Firefighter

Firefighters agree to continue delivering coronavirus response until end of September

Firefighters have agreed to continue aiding the coronavirus response, warning that the virus threat “remains serious” despite the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has assured the public that “firefighters aren’t going to abandon their communities now”, as preparations for a second wave of COVID-19 infections commence.

An agreement reached on 26 March has allowed firefighters to drive ambulances, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable, and move the bodies of the deceased.

Since then, a number of further activities have been agreed, including assembling personal protective equipment (PPE) and training care home staff in infection, prevention and control.

The FBU, fire chiefs, and fire service employers have agreed to extend the work until 30 September, six months longer than planned, with the possibility for further renewal. The initial agreement was for two months but was extended in early June.

The extension was due to expire last week but, due to the continued threat, a further extension was agreed provided that coronavirus response work is properly risk assessed. The FBU had raised concerns that there was too much variation in the risk assessments being carried out by services.

National risk assessments for eleven areas of work have now been agreed, which fire and rescue services must implement locally. Risk statements have been provided for three activities deemed to be of lower risk, as a guide for brigades.

Last month, it was agreed that firefighters working in ambulances, mortuaries, hospitals, and care homes should be detached from their normal fire service location. The FBU, NFCC, and National Employers also recommended that services halt any coronavirus response work outside of the agreement until activities can be agreed at a national level.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“The government may be signalling that the pandemic is over – but for the emergency services on the ground, the threat from coronavirus remains serious.

“As lockdown restrictions ease, the risks of infections may increase – and firefighters aren’t going to abandon their communities now. As summer draws to a close in the coming weeks, preparations must be made for any potential second wave in the approach to winter.

“It’s vital that fire services do all that they can to prevent coronavirus outbreaks among personnel. To keep firefighters safe, we have agreed detailed risk assessments for each area of COVID-19 response work, which should help prevent mass-absences in fire and rescue services whilst also protecting the public.

“Come what may, firefighters are here to protect the public – and we’re here to make sure they do so safely.”

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