COVID-19 & Pandemic Response

The Main priorities for all SAR organisations are to minimise the risk of infection for all staff and volunteers and to continue to provide effective SAR and lifesaving services.

These priorities should underpin all COVID-19 response planning. 

The following checklist is provided to assist organisations in planning their response to the COVID-19 pandemic for all aspects of their SAR service.

This list is not exhaustive, but it suggests some of the things that organisations may wish to consider in their own planning. 

It may get added to over time, as the situation develops. 

It should always be read in conjunction with any national guidance on general prevention and control measures, such as quarantine recommendations, personal hygiene precautions (e.g. frequent washing of hands), the use of protective clothing (e.g. disposable gloves and masks) and reducing the amount of contact between individuals (e.g. no handshakes).

Non-Operational Activities (e.g. public visits, fundraising events, open days, conferences)

- Can they be cancelled or postponed?
- Who needs to know about the cancellation/postponement?

Access to Buildings and Lifeboat Stations, Including Travel to Incidents

- Can you stop non-essential visitors to the building (e.g. social calls, educational visits etc)?
- Do you need to close public access areas (e.g. a shop, visitors’ centre, or café)?
- Can you restrict access to only those engaged in essential operational activities?
- Does there need to be anyone physically present in the building?
- Can staff work from home?
- Can team meetings be conducted via online portals?
- Can working patterns be staggered for essential staff, to maintain social distance between individuals?
- Do you need to avoid or restrict travel between buildings/lifeboat stations?
- Are their local/national protocols in place for the authorisation of travel to and from incidents by essential personnel?


- What training is essential for continued safe operations?
- Can any training be postponed?
- Can any training (or specific elements of some training) be done online?
- If certain training is essential, who really needs to participate? Can safeguards be put in place to minimise direct contact between participants?
- Are operational training requirements being kept under review to take account of national guidance, in case training priorities change?

SAR Activities

- When answering an emergency call-out, should the number of personnel in a response teams/lifeboat crew be kept to the minimum required for safe, effective operation?
- Are local managers and coordinators clear about the safe manning levels for their own equipment? 
- Are communications protocols in place to ensure that local teams have access to the most up-to-date operational guidance and advice?
- Have instructions for the use and care of personal equipment been updated, in line with current national advice (e.g. for the cleaning instructions of helmets, microphones, etc.)?
- Are all personnel (paid staff and volunteers) clear about the notification and quarantine requirements for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or who have been in contact with someone who has (as advised in national guidelines)?
- Are protocols in place for checking with coastguard/ambulance service for any known risk of COVID-19 infection on-scene?
- Are all personnel clear about the need to take hygiene precautions during and following operation?
- Is there a protocol in place for the cleaning and decontamination/disinfecting of personnel/lifeboats/equipment after a SAR operation?

Medical Assistance

- What guidance and training has been given to crew on the provision of medical assistance (including CPR) to casualties who may be infected with COVID-19?
- In the case of Medevacs, are there any procedures that need to be revised, or special additional precautions that need to be put in place to minimise the risk of infection? 

Maintenance and Deliveries

- Is the maintenance task safety critical? Are only the minimum essential staff involved ie no trainees using it as a learning opportunity?
- Can contact between maintenance staff and crew be minimised?
- Do deliveries need to be restricted to essential items only (eg spare parts for boats or equipment)?
- What can be done to minimise the contact (and the risk of infection) between delivery staff and the staff at the receiving location?


- Is there a robust communications strategy in place, to ensure that:
o staff and volunteers are kept informed of changes in policies and operational guidelines?
o external stakeholders and partners are kept informed of the situation, particularly how any changes in procedures apply to them?
o Funders and sponsors are aware of continuing need for support?

IMRF COVID-19 Information Network

29 March 2020

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