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As the response to the coronavirus pandemic stepped up in March, one local company and its staff played a major part in the storage and distribution of key protective equipment to healthcare partners.

On 12 March the Humber Local Resilience Forum (LRF) Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG) was stood up. This is a multi-agency group involving heads of service in the healthcare, local government and emergency services sector. A week later, an emergency was declared in line with the national picture changing rapidly and the SCG began daily teleconferences.

On 31 March a sub group was formed to specifically look after the large task of handling all of the personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Humber region.

The PPE Cell was headed by Group Manager Matt Sutcliffe who was accutely aware of the importance of the task:

“It became clear very early that PPE was going to be absolutely key to the multi-agency response. We needed the right place and the right people to manage the large quantities of equipment coming our way.”

A suitable warehouse at Howdens Joinery was identified and the company's management and directors did not hesitate to make it available to the relief effort. The large site on the outskirts of Howden was close to the region's motorway network and would be staffed by on call firefighters who also work at Howdens under the watchful eye of Station Manager Ben Kelly:

“We started with an empty warehouse and set up everything from scratch. On-Call firefighters who work at Howdens supported the operation by working around the clock to ensure that every item was distributed within 24 hours of the order coming in.”

Howdens Health and Safety Manager Tony Clark,who is also Watch Manager at Howden Fire Station, explained how keen the business was to assist:

“We had no hesitation in finding a suitable space at our Howden factory. The team has worked tirelessly over the last three months to support the regional effort and we are all proud to have played our part."

Firefighters and Community Safety staff delivered the bulk orders of gowns, face masks, hand sanitiser and aprons across the Humber area to existing local authority warehouses or to carehomes or surgeries directly.

The one millionth piece of protective equipment has just been delivered across the region and the hard work by all concerned will continue through the summer months as long as the health and care sectors need support.

Chair of the Humber LRF, Chief Fire Officer Chris Blacksell was delighted with how Howdens' work with the PPE Cell has supported those most in need across the health and care sectors:

“We have always had a great relationship with Howdens. Their offer of warehouse space and committed volunteers was exactly what we needed to ensure effective distribution of vital PPE.”

Humber Emergency Planning Manager Alan Bravey summed up the importance of this partnership approach:

"The Local Resilience Forum has been delighted to support the health and care sector during the Pandemic by distributing over a million pieces of Government supplied PPE. It has been a real team effort, with public and private sector partners working together to prioritise and supplement supplies, providing a same day delivery service, 7 days a week to those in need. We are very grateful for the team at Howden's Joinery who have managed provided the warehousing and logistical support and for all our partners involved in the supply and distribution efforts.

"The LRF PPE is one piece in this puzzle and its really important to recognise the tremendous work of the care sector in sourcing their own PPE and in providing mutual aid to others, and the amazing efforts of businesses and volunteers who have made, supplied or donated this essential equipment during these extraordinary times."

Watch how the story unfolded below: