HR departments are working closely with fire brigades to ensure the welfare of staff as they respond to the Haiti earthquake disaster.
Personnel Today has learned that, so far, 64 fire personnel from the UK have been deployed to the Caribbean country to help with search and rescue operations following the earthquake, which struck last Tuesday and is believed to have claimed the lives of up to 200,000 people.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue is leading the co-ordination of the UK firefighter response, and staff from nine brigades have been flown out to the disaster zone.
Pete Crook, Hampshire’s group manager in charge of civil resilience and specialist response, who is leading the co-ordination of the UK team in Haiti, said HR departments were working closely with brigades to make sure that families and loved ones of those firefighters working overseas were kept updated.
He told Personnel Today: “Wives who are left at home need to be told what is going on. Families left with people disappearing off need to get updates and personal calls. HR come in and say: ‘Have you thought about these things’.”
Mid and West Wales, South Wales, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Kent, West Sussex and Hampshire are among the brigades that have deployed staff.
The numbers from each brigade have been deliberately kept small to prevent a detrimental effect on UK services.
“If I send a crew of six or eight, then the brigade has to work with the HR departments to look at what gaps it leaves,” Crook said. “We structure the team to have the least impact on the brigade.
“It means we don’t take 20 or 30 people out of one brigade. Twelve is the most – at West Midlands, which is a big outfit. Three is the least. The numbers are small that go from each brigade – we could lose that number being off sick with flu.”
Each brigade makes its own decision on payment terms for staff, but at Hampshire all deployed staff receive their normal salary. The Department for International Development also pays a set fee, per role, per day to each brigade that has released staff for overseas duty.
The Local Government Association said it had received a number of enquiries from councils wanting to help, and said it would be issuing formal guidance over the next couple of days.