Coronavirus: Firefighters agree to deliver food, medicine, drive ambulances and retrieve bodies - NIFRS ‘considering’ agreement

Firefighters’ representatives across the entire UK have agreed to deliver food and medicine, drive ambulances and retrieve bodies during the Covid-19 pandemic, if called upon.

The deal includes Northern Ireland, although the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said it was considering the agreement by three key stakeholders in light of its responsibilty to maintain core fire fighting abilities.  

Representing rank and file members across NI and GB, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it reached an between itself, the Fire Chiefs Council, and Fire and Rescue Employers. The deal would allow enable firefighters to;-

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:: 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

The NIFRS did not openly endorse the agreement but said it would reflect on it.

An NIFRS spokesman said: “NIFRS is considering this agreement in conjunction with the NI Executive, Department of Health and local Fire Brigades Union representatives. We will continue to explore how we can best support the safety and well-being of our community during these unprecedented times whilst ensuring that we maintain our own critical response capability and protect the safety and well-being of our people.”

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The FBU said 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.

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 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.

“Many fear the loss of life in this outbreak could be overwhelming– and firefighters, who often handle terrible situations and incidents, are ready to step in to assist with body retrieval.

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“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.”

The plan will see firefighters maintain core services such as attending fires and road traffic accidents, but also providing extra services as Coronavirus continues to spread. The plan will run for two months but can be extended if necessary and could affect the UK’s 48,000 firefighters and emergency control staff.

The news comes as the Metropolitan Police Service and London Ambulance Service urged former workers to return to the service or come out of retirement. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick is writing to all former officers who retired within the last five years to ask them to rejoin the force, either in a paid or voluntary capacity.