Sad tasks and vital help - the 14 extra duties given to firefighters during pandemic
Delivering food parcels, transporting PPE and even supporting mortuaries are among the new roles firefighters have taken on during the coronavirus pandemic.
Crews in Tyne and Wear were handed a host of extra responsibilities as many services found themselves struggling to cope at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The ‘expanded roles’ scheme covered 14 different tasks, following a deal between union bosses and fire chiefs.
“The national agreement which covers this runs until the end of August, subject to some joint reviews of the risk assessments,” said John Rawling, HR director at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), who added he expected the scheme to continue for the ‘foreseeable future’.
“TWFRS has not been required to undertake all functions in that list but have undertaken the ones commissioned by the local resilience forum (LRF).
“The work continues now and that includes assisting local mortuaries, delivering food parcels to shielding households and the storage and delivery of PPE to different health and social care providers.”
Rawling was speaking at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority’s Human Resources Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
Across the country, responses to the virus outbreak have been coordinated by LRFs made up of representatives from local authorities, the NHS, police, fire chiefs and others.
Other roles suggested by the scheme include driving ambulances, which was raised as a possibility by Stuart Errington, Chief Fire Officer the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, early in the pandemic.
Although the current arrangement is due to end next month (August), bosses expect it could also be revived if needed in the event of a second spike in the infection rate.
Rawling added: “I’ve no reason to believe there is not an intention to continue further extending these temporary agreements while the current situation continues.
“I know different aspects of the long list have been used in different parts of the country by different fire and rescue services.
“The whole list has been used across the country as a whole, but I don’t have an inside track on how long the next extension is likely to be.”
Possible ‘expanded roles’ for firefighters under the agreement include:
:: Driving ambulances
:: Delivery of ‘essential items’ to vulnerable households, as well as packaging of supplies
:: Delivery of PPE to NHS and other care facilities
:: Transport of COVID-19 tests and samples
:: Patient transport
:: Training, including on driving and infection prevention
:: PPE assembly
:: Movement of bodies