Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has suspended all community events and public access and meeting on any of its properties.
NIFRS youth engagement activities – including the Fire Cadet Programme and Prince’s Trust partnership delivery – have also been called off.
The moves are part of a package of measures by NI Fire and Rescue Service to help keep firefighters and the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
It is also to protect employees and maintain the ability to respond to emergency incidents.
The suite of protective measures includes suspending face-to-face fire prevention activities, such as school visits, community engagement sessions, engagement with older people and home fire safety checks.
NIFRS is keen to reassure the public that although it cannot deliver community safety programmes face-to-face that fire safety advice will still be available to everyone via specialist Prevention and Protection Teams in Portadown, Belfast, Ballymena, and Derry/Londonderry. By phoning 028 9266 4221 and providing your details you will be contacted by one of the teams to discuss your queries and circumstances and fire safety advice will then be provided to you over the telephone.
Other measures include amended delivery of the Risk Based Fire Safety Audit Programme, with audits only delivered on a prioritised high risk to life basis.
Off-station emergency training exercises and non-essential training has been suspended.
And there will be restricted access to NIFRS Regional Control Centre.
Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Alan Walmsley, NIFRS, said these were “unprecedented and challenging times” and the health and wellbeing of employees is of primary importance.
He added: “This is why we have taken these difficult decisions – to help protect our people and keep them safe. We all have a responsibility to ensure we are playing our part to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the most vulnerable in our community.
“We have regularly been updating our employees and sign posting them to the most up to date information as the situation evolves to help keep them safe.
“We are continuing to engage via the Civil Contingencies Group NI, Department of Health and Public Health Agency to monitor and respond to the situation. NIFRS COVID 19 Gold Command Group are meeting regularly and we have enacted these measures to also help ensure we can maintain a level of service delivery that is prioritised to fulfil our critical functions.
“I would like to reassure the community that we have contingency measures in place to help ensure that we can continue to respond to emergency incidents and support partner agencies as and when required.
“I am asking all our partner organisations, who we work with in protecting people at risk from fire in our community, to continue to make referrals to us through the existing partnership arrangements.
“This will help us identify people who need our help the most so we can deliver fire safety advice again to these individuals over the telephone. Fire safety information, which will be useful to everyone, but especially to those who may be self-isolating, is available on www.nifrs.org and on our social media platforms.
“As it is likely that over the next while people will be spending more time in their homes, we would like to reiterate the importance of fire safety in the home, and following the STOP Fire Message- S- have a Smoke alarm on every floor of your home; T- Test your smoke alarms weekly; O- be aware of the Obvious dangers in your home; and P- Plan your escape route, should a fire occur.
“Anyone who is concerned for their own or someone else’s home fire safety should contact NIFRS HQ on 028 9266