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The Government’s coronavirus lockdown has meant that, more than ever, people want to feel safe in their homes while being able to protect and safeguard their families.

The country’s emergency gas engineers, such as those working for Northern Gas Networks across the North of England, are keeping customers connected and the gas supply flowing. Despite the lockdown, they are still providing a 24/7 service and responding to emergency call outs to repair and maintain the pipework that delivers gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses in our region.

Tom Bresnan is just one of NGN’s emergency response gas engineers. Covering a large patch in Wear, between Peterlee and Consett, Tom loves his job. His work not only uses the skills that he learnt in his 10 years as a domestic gas engineer before he became an emergency engineer for NGN, but he also loves meeting customers and providing a gold standard service.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” says Tom. “I live in Seaham in County Durham, and I was born and raised in the North East, so my patch covers many communities that I know and love. That relationship with those communities means a great deal to me, and while each job I do is different, I always love being with customers and helping them as much as I can.”

Along with all NGN engineers, Tom has adopted the new working methods which the coronavirus outbreak has made necessary. All NGN emergency response engineers are now required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate when working in customers’ homes. Vans are equipped so that engineers can wash their hands with warm, soapy water after each job, once PPE has been safely double-bagged.

“I have always practiced good hand hygiene, particularly when working in customers’ properties,” says Tom. “I wear gloves, and use the hand washing facilities and hand sanitiser that I have in my NGN vehicle.

“But coronavirus has meant that I need to go beyond my previous working practices, and make sure that I am wearing and disposing of my PPE correctly, and following the social distancing guidelines so that I am protecting customers.

“I feel that I have adapted quickly. It’s now the way I work. And the processes and procedures that we have in place make me feel supported and valued: when a job comes through on my tablet from the Dispatch Team, I am told if there is a customer in the property who have the symptoms of coronavirus, or if they are vulnerable and self-isolating. This helps me to prepare and take all the safety precautions I need to before I knock on the door: now with my gloves on, of course!”

At a time when some customers may feel particularly vulnerable, or who are nervous of people from outside their household coming through the door, Tom believes that an important part of this job now is reassuring customers and putting people at their ease.

“I want to keep my customers safe,” he says. “Before I start work, I do spend some time explaining the ways in which I will be working, and what I need from them; such as them to listen out for me telling them that a room is clear and they can come back in.

“But I try to be a friendly face and voice; even when I am wearing a mask. For people in lockdown, especially older customers, I may be the only person they speak to that day. I want to help make a customer’s day, if I can.”

As a family man, it’s also important to Tom that he feels safe when he returns home after a shift.

“I feel very well supported by my line manager, James, who is always on the end a phone if I ever need advice, or just someone to chat things through with. I’ve had guidance on how to safely dispose of my PPE, and there are showers at the depot in Washington that I can use at the end of my shift if I need to.”

James Birch, Site Manager for Northern Gas Networks, manages Tom and the other 26 emergency response engineers in County Durham, Gateshead and Wear, said: “I am incredibly proud of Tom and the other engineers that I manage.

“It is a new way of working for them, but I have been impressed by how Tom and his colleagues have all risen to the challenge and made customer safety their priority.”

If you smell gas, suspect carbon monoxide or experience low gas pressure, call the National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999.