Firefighters warn of additional pressures

ANTRIM householders have been warned that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic will lead to significant pressures on the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, including a reduction in the number of frontline firefighters available for emergency response.

Last week local firefighters joined in with the ‘Clap for Our Carers’ initiative, which saw communities all over the UK launch a simultaneous round of applause for those fighting the virus on the frontline.

The situation is changing how fire and rescue services are being provided during this time.

NIFRS has called on everyone in the community to follow government guidance to stay at home, and to be especially aware of fire safety in the home during these difficult days to minimise the expected pressures on the emergency services.

NIFRS has robust plans which will come into place in the coming weeks to help mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on Firefighter availability.

However, the organisation has made it clear it also will need the support of the local community to help ensure an emergency response can still be provided to those who need it most.

Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Alan Walmsley, NIFRS, said: “We are working hard to put measures in place to keep the community safe and to protect the core functionality of our “999” response model whilst protecting the safety and well-being of our people.

“To allow us to respond to this unprecedented situation we will need to continually review and adapt our response model to ensure we can deliver the most effective service with the resources and people we have available. Our operational footprint across Northern Ireland is beginning to change to help us deal with operational demand as effectively as possible at this time.

“We fully support the Northern Ireland Executive’s advice to stay at home in order to fight this virus, and we want to make sure people are keeping themselves safe from fire while they’re at home.

“I am appealing to the public to help us to help you.

“You can do this by making sure your home and homes of your loved ones are safe from fire at this difficult time- make sure there is a smoke alarm on every floor of the home; test the alarms weekly to make sure they’re working; be aware of obvious dangers that might cause a fire, such as candles, cooking and electronics; and have an escape route planned.

“No-one should ever lose their life in house fire, never mind at this time. Anyone who is concerned for their own or someone else’s home fire safety and would like advice, can contact NIFRS HQ on 02892664221.

“Our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and NHS are working exceptionally hard at this time, and I would ask that you help them by following the Public Health Agency advice and advice on NI Direct website to stay at home; wash your hands well and often; and if you do have to go out, keep your distance from others.

“By working together we can get through this- Support us, Save Lives, Fight Back.”

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