Coronavirus: Firefighters could deliver food and retrieve bodies as crisis unfolds
- Credit: Archant
Firefighters could be called upon to deliver food and medicines if the coronavirus crisis deepens - as well as retrieve bodies should there be mass casualties.
Crews more used to driving fire engines and tackling blazes could also be deputised to drive ambulances, should so many NHS staff be off work due to the pandemic.
The move has come in what has been described as an “unprecedented agreement” between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and chiefs of the country’s fire and rescue services.
It has been welcomed by Suffolk chief fire officer Mark Hardingham, who said: “Many of our staff are already supporting the wider effort to help vulnerable people in communities.
“This joint agreement is excellent news and will support Suffolk’s firefighters as they step forward to help colleagues in other services, as we fight the coronavirus.
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“We are always ready to respond when needed, whether that is in continuing to respond to all 999 calls in the coming weeks, or helping in other ways.
“I’m extremely proud of the extraordinary efforts of our firefighters and non-operational staff at this challenging time.
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“They are working hard so we can continue to look after our residents. You can support them by staying at home and regularly testing your smoke alarms.”
Firefighters will continue to respond to core emergencies, such as fires and road traffic collisions.
However under the agreement, they can now provide additional services specifically related to COVID-19 - although it states that core responsibilities must be maintained throughout the crisis.
Crews taking on additional duties will be given any necessary additional training and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
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.
“To get through this, we must find ways to work together with other emergency services.
“Firefighters are fantastic at teamwork, are experienced in driving emergency vehicles and, as a service rooted in the community, may be best placed to deliver essential items to the most vulnerable.
“Firefighters and control staff have always stepped in when the public has been in danger and this crisis is no different.
“The strain on all emergency services will be great, but we can and will get through it together.”