FRSs agree ‘critical risk-based service’ during COVID-19 pandemic
THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) reported that firefighters would aim to protect the vulnerable in society by avoiding hospitals and care homes, as part of an agreed ‘critical risk-based service’.
In the announcement, the FBU revealed that fire and rescue services (FRSs) will ‘cease’ most of their home fire safety checks as well as avoid hospitals, care homes and residences of vulnerable people, to ‘limit coronavirus cross-infection between firefighters and the public’. This move was agreed between the FBU and FRS bosses, with firefighters and control staff to provide the ‘critical risk-based service’ to ensure residents ‘remain protected’ for the duration of the UK outbreak.
The announcement also added that any requests from either central or devolved governments for additional support ‘will be considered by all sides’, with the FBU, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the National Joint Council (NJC) coming together to make this decision. The three groups first agreed to ‘minimise protection activity’, such as the aforementioned home safety checks, ‘except for where deemed necessary by a risk assessment’.
In turn, they agreed that FRSs should ‘avid visiting hospitals, care and nursing homes or any other premises where vulnerable people reside’, except for in the case of a fire or other emergency, with ‘any request for non-emergency visits by homeowners or premises staff’ needing to be agreed by service management. Finally, the groups will ‘continuously review’ the types of incidents firefighters attend ‘in line with the associated risk of infection’.
The FBU had called last week for firefighters to ‘cease all non-emergency interactions with the public’, including both fire safety visits and inspections, school visits and public meetings, as well as calling for ‘tightened restrictions on access to control rooms’, which many FRSs ‘already have complied with’. It has also called for priority testing for coronavirus for FRS staff, after a number of FRSs ‘reported losing hundreds of personnel to self-isolation’.
These included ‘at least’ 280 London Fire Brigade personnel, or 5% of its staff; 105 West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service personnel, or 5.5.% of all staff; and 285 Scottish Fire and Rescue Service staff. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack commented: ‘In this ever-accelerating crisis, it’s vital for public safety that [FRSs] continue to keep people safe. To do that, our crews must be kept safe too. We can’t help people if we are infected.
‘Some services are already losing hundreds of staff to coronavirus so we must do everything we can to further minimise the risk of cross-infection between firefighters and the public. This will help protect vulnerable members of the public and ensure that we have enough healthy firefighters to respond to emergencies during this crisis.
‘We’re glad that employers have heard our concerns about limiting non-essential contact between members of the public and firefighters. We’ll continue to work with all parties to ensure firefighters can safely help their communities through this emergency.’