The COVID-19 pandemic has generated significant collective stress among people all around the world. For firefighters and other first responders on the front lines, the stress is even more acute.
To better understand the state of stress among firefighters, we asked the FireRescue1 community “What is your biggest COVID-19-related concern?”
The results were fairly evenly divided among being infected (27%), lack of PPE (25%) and infecting others (25%). Others responded being quarantined/isolated (10%), inadequate staffing (8%) and time away from family (6%).
The FireRescue1 team is working hard to share news and develop content that will help alleviate some of these stressors – or at least help you cope.
Following are resources specific to each of the top COVID-19 concerns:
Stressor 1: Being infected
Company officer COVID-19 advice: Time, distance and shielding: Chris DelBello shares social distancing tips for company officers leading their crews through the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
How first responders can boost immunity during pandemic: Aaron Zamzow offers advice for keeping our immune systems functioning as efficiently as possible.
Stanford Medicine creates COVID-19 guide app for first responders: The First Responder COVID-19 Guide app, available for free on the Apple app store, provides up-to-date information about the pandemic from experts at the university, helping first responders determine if they should seek testing.
Stressor 2: Lack of PPE
11 unlikely sources of PPE donations: Rachel Engel explains that as the medical community adjusts to keep up with the pace of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals are receiving PPE donations from surprising places. Here are some options for where to find PPE.
What is the Defense Production Act, and could it help slow the PPE shortage? Rachel Engel shares how the Korean War-era law has been touted by several health officials, political leaders and historians as a way of getting needed supplies into the hands of medical workers.
CDC announces PPE usage calculator tool: The CDC has released a spreadsheet designed to assist healthcare and public safety agencies with planning and optimizing the use of personal protective equipment. Agencies can enter the number of full boxes of gowns, gloves, surgical masks, face shields and any other types of PPE the agency has into the PPE Burn Rate Calculator. The spreadsheet will then calculate the average consumption rate for each type of PPE.
Stressor 3: Infecting others
Prevent transmission between fire department and home: We ask several fire service leaders what measures they are following to ensure they don’t take COVID-19 home after their shifts or even bring COVID-19 to the station. Consider if these best practices could be implemented at your department in order to help minimize transmission of COVID-19 among your members and their families.
How can I protect my family from COVID-19? Emily Pearce shares a checklist for reducing the risk of transmitting exposure after returning from a shift.
Stressor 4: Being quarantined/isolated
What constitutes COVID-19 exposure and when to quarantine vs. isolate: Fire Chief Marc Bashoor helps sort through the maze of public health information overload and overlap so you understand if and when you need to quarantine or isolate.
Fire service leaders, let’s go to the movies: IAFC President Fire Chief Gary Ludwig shares eight great movies with important leadership lessons for the fire service that firefighters can watch if they are quarantined.
Locked-down lives: How to pass the time – and learn something: Lexipol’s own Mike Vatter also offered up several books and movies to help fire service personnel broaden their knowledge base and stay entertained during our “locked-down lives.”
Stressor 5: Inadequate staffing
COVID-19 staffing impacts: Fire Chief Jason Caughey explains how first responders can continue to serve by developing a plan for recalling retired members and asking for community volunteers.
The bigger ‘What if …?’: How to answer COVID-19 staffing questions: Linda Willing offers steps your department can take now to prevent disruption from sudden personnel or staffing changes.
Nobody’s here: How to stem the impending public safety staffing crisis: Bruce J. Moeller, PhD, shares two possible options, including work-from-home dispatchers and using data to drive staffing decisions.
Stressor 6: Time away from family
Caring for our own during COVID-19: How to support members and their families: Keith Padgett offers tips for not only supporting fire department members during this difficult time, but also prioritizing family support.
Stress management resources
With all these stressors, it’s also important to focus on mitigating the stress itself. Here are some useful resources for coping with the stress created by COVID-19.
First responders, stress management and coronavirus: In this webinar, resilience expert Mike Taigman addresses some of the most pressing stressors facing first responders and provides strategies to help manage stress during the long haul of this pandemic. Find additional stress management-focused resources here.
Protecting the mental health of first responders during a pandemic: Amy Morgan, MSC, CFRC(D), TECC-LEO, underscores why taking care of yourself is not an extracurricular activity, it’s a necessity so you can keep taking care of others, and also offers tips for how to manage your mental health during this difficult time.
Video: Evidence-based strategies for sleep health during pandemic: Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Emergency Medicine have published a video offering evidence-based strategies for better sleep health, aimed at helping first responders get more adequate sleep while working extra or extended shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19: From post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth: Dr. Sara Jahnke explains how first responders can use deliberate rumination to positively process their COVID-19 experiences.
One way to cope with stress is to focus on positive news – and there’s a lot of that happening as well, with countless individuals and organizations seeking out ways to help first responders. And first responders are seeking out ways to help other front-line personnel, like doctors and nurses.
Here’s some good news:
- A Florida firefighter hospitalized with COVID-19 shared a touching video of his fellow firefighters using a ladder truck to visit him through the window.
- With birthday parties canceled due to COVID-19, firefighters across the country have stepped up to help families celebrate.
- Former Canton Firefighter-Paramedic Rosario Carcione donated 30 48-ounce bottles of sanitizer to the department where he used to work.
- Many public safety companies are assisting front-line personnel in the pandemic response with new products, free services and donations.
- Firefighters from FDNY Engine 315 and Ladder 125 took meals to U.S. Air Force doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists working at NYC Health Queens to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Eleven Madison Park, a three Michelin-starred restaurant once dubbed “the world’s best restaurant,” has partnered with non-profit Rethink Food NYC to produce and deliver about 2,000 meals per day for first responders and healthcare workers.
Finally, reassurance and direction are helpful in times of uncertainty and unease. Here, several fire service leaders offer messages of support and advice to you, the firefighters on the front lines, about to manage and move through this unique situation.