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Last updated: 19/06/2020, 11:16 AM

Unsung heroes make life saving calls during Covid-19 pandemic

19/06/2020 10:57

A check up telephone call by Brigade staff turned into a life saving intervention when the resident suddenly became unresponsive while on the phone.

Community Safety Health Team Covid Caller Cindy Roberts was on the phone to a resident who had previously received an enhanced visit by staff to talk about fire safety and offer support from partner agencies. At the start of pandemic a decision was taken to call all of those who had taken part in the scheme, to check on their wellbeing and offer support and a friendly voice on the end of the phone.

Difference to people's lives 

Cindy said:

“When I called, the lady confirmed that she lived alone with no family nearby she was relying on the help of a neighbour to get her shopping. I assisted her with completing the online registration to receive support with medication and food deliveries. We had been on the phone for 30-40 minutes when she suddenly said she wasn’t feeling too good. The phone went very quiet and I called her name a few times, each time calling her name louder and louder. I received no response.

“Getting extremely worried and wondering what to do next I decided to call for an ambulance from my personal mobile whilst keeping her line open on the other phone. I stayed on the line to both her and ambulance control and was able to keep them updated as to what I could hear. It was so difficult being what seemed to be the useless end of the phone, not actually being able to help. I stayed on the line until the paramedics reached her.

“I received a phone call a short while later from the paramedics to let me know that she was ok and didn’t need to be taken into hospital. Had I not called when I did, she would have been outside hanging up her washing and not sat down on the phone to me when she collapsed, which could have resulted in her being left unnoticed for quite a while. I can honestly say that although I feel emotionally drained and tested making these calls, I feel as if I’ve really made a difference to these peoples lives and I’m extremely proud of that.”

Life saving interventions

The team prioritised people to call first, those most likely to be shielding, living alone or having characteristics that made them more at risk from fire. Between eight members of staff they aim to call 1,300 people. During the calls Brigade staff can offer support of partner agencies and make the relevant borough hubs run by local authorities know if the resident requires assistance with food or medicine.

The Brigade’s Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills, said:

“Understandably a lot of attention is focused on our frontline who are the visible embodiment of the Brigade’s work. But there are a number of staff behind the scenes, who are supporting the frontline and making life saving interventions within the community every day, getting support out to those who need it most.

“Loneliness is a factor in a number of the fatal fires we attend. Our staff calling vulnerable residents, some of whom are on their own without any support network has without a doubt saved lives. I’m so proud of all of our staff who have stepped up during the Covid-19 pandemic to protect Londoners and help stop the spread of the virus.”

Extremely grateful

It is not only older people who can suffer with loneliness. Community Safety Health Team Covid Caller Ali Basey called a 30 year old resident who had a number of health conditions which meant she had reduced mobility. Ali continues the story:

“When I spoke her she told me that she lived alone, with no family nearby and her carer who normally visited twice a day had not come for two weeks due to contracting coronavirus. This situation had left her with no care, unreliable food deliveries from neighbours and no medication deliveries.

“She also told me that she was feeling very low and depressed. I was extremely concerned her and alongside my colleague Gaia we provided the Samaritans number and a safeguarding referral to the local authority. They  were able to speak to her that day, deliver an emergency food package the following day and put plans in place for medication deliveries. They also had planned to arrange for an emergency care package.

“I followed up on her wellbeing and she was extremely grateful that I called when I did.”


This week is Loneliness Awareness Week and the Brigade fully supports the #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign encouraging people to openly talk about the issue and the effect it has had on them. Their vision is to create a society where anyone can talk freely and about loneliness. Throughout this campaign, the Marmalade Trust are providing tips and advice on tackling loneliness, as well as suggestions on how we can make a difference to others suffering from it in these difficult times. You can find these on their website. 

All those called took part in Fire, Safe and Well which was a pilot project which carried out enhanced Home Fire Safety Visits to deliver targeted interventions and onward referrals to a range of health, social care and voluntary services.