A new agreement has been reached to use fire stations across the Highlands and Islands as communication hubs during emergencies.

Using the stations across the Western Isles will allow multi-agency partners to set-up bases for the community and responders in these areas, particularly during power and communication outages.

The Highlands and Islands area has faced a number of communications and power outages over past years, generally associated with high impact weather, but also through technical faults.

In response to these various episodes, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other responders have been asked to open local stations to provide vital 'on the ground' links.

On activation, an operational officer will be directed to open the fire station and establish communications with the person participating in the local emergency co-ordinating group for the area or islands.

The base will then provide:

Community reassurance

Emergency communications where communication networks have been affected

Cascade of agency updates to the community, either through drop in or where community resilience groups exist / council rest centres have been established

A conduit to feed on the ground impact of an incident back to Emergency Co-ordinating Groups

A possible location for welfare vehicles to be established

Safety advice from relevant agencies

A focal point for emergency responding agencies to locate

The community affected will be notified of the hub’s activation through local radio announcements, social media, local noticeboard posters and word of mouth on the ground.

It should be noted that that these facilities do not replace the need for rest centre plans to be in place. They will not be used in place of a rest centre but be complimentary to these, providing a community reassurance point, communications and a point of reference for local agencies responding, such as SSE.

Local Senior Officer for Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney, Billy Wilson, said: “This plan formalises already close working relationships within our communities and it is hoped that this additional ‘tool’ for response will prove useful to the ECG’s in their decision making when faced with challenging situations.”