Dear Minnesota Fire Service Leaders –
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly impact our communities, our state, and our country. According to public health officials, we are experiencing widespread community transmission of COVID-19. Generally speaking, risk is not specifically isolated to particular events, locations, or groups, but is distributed more broadly. The daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to grow exponentially. Hospitals are either at or near capacity in many areas.
We have been made aware that COVID-19 is beginning to impact fire departments across the state. Several departments are experiencing wide-spread COVID-19 impacts among staff (volunteer, on-call, and career alike), either as the result of confirmed cases or those requiring quarantine.
Communities rely on their local fire department to provide an essential public service. In many areas this includes providing lifesaving first response medical care. As leaders, it is imperative that we work to protect our workforce to help ensure that we can continue providing this core service. We strongly encourage fire departments review current operations and, if needed, implement additional procedures to provide for the safety of your staff and to ensure continuity of operations during the pandemic. This includes:
- Ensuring adherence to federal and state guidelines and recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, masks, facility/apparatus cleaning, and health screenings. Ensure that your policies, procedures, and guidelines are consistent with the latest public health recommendations. Remember, there is often no “one-size-fits-all” approach. You may need to implement more stringent policies or guidelines.
- Ensuring that anyone that is sick stays home. If an employee is sick, they should be isolated immediately and sent home.
- Ensuring that staff have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, respirators (N95), gowns, gloves, and other essentials.
Departments should be prepared to do contact tracing internally to determine if there is a possible or confirmed close contact with someone with COVID-19. Determine if staff will need to quarantine (see interim guidance for critical sector workers).
- Consider limiting in size or canceling in-person meetings, training, and special events through January 2021. This will help control the number of cases we are currently seeing with fire service personnel. The use of virtual technology for meetings as well as training will help ensure your departments are not taken out of service with a large number of COVID cases. The MN State Fire Marshal’s Office Specialists can assist you with identifying training providers within Minnesota who are offering departmental training through the use of virtual technology.
- Consider alternative deployment models to limit the number of individuals in close proximity for extended periods of time.
- Remain in contact with your regional mutual aid partners. We recommend establishing a regional response plan in case there is a wide-spread impact on emergency response capabilities. Involve your local and county emergency management professionals as well as your local ambulance provider.
- Ensure that the statewide “Fire Department Mutual Aid Status Map” is updated. Contact your MSFCA Regional Director or State FMD Fire Service Specialist for assistance. If there is a change, please update this as-soon-as-possible.
- Determine where your staff can receive a COVID-19 test. We are in contact with the state and other partners to explore options for a more wide-spread testing strategy for first responders.
The MSFCA COVID-19 Task Force continues to work with the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division on monitoring this pandemic and providing resources to fire departments. If you have a question, please email COVID19@MSFCA.org. Resources are also available online at https://www.msfca.org/covid19.
We continue to wish you and your department the best as we navigate this pandemic together.