Editor’s Note: The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has impacted the United States in a way very few have ever experienced. Navigating recommendations and guidance at the federal level, state level, and local level has been challenging at best. Across the country, schools have closed, public events have been canceled, and restaurants/bars are takeout only.
Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment focuses on the equipment and rigs we use for fire and emergency medical response. Below is a short list of resources for departments to use regarding the Corona Virus. The situation in the United States changes daily, but as always, the fire service adapts quickly. There is no hard and fast rule book for how fire department personnel should safeguard themselves from exposure to this virus. Each department will need to sort through the recommendations available and decide what fits its response plan best.
That said, it is important to highlight a few areas having to specifically with response and equipment.
Regarding PPE, the prevailing guidance covers treating patients vs. caring for firefighting PPE. According to the IAFC’s planning and response document, PPE for treating patients should include masks/respiratory protection, eye protection, and gloves/gowns.
Another important aspect of our response is decontamination after. Again, most of the guidance revolves around EMS response, but the IAFC also makes recommendations for fire apparatus.
For ambulances and equipment, the IAFC says, “After the patient has been transferred to a receiving facility, the ambulance crew should open the rear doors of the transport vehicle to allow an air exchange to facilitate the removal of infectious particles from the air. The CDC currently believes that the time spent transferring the patient and completing all patient care reports is sufficient to ventilate the ambulance.
“When cleaning the ambulance, EMS personnel should wear a disposable gown and gloves. A surgical mask or disposable face shield also is recommended if splashes of the cleaning agent are anticipated. Hospital-grade disinfectants are strong enough to kill the COVID-19 virusand should be used on any surface which may have come in contact with the patient or patient’s bodily fluids, regardless of whether the ambulance crew noticed contamination of the surfaces. Particular attention should be given to cleaning the following areas:
- Control panels and switches
- Work surfaces
For fire apparatus, the IAFC recommends, “When cleaning these apparatus, fire suppression crews should utilize an approved disinfectant to sanitize all touch surfaces in the apparatus.”
A list of approved disinfectants is available here: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.
Do not forget to include your station in any decontamination plan to address COVID-19. Not only should departments, according to IAFC guidance, increase the frequency of disinfecting during this pandemic, but they should also have a plan for if a potentially infected resident seeks treatment at the station. The IAFC recommends, “In addition to the cleaning of transport and nontransport apparatus, fire chiefs should consider increasing the frequency with which fire stations are cleaned. Appropriate disinfectants should be used to clean touch surfaces through the fire station as well as floors. Particularly close attention should be given to thoroughly cleaning all quarters, kitchens, gyms, bathrooms, and day rooms.”
—Chris Mc Loone, Editor
- IAFC’s Coronavirus Resources
- IAFC’s Fire Chief’s Guide for Coronavirus Planning and Response
- IAFF’s Coronavirus Resource
- Coronavirus: What Fire Chiefs Need to Know (From the IAFC)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) List of Disinfectants
- Interim CDC Guidance on Exposure Definitions and Quarantine of Healthcare Workers Exposed to Patients with COVID-19
- Tracker map created by ESRI, in concert with the World Health Organization, and John Hopkins University
- The NETEC (National Ebola Training and Education Center) has created a COVID-19 video on donning and doffing PPE
- The DHS National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) develops a daily monitoring list. Email CWMD.NBIC@hq.dhs.gov if you are interested in being added to their daily email distribution.
- DHS guide for maintaining operational capacity in a pandemic
- The CDC web page contains very helpful info on how to prepare