I thought I’d pass along a few thoughts about how the outbreak is affecting the men and women of the Marin Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 1775, who are doing everything they can to help the communities during this crisis.
We have 417 members who respond from 35 fire stations protecting the residents, workers, and visitors in Marin. They are split up into three shifts (A-B-C) and work around the clock 24/7/365. Calls for service are increasing and both the public and the responders are feeling the pressure of dealing with the Covid-19 virus and the Shelter in Place orders.
The exposures our members receive are many times that of the average person; they have to stay in common work and living spaces (fire stations), and they respond to where ever people need help, including places where people are already known to be sick. They’ll ride in the back of small ambulances providing care to critical patients while others are practicing ‘social distancing’.
So far we have had 23 of our members quarantined for various lengths of time, some of whom have returned to work while others are still off. They can’t always go home if quarantined; they have significant others who are pregnant, elderly relatives, and family members with complex medical conditions. The limited number of test kits are making it difficult for our folks to feel secure in going home once exposed and delaying the ability for us to get them back to work.
The shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) mean they are being asked to recycle gear that was made for one time use. There are now some agencies asking that they keep running the calls but with gear that offers a lesser level of protection than should be required.
Their families are feeling the crunch as well; their children’s schools are closed, their spouses businesses have told them to work from home, and they need to shop at the empty stores like everyone else.
Like all emergencies, we know we’ll get through it. The fire service is nothing if not resilient and adaptable, but our concerns are for the long term effects that this crisis will have on the health, wellness and careers of our dedicated members.
Marin Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 1775