Following an unprecedented agreement between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), fire chiefs and Fire and Rescue Employers, UK firefighters will be able to deliver food and medicines, drive ambulances and retrieve dead bodies during the coronavirus outbreak.
For the first time, all three stakeholder groups have agreed to a joint national approach to the crisis. The fire service organisations say that the measures in the agreement reflect the scale of the national crisis and the urgency of the response required.
Under the agreement, firefighters will be able to:
- Deliver essential items like food and medicines to vulnerable people
- Drive ambulances and assist ambulance staff
- Retrieve dead bodies, should the outbreak cause mass casualties
Firefighters will continue responding to core emergencies, such as fires and road traffic collisions, but under the agreement can now provide additional services specifically related to COVID19. The agreement states that core responsibilities must be maintained throughout the crisis.
The organisations will meet weekly to discuss any additional requests for assistance made by Local Resilience Forums and Strategic Coordination Groups. Any activities considered will be risk assessed with fire and rescue personnel being given any necessary additional training and the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
The additional work taken on by firefighters will be temporary to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially in place for two months, the agreement can be extended or shortened if agreed between all parties.
The agreement between National Employers, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the FBU follows measures to limit cross-infection between firefighters and the public, agreed earlier this week.
There are around 48,000 firefighters and emergency control staff in the UK.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We face a public health crisis unparalleled in our lifetimes. The coronavirus outbreak is now a humanitarian emergency and firefighters rightly want to help their communities.”