• New agreement between Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and fire service employers offers to help with the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines
  • Firefighters now able to assist with track and trace and to check that high-risk premises are Covid-secure.

Firefighters are ready to assist the UK’s rollout of Covid-19 vaccines after an agreement was reached between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the fire and rescue service National Employers.

The agreement allows firefighters to assist other public sector organisations with track, trace, and isolate measures, and to check that potential higher risk premises are Covid-secure.

Firefighters will inspect workplaces where relevant authorities have raised concerns about Covid-security, notably identified in Leicester garment factories. The FBU is encouraging anyone concerned about workplace Covid-security to raise it with their local council in the first instance.

The FBU and National Employers said fire and rescue services are open to assisting with the vaccine rollout if requested by Local Resilience Forums.

Firefighters will have to wait three days and receive a negative Covid-19 test before returning to fire and rescue service premises when returning from pandemic duties.

Firefighters’ work responding to the pandemic was previously permitted under a tripartite agreement involving the National Fire Chiefs Council, but the FBU and National Employers said in a joint circular the temporary agreement had become “much longer term than originally envisaged”.

The work will now come under the jurisdiction of the National Joint Council, where the FBU and National Employers negotiate pay and conditions, the normal body for national industrial agreements in the fire and rescue service. All fourteen previously agreed activities are covered in the new agreement.

From March to October, firefighter volunteers helped the pandemic response delivering more than 111,000 essential items to vulnerable people, assisting paramedics and driving ambulances at more than 87,000 incidents, and delivering 25,000 units of PPE. 68,000 single-use face masks have been assembled and 32,000 food parcels packaged.

They have also assisted with 1,500 Covid-19 tests, delivered more than 1,000 infection, prevention and control training sessions, and moved more than 2,000 bodies of the deceased

The latest agreement is initially in place until January, to ensure that brigades comply with all safety measures with a view to extension beyond that.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“This year has been an extraordinary one for the fire and rescue service, with firefighters stepping up and doing more to tackle the pandemic than could previously have been imagined.

“We finally have a Covid-19 vaccine and, having already helped so many in their communities through this pandemic, firefighters will want to do their bit to help roll out mass vaccination.

“We are still in the midst of the second wave of this pandemic and cannot be complacent about the serious risks posed by coronavirus. That’s why we are expanding this crucial work, offering to assist with track and trace and to check that higher-risk premises are Covid-secure.

“It remains as crucial as ever to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks in fire and rescue services– and that means taking proper precautionary measures, including testing and isolation, to make sure firefighters don’t get sick when protecting the public.”