Council staff helping to keep residents safe

We’re here to help! Teams across East Devon District Council took that motto to heart over the weekend as they worked around the clock to help residents and communities caught up in snow and ice storms.

The council’s emergency telephone service, Home Safeguard, took more than 2,000 calls from last Thursday to Sunday, as residents reported issues such as lost power, frozen pipes and boiler failures.

Officers came across a number of situations where they could help including delivering urgent medication, cooking a meal for a resident whose carers were snowed in, arranging temporary housing for council tenants with burst pipes and taking a resident to hospital.

Even though the council’s offices at Sidmouth and Exmouth were closed on safety grounds from last Thursday lunchtime, technology allows the majority of East Devon officers to work from wherever is suitable such as home, and from there they were able to co-ordinate emergency support.

Resetting boilers, defrosting pipes, clearing snow from loft spaces, turning off and resetting water supplies and assisting with clean-up operations in council properties where pipes had burst was all in a day’s work for the council’s two maintenance surveyors. They locked up their van and walked many miles around snow-bound Exmouth on Saturday, dealing with a range of issues including helping prepare an evening meal for a vulnerable resident whose carers could not reach him.

In Honiton, the council’s property and assets team worked with contractors during the early hours of Saturday morning when pipes burst and properties were flooded. Two households were placed in temporary housing. One officer took a resident to the hospital on the way to settling them into their temporary accommodation as they became unwell.

At the peak of the extreme weather, when it was not possible for contractors to travel to council properties, phone support was given to tenants, helping them to try and get heating systems working again.

East Devon’s Mobile Support Officers were in contact with vulnerable and elderly residents in sheltered accommodation over the weekend, helping resolve any issues they may have had. The Estate Management team visited some tenants living in the council’s former sheltered properties to give reassurance as many live on their own.
The Home Safeguard team were calling residents who had lost power during the bad weather, checking they were ok and offering help. If they were unable to contact them, they arranged for neighbours and family to check on them.

The Housing Options team helped four single rough sleepers and one couple who were accommodated in emergency accommodation under the severe weather emergency protocol. Working with the council’s Streetscene officers, a vulnerable tenant who was stranded in Exmouth was transported back home to Budleigh Salterton.

The Streetscene teams were also kept busy clearing and gritting key pedestrian sites, and dealing with frozen and burst pipes at public toilets. In Exmouth, the team towed stranded cars blocking the highway using council 4x4 vehicles, moving them safely to the side of the road to be collected once the area had thawed. The Exmouth team were called out to deliver urgent medication to two households. They also delivered sandbags and worked with local partners to try to prevent properties in the Colonies area from flooding due problems with the water pumping station.

Cllr Andrew Moulding, Chairman of East Devon District Council, said: “Our staff played an important role in helping our residents during a very difficult few days. I am really proud of their commitment and the care they showed to all who needed assistance.”