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Firefighters preparing in detail to further assist COVID-19 response

15 January 2021

FIRE AND Rescue Service staff right across the nation will be providing even more support in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, with the National Fire Chiefs Council releasing a range of updated risk assessments which will allow firefighters and other staff to continue their vital work on COVID-related activities.

In support of this effort, no fewer than 10,000 lateral flow tests per week will be provided by the Government to Fire and Rescue Services, in turn meaning that up to 5,000 firefighters could soon be supporting the UK-wide Coronavirus vaccination programme now underway.

These tests will help to keep those firefighters undertaking vital COVID-related tasks that much safer. In point of fact, they’re in line with other Emergency Services testing procedures.

Newly-updated risk assessments include support for the ambulance service (including driving ambulances), community vaccination work, delivering PPE, transferring COVID patients, providing training on infection, protection and control, non-blue light driver training and the movement of bodies when people sadly pass away due to the impact of the pandemic.

National Fire Chiefs Council chair Roy Wilsher explained: “Fire and Rescue Services across the country stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the NHS, nurses, paramedics and care workers in the fight against COVID-19. Firefighters have extensive First Aid, trauma care qualifications and experience and want to play their part. Indeed, it’s in the DNA of any firefighter to assist where help is needed the most.”

Adding to that last point, Wilsher continued: “I know staff will not sit behind the red doors of their fire station when their help is needed in the communities they so ably serve. They will not wait for the pandemic to pass them by. They are ready, willing and able to continue to be at the heart of the response.”

He concluded: “The safety of firefighters is vitally important to every chief fire officer. These risk assessments clearly set out how we will keep our people safe while carrying out this work.”

Wide range of support

Wilsher has also pointed out that, since March last year, the UK’s Fire and Rescue Service has provided a wide range of support. Indeed, the latest figures show that there have been more than 400,000 additional activities conducted. These include the delivery of more than 125,000 essential items to vulnerable people, the fitting of 7,370 NHS and clinical face masks, the assembly of more than 68,000 single-use face masks, the training of 273 people to drive ambulances, the transfer of 1,456 COVID patients to and from hospital and the movement of 3,196 bodies.

Phil Garrigan, national COVID lead and chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s COVID Committee, added: “Firefighters in many Fire and Rescue Services are already supporting the vaccination effort. The lateral flow tests mean that all Fire and Rescue Services being able to actively support the vaccination programme is now a reality. This will provide much-needed support for our NHS colleagues who are facing unprecedented pressure as the impact of the new strain of COVID begins to reveal itself. We’re ready to answer the call from the NHS and local resilience partners.”

With almost 23,000 whole-time firefighters across England alone, there’s a real opportunity for Fire and Rescue Services to play a key role in helping to deliver and administer vaccinations across the entirety of the UK. Further, there are an additional 12,498 on-call firefighters ready, willing and able to help.

Independent data shows that the infection prevention and control measures already in place for firefighters are robust, with sickness figures across Fire and Rescue Services remaining relatively low. This additional measure of regular lateral flow testing will help to ensure that the Health and Safety of staff is monitored at all times.