Coronavirus

We are currently meeting fire and rescue services and political bodies to make sure that firefighters and control staff receive proper support during this period and that the work they are being asked to do is appropriate, proportionate and, above all, safe.

During the next few months, it is expected that pressure on emergency services will increase. It is important that you remain in contact with your FBU representative and keep a close eye on this webpage and FBU social media.

We have developed these resources to help guide you through this crisis and will remain in close dialogue with members throughout. This page will be updated regularly with new information.

What is COVID-19/Coronavirus?

What are the symptoms?

Health advice for members

The FBU’s position on COVID-19

Your questions answered


What is COVID-19/Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

 

What are the symptoms?

The reported cases of COVID-19 range from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

The onset of symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and generally are categorized as flu like symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • A dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

 

Health advice to members

As a core emergency service, it is essential that firefighters maintain their health.

The Government has recently announced significant new measures to contain the virus which you must follow, including:

  • Stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work (fire and rescue work is essential)
  • If you have a fever or persistent cough, you should stay at home for seven days if you live alone or 14 days if you live with others
  • If you live with someone displaying coronavirus symptoms, you should also stay at home for 14 days. If you have to isolate, you should ask others for help
  • Stop non-essential contact with others. This is particularly important for anyone over 70, those with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women
  • Work from home where you can (this will not be possible for most fire and rescue personnel)
  • Avoid all crowded public places
  • Stop all unnecessary travel
  • If you have a serious health condition, you may have to avoid social contact for 12 weeks. The government has published a full list of conditions here.

 

The FBU’s position on COVID-19

Firefighters and control staff provide a core emergency service and need to be protected from COVID-19 infection as far as possible.

We have agreed measures with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the local government fire and rescue service employers to keep crews and their communities safe. Services will now:

  • Minimise prevention activity, such as home-safety checks, except for where deemed necessary by a risk assessment
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, care and nursing homes or any other premises where vulnerable people reside, except for fire and other emergencies. Any requests for non-emergency visits by homeowners or premises staff will need to be agreed by service management
  • Continuously review the types of incidents attended by firefighters in line with the associated risk of infection

This came after the FBU called for services to cease all non-emergency interactions with the public where there is not an immediate or imminent safety imperative.

You can read our full joint statement with the NFCC and fire service employers here.

Your questions answered

Q. How will the fire and rescue service be expected to help manage the outbreak?

We are discussing the specific roles for the fire and rescue service during this crisis with governments, chief fire officers and employers. In other affected countries firefighters have been at the heart of providing support to communities and undertaking humanitarian services.

UK firefighters and control staff have previously undertaken vital work in exceptional circumstances, such as delivering lifesaving medicines to members of the public trapped in severe flooding.

The FBU is engaging with employers and political bodies to make sure that firefighters and control staff receive proper support during this period and that the work they are being asked to do is appropriate, proportionate and, above all, safe.



Q. Is health advice different for those in core emergency services?

Fire and rescue staff are key workers and will, in most cases, be expected to continue going to work.

However, firefighters and control staff should follow all other government health advice closely: 

  • You should stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work (fire and rescue work is essential)
  • If you have a fever or persistent cough should stay at home for seven days if they live alone or 14 days if they live with others.
  • If you who live with someone displaying coronavirus symptoms should also stay at home for 14 days. If you need to isolate yourself, you should ask others for help.
  • Stop non-essential contact and stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from others. This is particularly important for people over 70, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women.
  • Work from home if possible (we understand this will not be possible for many fire and rescue service personnel).
  • Avoid busy public places
  • Stop all unnecessary travel.
  • If you have a serious health condition, you may have to avoid social contact for 12 weeks. The government has published a full list of conditions here.

 

Q. Will I still be able to send my children to school?

The Department for Education in England has confirmed that firefighters, control, and support staff, as key workers, will be able to continue sending their children to school.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also confirmed that firefighters and control staff are classified as key workers and will be able to continue sending their children to school.

We are aware of a small number of cases of firefighters having their children turned away due to a shortage of places and staff at their local school. In England, the government advise you contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.

If you are unsure if you fall within the critical key worker category, you should confirm with your employer that your role is necessary for the continuation of an essential public service.

 

Q. I am (or my partner) is pregnant, what do we do?

Pregnant women were placed in a vulnerable group by the Chief Medical Officer on 16 March. This means they have been advised to reduce social contact through social distancing measures. All pregnant women who can work from home should do so.

FBU brigade officials have been asked to raise this issue with service managers. They should  reference the Public Health England (PHE) guidance for protecting vulnerable adults.

The guidance urges that pregnant women should particularly follow social distancing advice particularly stringently. Employers must support them in doing so.

We believe that this advice must also apply to members whose wife/partner is pregnant. We are urgently seeking confirmation that this is the case.

More detailed advice is available here from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.


Q. If I have a personal issue during the pandemic will I still get FBU support? 

We are putting in place systems to make sure that all of our members still get the service from the union that they need, no matter the circumstances.

If you need support or representation during the period make sure that you continue to contact your local officials – we still have your back.

We may have to put in place special measures, such as replacing face to face meetings with phone calls, but you will still receive the support you need. 

 

Q. What measures are the FBU taking to protect staff and how will this impact on service? 

We have put in place measures to protect the health and safety of our staff during the pandemic. As many staff members as possible will be working from home and there will be protective measures in place in FBU head office and regional offices.

We are making sure that FBU members still receive the service from their union that they need and deserve, taking substantial measures to ensure that membership services continue to run smoothly during this period.