like this in the first place.
Be a hero, stay at home, save lives
We’d normal stay away from referring to firefighters as heroes, but felt it worked for the purpose of this video. It was filmed and editing in a really short time in response to the new government messaging at the time. We know that firefighters are seen as role models in the community, so it made sense to get them to support our partners in sharing the message in this way.
Following feedback from the LRF of challenges faced with getting the message out to minority groups in the county, and the lack of multilingual resources available at the time, we created a multilingual ‘stay at home’ video. We engaged staff from across the organisation who speak different languages to record videos in their first language.
In just a couple of days we were able to put together a video in 10 different languages, all filmed by colleagues themselves. It might not have had the best reach or engagement, but was shared with partners though our positive action officers. This also promotes the diversity of the workforce, which could support future recruitment.
The idea was developed to produce shorter ‘test your smoke alarm’ videos in other languages too.
We’ve shifted to producing a daily bulletin for staff. We’ve done this every day since Monday 16 March, including weekends and bank holidays as part of our on-call arrangements. Staff have been incredibly positive about the bulletin, and many have shared that it’s helped them feel informed and engaged with the wider workforce while a huge proportion of staff are working from home. We’ve also shared regular video blogs from chief officers to give a more personal feel.
Letter for children of fire service staff
A number of fire services (I don’t know who started it originally) have had a letter from their Chief sent to all the children of fire service staff. It was a really touching gesture, landed well with staff and emphasised the family feel of the fire service. Credit to whoever came up with the idea!
Things we’re doing differently now that we will carry on doing in the future
If a video needed doing, the comms team would normally film it all. Since lockdown, we’ve still been able to produce video, but with colleagues filming it themselves instead. We're hoping this will continue.
Comms has always had a seat the table, but now more than ever, people appreciate the value comms has on staff engagement and being a critical friend. Our professional feedback is trusted and respected, and the senior leadership team know we’ve always got their back. We listen to staff and act on feedback, so being a key player in business continuity and recovery has really made a difference on what we’re doing as a service.