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Firefighters in West Midlands region begin moving Coronavirus bodies

21 April 2020

FIREFIGHTERS IN the West Midlands have begun moving the bodies of those who've died of Coronavirus from hospitals, care homes and private properties as the region feels the pressure of the pandemic.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the West Midlands has secured training and Health and Safety arrangements for firefighters undertaking the work after a national agreement was reached between the FBU, fire chiefs and service employers.

The Body Movement Team is comprised of firefighters from the West Midlands Fire Service who have the experience and training necessary to move bodies from their work in multi-agency response teams, chemical teams and urban search and rescue teams. All will have volunteered to carry out this work.

All personnel will have appropriate training and personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face mask with a re-usable respirator designed for CBRN response.

They are working 12-hour day and night shifts moving and handling bodies and placing the deceased into body bags. The agreement also allows firefighters to drive body movement vehicles if needed in the future.

The team has undergone pre-operation psychological readiness training covering emotional resilience, welfare, compassion fatigue and burnout. There will be 24/7 support available from the West Midlands Fire Service.

Latest ONS figures

The news comes after Office for National Statistics figures revealed that almost one-in-four deaths in the West Midlands were attributed to Coronavirus in the week ending 3 April (529 out of a total of 1,812).

Andrew Scattergood, the FBU's West Midlands regional secretary, said: “We hoped that it would never come to this, but there are now a considerable number of casualties in the West Midlands and firefighters are ready to step up and assist with the movement of bodies. Our members are proud to provide a humanitarian service. They're best placed to assist with this harrowing aspect of the crisis.”

Scattergood continued: “All of the Emergency Services are pulling together in this difficult period to help our communities through this outbreak. It’s deeply unpleasant work, but it is, unfortunately, necessary at this time.”

Steve Price-Hunt, the FBU West Midlands brigade secretary, added: “Firefighters join their Fire and Rescue Service to save lives and, for most, body recovery is a rare task. These teams will likely see more bodies far more frequently than they are used to and do so under far more hazardous circumstances. We know full well this task will be difficult, but the FBU has worked hard to make sure that firefighters have the proper training and support necessary to carry out this work safely.”