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Crawley engineer powering the fightback against COVID-19



Photo: Samantha Burchell

Operational area manager, Samantha Burchell, from Crawley, describes her role during COVID-19, managing the teams that keep the local lights on from Brighton in the south to Guildford in the north.

Samantha was named among the UK’s Top 50 Women in Engineering in the Sunday Telegraph in 2018.

Q. Role and responsibilities?

Safely keeping electricity flowing to people’s homes during COVID-19 is my priority, as an operational area manager at UK Power Networks.

Q. How has the team responded to COVID-19?

Providing this essential service at an unprecedented time has needed the same strong teamwork we exemplify in a big storm. The importance of heat, light and virtual contact with the outside world has never been greater. People are counting on us to keep power flowing.

Q. What are your teams doing?

Safety critical or network reliability work remains essential during lockdown, responding quickly to faults and supporting our vulnerable customers.

We never know when a power interruption may occur, so we’re always ready to spring into action. There are fewer cars on the road and fewer excavations, so we’re seeing less cable damages, but faults can still occur, sometimes for reasons beyond our control.

Q. Proud of your team?

I feel proud of the fantastic work my team continues to do. The NHS is brilliantly dealing with difficult life and death situations during this pandemic, but they could not do their jobs if we didn’t do ours, so to me our guys are playing a very important role.

We have never experienced anything like this before, but everyone has pulled together to keep everything running smoothly for our customers.

Q. How has it changed the way you work?

Safety is paramount so we split up people who shared vans and they socially distance when they work together.

Our call-takers check whether customers have symptoms or are shielding and a risk assessment determines which PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is needed if we need to enter the property.

People say we will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever and judging by the way my team has pulled together, I believe that.


How safe is my school in Crawley? Education union launches COVID-19 map



The National Education Union, the largest education union in the UK and Europe which represents over 450,000 members has launched a new website that they say provides ‘accurate, accessible and up-to-date information about the Covid-19 rate in the locality of every school in England.’

The site is aimed at people being able to check what the levels of Covid are around the school and whether the school is on a watch list or not.

They say the site is updated weekly, and the data will show the number of Covid-19 cases in a school’s surrounding area, the trend since last week (an increase or decrease in case numbers), whether or not the school is on a watchlist, and links to any local restrictions in place.

They add:

“In much of the country the map will offer reassurance that case numbers are quite low. In others, it will reinforce public health messaging from local authorities and Government that cases are higher. In all situations it will encourage members of the public to follow all public health guidance.

Where cases are higher, it will support head teachers in encouraging parents and other visitors to school sites to maintain social distancing and hygiene.”

Commenting on the launch, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“Everyone in the education sector has worked hard to make full opening of schools, colleges and universities as successful as possible this autumn, but they have been let down by the Government which hasn’t even ensured that Covid testing has kept pace with need.

“But this website will also encourage parents to support our asks of the Government that they help to support safety in our schools and colleges.

“Parents, students and staff also need urgent answers on next year’s exams, and how fit for purpose they will be. This is in light of not only the past summer’s fiasco, but also the disruption of local lockdowns in the months ahead.”

You can check the information around your local school at their new site by clicking here.

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