Firefighters agree to deliver food and drive ambulances as coronavirus pressures increase
PUBLISHED: 14:58 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:58 27 March 2020
The county’s fire and ambulance services are in talks after a national decision which could see firefighters deliver food, drive ambulances and retrieve bodies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under a new nationwide crisis agreement, firefighters will be able to deliver essential items such as food to vulnerable people, assist ambulance staff and collect bodies in the event of mass casualties.
The plan, agreed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), fire chiefs and employers, will see firefighters maintain core services such as attending fires and road traffic accidents, but also provide extra services as coronavirus continues to spread.
The chief fire officer of Norfolk’s Fire and Rescue Service has said he and his team are already in discussions with the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) to identify ways firefighters can support their emergency service colleagues.
Stuart Ruff, Norfolk’s chief fire officer, said: “We’re now working with EEAST to understand what they need and how we can best support them while maintaining our own operational capabilities and ensuring the health and wellbeing of our own employees.
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“One of those areas may be utilising the skills of our staff to assist in driving ambulances, but I must stress that no decisions have been taken locally at this stage.
“As a service, we are committed to doing everything we can to support the national and local response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “This is a really positive approach in the current challenging situation we face.
“I am very grateful to our fire and rescue service staff for doing everything they can, and more, to protect Norfolk’s residents and communities.”
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, 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.
“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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