COVID-19: Firefighters should cease non-essential interactions with the public, union says

Interactions between firefighters and the public should temporarily be drastically scaled back to limit coronavirus contaminations, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

Non-emergency work such as fire safety visits and inspections, school visits, and public meetings, should be temporarily suspended to reduce the exposure of firefighters to COVID-19 and to protect at-risk individuals from potential contamination from firefighters.

A number of fire and rescue services have already taken measures to restrict interaction between firefighters and the public, despite little directive from central government.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“While the FBU fully supports public engagement and preventative work as essential to improve fire safety, these are exceptional circumstances.

“Any non-emergency work that involves interaction with the public must be ceased immediately, as some services have already done, for the protection of both firefighters and the potentially at-risk individuals they interact with.

“As a core emergency service, firefighters and control staff need to be protected from infection as far as possible. When an emergency does happen, we need to ensure that firefighters are healthy and available in good number to respond.”

The FBU is calling for services to cease all outside activities other than emergency response unless there is an immediate or imminent safety imperative.

The union supports actions by services including Northamptonshire to limit these activities and believes all services should immediately tightly control access to emergency fire control rooms and cease:

  • 7(2)d fire familiarisation inspections;
  • Community fire safety visits and inspections (including home safety visits)
  • Audits of fire safety risk assessments and arrangements;
  • Exercises;
  • School visits
  • Public meetings held on fire and rescue service premises;
  • Public access to fire stations

The announcement was made in a circular to the FBU’s more than 30,000 members, representing the vast majority of the UK’s firefighters and control room staff.

Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer