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Keeping our communities safe during the 'Beast from the East'

PCC Alison Hernandez gives thanks all those who worked hard to keep our communities safe during the extreme condition of Storm Emma.

I need to start with this week’s blog with a huge thank you to each and every one of you as we coped with last week’s weather and the impact it had on all our lives.

Parts of Devon received the first ever red warning for snow in England by the Met Office, and as the so-called, Beast from the East met Storm Emma normal life became a challenge for everyone.

I have been humbled by all the stories I’ve heard of humanity and dedication across the two counties. From deep snow and strong winds to freezing rain and flooding, Devon and Cornwall witnessed some of the most extreme weather conditions our region has seen for many years.

While the vast majority of us stayed at home with the heating cranked up, only venturing out to build a snowman or sledge down the nearest hill, there were many dedicated people working in challenging conditions to keep our essential services running.

The efforts of our blue light services, health workers, local authorities, highways team, 4x4 volunteer response team, Dartmoor search and rescue and many more volunteers to keep our communities safe is hugely appreciated, and from everyone in the region a big, heartfelt thank you.

Day and night, these dedicated members of our community worked tirelessly through the wind, wet and cold, many sleeping at work to be sure they were available the following day to keep services running. In the policing family I have heard countless stories of staff going above and beyond.

Gold and silver command were opened, overseeing and launching a multi-agency tactical approach to dealing with the challenging period.

Just one example of the dedication of staff is the rescue effort of drivers stranded in vehicles. On Thursday evening the emergency services rescued over 1000 people from the roads of Devon and Cornwall directing them to dedicated rest centres. Officers, staff and volunteers slept on the floors of police stations to be sure they could do it all again the following day.

This was echoed by health and care staff and other service providers for vulnerable members of our community. Without them the outcomes may have been very different.

Many officers spent hours on Haldon Hill and Telegraph Hill in some of the worst weather in country dealing with numerous road traffic collisions, making sure people were safe and working to get the roads cleared as soon as possible

From across the region stories are repeated of officers and police staff walking to their nearest station and simply asking ‘what can I do’.

Volunteers played a vital part in supporting the police and other agencies in these difficult conditions, particularly our Special Constables who gave up hours of unpaid time to help keep our communities safe. Across the two counties the Devon and Cornwall 4x4 response team, a group of unpaid volunteer 4x4 drivers did a fantastic job of supporting other vital services such as the NHS by taking doctors and nurses to hospitals.

I am in no doubt that all police staff, volunteers and everyone from partner organisations in Devon and Cornwall have made a huge difference to the safety of our communities.

At a national level Devon and Cornwall Police and other emergency services in the region have been congratulated by the Cabinet Office for their response to the adverse conditions. While there are plans in place for conditions such as these I am very proud of how effectively the response was coordinated between all partner organisations.

Although tragically, a number of people lost their lives during these extreme conditions, many more lives will have been saved because of the dedication of the staff in our emergency services and partner organisations. My thoughts go out to the loved ones of those who lost their lives during Storm Emma.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank members of the public for heeding advice, remaining patient and supporting each other. All you had to do was take to social media to see everyone rallying round to help where they could.

Owners of 4x4s driving doctors and nurses to work, people bringing hot drinks to motorists stuck in their cars and those shovelling snow to clear ways in and out for emergency services - you are all #SnowHeroes.

It gives me such pride when I see our communities coming together and helping each other out when we need it most. Safe, resilient and connected communities is at the heart of my Police and Crime Plan and the difficult circumstances over the last week has proven that we are just that.

Emergency services will remain stretched for the next week and there will be a backlog to deal with. Where possible use online reporting first and email for non-urgent crime. In an emergency still call 999.

I want to hear your stories, so if you know an individual, team or organisation that showed resilience and went above and beyond in your community who you want to nominate for an award contact my office at opcc@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.