Resources for Firefighters Managing COVID-19 from the Frontlines
COVID-19 has brought new challenges and many questions for those of us in the fire service. In the wake of a pandemic, firefighter tools and responsibilities have evolved, and demands are high. Recognizing these new pressures, private businesses, government agencies, and fire leaders are stepping in to offer firefighters the support that they need to succeed and be safe.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways these groups are helping mitigate the load COVID-19 places on frontline workers and how our own fire departments can take advantage of these efforts.
The majority of the fire service across the U.S. relies on local, state, and federal government funds in some way to provide everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) to firefighter training.
With COVID-19’s economic impact, our community faces the potential of budgetary shortages which could result in training and equipment cutbacks and even job cuts. Fortunately, many government leaders have proposed plans to mitigate these effects and provide additional support for the fire community and our families.
For example, in the state of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the families of frontline workers will be entitled to government-backed death benefits if their loved one is killed by COVID-19 while in the line of duty. Under his plan, that money would come from local and state pension funds.
At the federal level, many different proposals offering support to firefighters have been made including the HEROES Act. The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion legislation aimed at COVID-19 relief. There are many benefits for firefighters included in the bill:
- $200 billion for hazard pay
- $500 billion for state governments and $375 billion for local governments to supplement public safety budgets
- Extensions of available sick and emergency leave for first responders
- Guarantees that officers who die or suffer disability as a result of COVID-19 are eligible for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit program
- A $500 personal income tax deduction for firefighters to write off money spent on uniforms and continuing education
Support from Businesses
In addition to efforts from government entities, public and private businesses have also stepped up to support firefighters on the frontlines of the pandemic. These steps include product launches of new technology and equipment, monetary and in-kind contributions, discounts on essential products and services, and firefighter online training to help personnel safely meet continuing education requirements.
Efforts from the International Association of Fire Chiefs
The International Association of Fire Chiefs has also taken steps to support community members by starting both an economic and coronavirus task force.
The economic task force has two main goals:
- Helping fire and EMS chiefs access available government funding given in response to the pandemic
- Helping fire and EMS chiefs prepare a plan for the inevitable economic impacts of COVID-19 on their communities
The economic task force will work alongside the coronavirus task force, which works to inform fire departments on best practices for protecting firefighters while continuing to serve and respond to emergencies.
As we unite with the efforts of others managing COVID-19 on the frontlines, we can ensure that we can perform critical firefighting duties while keeping our team members safe. We can also ensure protection for our family members and security to navigate the challenges of the future.
- COVID-19: How public safety companies are assisting the frontline pandemic response. FireRescue1. Jun 19, 2020. https://www.firerescue1.com/coronavirus-covid-19/articles/covid-19-how-public-safety-companies-are-assisting-the-frontline-pandemic-response-gDkzd6bgd2hdfQU7/.
- Fay B. Details on the HEROES Act. Debt.org. Jun 1, 2020. https://www.debt.org/2020/06/01/heroes-act/.
- Foskett J. IAFC launches coronavirus task force. FireRescue1. Mar 13, 2020. https://www.firerescue1.com/coronavirus-covid-19/articles/iafc-launches-coronavirus-task-force-dkPOEj2F2nvBb4JG/.
- Foskett J. Q&A: How fire and EMS leaders can face the economic impacts of the global pandemic. FireRescue1. Apr 8, 2020. https://www.firerescue1.com/leadership/articles/qa-how-fire-and-ems-leaders-can-face-the-economic-impacts-of-the-global-pandemic-h7v2hnXfwvToXO0B/.
- Slattery D. NY governor promises death benefits for frontline workers. FireRescue1. May 26, 2020. https://www.firerescue1.com/coronavirus-covid-19/articles/ny-governor-promises-death-benefits-for-frontline-workers-TlDcd2sjFNhxHTmn/.