The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called for fire services to temporarily halt non-essential interactions with the public to limit coronavirus, or Covid-19, contaminations.
In a circular distributed to the union’s members, it called for a stop to “non-emergency work” – such as fire safety visits and public meetings – to protect at-risk people from infection.
A number of fire and rescue services have already taken measures to reduce the contact between personnel and the public in an effort to help contain the spread of the virus.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack 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 union says that all fire services should immediately control access to emergency fire control rooms, and has urged that they temporarily suspend a number of activities, including:
- 7(2)d fire familiarisation inspections;
- Community fire safety visits and inspections (including home safety visits);
- Audits of fire safety risk assessments and arrangements;
- School visits;
- Public meetings held on fire and rescue service premises;
- Public access to fire stations.
The government has previously said that emergency services, including fire and police, could be scaled back to only respond to major incidents if their staff are infected by the virus.
The emergency plans suggested by the government have also indicated that the army could be called in to help civilian services if they are struggling to cope with the epidemic.