Firefighters agree to continue delivering Coronavirus response until end of September
28 July 2020
FIREFIGHTERS HAVE agreed to continue aiding the Coronavirus response, while at the same time warning that the virus threat “remains serious” despite the Government’s recent easing of lockdown restrictions.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has assured the public that “firefighters are not going to abandon their communities now” as preparations for a second wave of COVID-19 infections commence.
An agreement reached back on 26 March has since 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 and Rescue Service employers have now agreed to extend such work until 30 September, six months longer than planned, with the possibility for further renewal. The initial agreement was for two months, but then extended in early June.
The 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 Fire and Rescue 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 Fire 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, the National Fire Chiefs Council and National Employers also recommended that Fire and Rescue Services halt any Coronavirus response work outside of the agreement until activities can be agreed at a national level.
Matt Wrack, the FBU’s 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, but firefighters are not 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.”
Wrack continued: “It’s vital that Fire and Rescue Services do all that they can to prevent Coronavirus outbreaks among personnel. To keep firefighters safe, we’ve agreed detailed risk assessments for each area of COVID-19 response work, which should help prevent mass-absences in Fire and Rescue Services, while 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.”