My main support through the whole situation this year has been people who are in the same boat as me
Firefighter for London Fire Brigade London Fire
As part of the Our Frontline campaign to support the mental health of all those out working to protect us during the coronavirus crisis, we’ll be regularly sharing stories, tips and other thoughts about what life is like for them at the moment, in their own words.
Nikki is a firefighter in London. Here, she shares her experience of managing the risks of the coronavirus and managing her mental health while still carrying out her vital work.
I am a firefighter for London Fire Brigade at Chelsea Fire Station, which is one of the busiest fire stations in London. Like all our firefighters, I drive the fire engines too. I am also qualified to work in our Fire Rescue Units, which means I attend more complex or larger incidents when they arise.
My role is really dynamic; firefighters have to deal with whatever incident comes through! We don’t just put fires out. A lot of the work we do is focused on fire prevention. We go out into our station ground, the neighbourhood around the fire station, to familiarise ourselves with different buildings and places so that we can do our job better if we are called to an incident involving them. We also foster good relationships with vulnerable people locally. One of the biggest changes we have faced amid theis the restrictions it placed on us carrying out our usual visits and taking care of our community as we want to.
The incidents themselves changed too. We have become very aware of minimising Covid-19 infection risk when entering people’s homes to carry out home fire safety visits and other community or fire prevention work. If we’re there responding to an incident, our own procedures are paramount, but we now make sure we protect ourselves and the public as much as possible by wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
I hated the idea that I might take the virus to vulnerable people
My biggest worry, especially in the beginning of the first lockdown, concerned the spread of the virus. I’m young(ish!) and healthy so I wasn’t so worried about myself, but knowing that you can carry it without any symptoms and potentially pass it on to vulnerable people was a horrible thought. A lot of the incidents we attend from Chelsea involve vulnerable adults. I hated the idea that I might take the virus to them, so we were and are all taking extra care. I live on my own so don’t have to worry about taking the virus home to anyone, although as an active and busy person, lockdown had a negative impact on my mental health just as many people have experienced. So I was very happy to be able to go to work and feel like I was contributing in some way to society.
My main support through the whole situation this year has been people who are in the same boat as me. My colleagues at Chelsea and also in the Antarctic Fire Angels (a five-strong team of female firefighters preparing to ski Antarctica coast-to-coast in 2023, raising money for charity) are all going through mostly the same experiences. Personal lives differ, but during lockdown the only thing people have really been doing is working, and we all had that in common! When you go through something as a firefighter and you talk about it afterwards to somebody outside of the job, you have to spend quite a lot of time and effort getting your story across – as they might not know how things work. However, when you talk to a fellow firefighter about it, they’ll just get it as chances are, they’ve experienced something similar, which is also good to hear about.
Read more stories from workers on the frontline during the pandemic.