Could Covid-19 wipe out the entire Retained Fire Service?

The Coronavirus Covid-19…. What does it mean for the fire service? How serious is it for the fire service? What impacts could it have on the fire service, with particular focus on the retained system?

Alas, we have now come into contact with a virus that is detrimental to all. Children are not considered high risk, but more so carriers. The elder generation have been labelled with higher risk or chance of fatality. Those with any underlying illnesses are also put into this category of morbid speak. Yes, these are vicious words but understanding the sheer power of this virus is a must.

The Fire Service on the other hand are not given any immunity from such a virus. We must take extra precautions and protect ourselves even further than most. At any time, we can get a call and we could be turning out to an RTC, Ambulance requiring assistance, Chimney Fires, Cardiac Arrests etc, so we too are exposing ourselves to the Covid-19 outbreak. But what happens if a firefighter catches the virus, either on or off the job? And here we open the can of worms….

Let’s say, firefighter X picks up the virus on a Monday, unbeknownst to them. A call comes on the Tuesday and all crew attend, job done, back at the station and back home. Suddenly on Wednesday, Firefighter X gets symptoms of Coronavirus Covid-19, what does this mean for the station? This firefighter has been in contact with not only the patient/ area on the Tuesday call, but with the Fire Truck on the way back, the crew in close proximity, the station, and worst of all, their family. So now all in contact are at risk of having to go into Self Isolation. What does this mean for that station?

The station ultimately goes off the run/ full closure with no back up crew. Yes, a nearby or neighbouring station could take up the slack somewhat but this may not always be the case. Imagine the call mentioned on the Tuesday was a 2-station turnout, and 1 person from each crew got the virus? The above steps occur, only this time in 2 stations, wiping out fire cover for that area plus the next closest station.

We understand from a full-time perspective, they can keep alternating crews, and if a member of the service goes down with the virus, there is always a replacement somewhere following decontamination. That service is never off the run. The retained however have a huge risk of easily reducing fire cover for their areas.

We appreciate that precautions have been put in place across the country for all different aspects. There is really nothing we can do but try. All firefighters are expected to work with their senior staff to the best of their abilities. Keep yourselves decontaminated at all times. Utilise any hand washes you can, coming into the station, on the truck, leaving the station etc. Double glove your hands when dealing with a medical call. Keep in line with the directions the HSE have informed us about. All we can do is keep ourselves safe, keep our families safe, and by doing the above, we should hopefully be able to keep the retained service at full capacity for that of our communities.

We are not ready for this virus. We are not equipped nor trained for this virus. It is basically a “winging” exercise every call that is attended by fire crews and hoping that no-one picks up this virus.

If you are not in the service but have the need to call the fire service, please help them by taking precautionary measures ahead of their arrival. If you have fears of the virus being present, say it on the initial phone call, or at least leave a message at the door/ let us know before we are exposed to this deadly threat.

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