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Firefighters step up to further assist COVID response

Fire and Rescue Service staff across the country will be providing even more support in the national fight against COVID.

The National Fire Chiefs Council has today released a range of updated risk assessments which will allow firefighters and other staff to continue work on COVID-related activities – while taking on more.

To support this, 10,000 lateral flow tests a week will be provided by the government to fire services, meaning up to 5,000 firefighters could soon be supporting the UK-wide vaccination programme now underway. 

These tests will help keep firefighters who are undertaking vital COVID work safer – and is in line with other emergency services testing procedures

Newly updated risk assessments include support to 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.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said: “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.

“It is in the DNA of a firefighter to assist where help is needed the most; 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.

“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.

Mr Wilsher pointed out since March the UK FRS has provided a wide-range of support to date. Latest figures show there have been more than 400,000 addition activities,

These include delivery of more than 125,000 essential items to vulnerable people; 7,370 NHS and clinical face masks fitted; assembled more than 68,000 singe use face masks; trained 273 people to drive ambulances; transferred 1,456 COVID patients to and from hospital and moved 3,196 bodies.

Phi Garrigan, national COVID lead and NFCC COVID Committee Chair, added: “Firefighters in many services are already supporting the vaccination effort and the lateral flow tests mean all fire services can support the vaccination programme is now a reality. This will provide much-needed support to our NHS colleagues who are facing unprecedented pressure as the impact of the new strain of COVID becomes a reality, we are ready to answer the call from NHS and local resilience partners.”

  • With almost 23,000 wholetime firefighters across England alone, there is a real opportunity for Fire and Rescue Services to play a key role in helping to deliver and administer vaccinations across the entire UK. 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 services remaining relatively low. This additional measure of regular lateral flow testing will help to ensure the health and safety of staff is monitored and that the testing in place mirrors that of the partner agency we are helping.