Category Archives: FBU

Fire Brigades Union

Fire and rescue service personnel must receive priority testing and vaccination for coronavirus, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said after some brigades reported losing hundreds of staff to self-isolation.

In a letter to ministers in Westminster and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the FBU has said that without testing, firefighters and control staff could be self-isolating unnecessarily, when they could be on hand to protect the public.

The union also says that testing could help reduce the risk of frontline staff transmitting the infection to vulnerable members of the public.

London Fire Brigade has at least 280 personnel in isolation, 5% of its overall staff; West Midlands Fire Service, which covers Birmingham, has 105 staff in self-isolation, 5.5%; Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has 285 staff in isolation, 3.75%; Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has 61 staff in isolation or 4%.

Fire and rescue services across the UK are operating with 11,500 fewer firefighters than in 2010, and, unless services are able to test their employees, they could face dangerous shortages.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“In this time of national crisis, every emergency service worker has an important role to play. The NHS is an obvious priority, but any testing regime needs to address all key public services.

“Without proper testing, the number of fire and rescue personnel available could drop to dangerously low levels. Fires and other non-virus related emergency incidents won’t wait for this crisis to subside and ministers need to consider that carefully.

“It is vital for public safety that firefighters and control staff, like their colleagues in the NHS, receive priority testing and, once available, vaccination.

“We’re pushing for measures to limit our members’ exposure to the virus, but some interaction with the public cannot be avoided and ministers need to manage that risk.”

While the FBU has called for firefighters to cease all non-essential, non-emergency interactions with the public, they will continue to come into contact in emergency situations, placing them at greater risk of infection.

Emergency fire control staff handle 999 calls and provide vital fire survival guidance for areas of up to 5 million people from a single room. Should one member of staff contract the virus, the emergency call infrastructure for an entire region could be at risk.

Media contact

Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

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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

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Responding to the 2020 UK government Budget, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has criticised the Chancellor for failing to recognise the role of firefighters in responding to flooding, for failing to provide building safety funding for buildings under 18m and for promising “pittance” to fund firefighters’ crucial fire safety work.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“This budget once again fails to end a decade of pay restraint for firefighters and the chronic underfunding of the fire and rescue service.

“The government has finally recognised that they did not provide sufficient funding to keep people safe after Grenfell and that the building safety crisis goes further than just the same flammable cladding that burned that night. But these measures do not go far enough. They are still ignoring those at risk in buildings under 18m, such as the Bolton Cube. This is not good enough and won’t keep people safe.

“After the devastating floods, firefighters pleaded with the government to provide the dramatic funding increase they need to keep people and communities safe, but once again, these pleas fell on deaf ears. When flooding or wildfires inevitably hit again with more intensity, the Chancellor will have to live with knowing that he failed to properly resource the response. He should be ashamed.

“A decade of drastic funding cuts and unfair pay restraint has resulted in the loss of a fifth of our firefighters and a quarter of our fire safety officers – it’s about time that the government recognised and reversed the damage they have done. But, frankly, the £20 million promised to fund fire safety is a pittance compared to the £141.5 million cut since 2013 in England – and it’s utterly insufficient.”

Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

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