The job of a firefighter is tough enough without the risk of a deadly virus that attacks people without warning. FDNY stations, located in the city with the greatest number of infections during the pandemic, are particularly vulnerable to spread of the disease. Now, the Fire Department Safety Officers Association has published a set of proposed guidelines designed to reduce the likelihood of contamination within station houses.
Unfortunately, there’s no way firefighters can ever completely avoid coming into contact with members of the public who might be carrying the coronavirus, but the proposed preventative measures may go a long way to help. The FDSOA recommendations cover:
- Safer shift changes — Limiting interaction between incoming and outgoing firefighters during a shift change protects both groups. Making sure that equipment is safely put away in advance can help make the transition smoother. Stations are urged to create a self-screening area where firefighters’ temperature can be taken.
- Social distancing guidelines — Though we’re all familiar with the benefits of social distancing, it’s easy to forget best practices, especially if you’re working in a high-pressure job. The FDSOA recommends spreading out chairs at least six feet from each other and holding meetings in large spaces where everyone has sufficient room to sit. If this is impossible, attendees should be divided into groups.
- Limits on potential exposure risks — While the COVID-19 threat persists, the FDSOA suggests that fire houses should no longer host activities that attract outside visitors. Community members’ visits should be eliminated and work-related functions involving other stations should be conducted through online video conferencing or other methods that avoid in-person contact.
- Adjustments to meal preparation and bedding — Staggering meal times, spreading out dining areas and ordering takeout reduces the opportunity for contamination during food preparation and consumption. The FDSOA also recommends adding an extra layer of bedding and washing it after each shift so that personal sheets and blankets only touch newly cleaned surfaces.
When a firefighter is out of action due to COVID-19 or another type of illness or injury, the entire community suffers. Taking these steps to stop the spread of coronavirus can promote firefighter health during a time when New York City needs first responders more than ever.
Barasch & McGarry advocates on behalf of New York firefighters seeking relief for job-related injuries and illnesses. If you’ve been hurt or exposed to harmful substances while at work, please call [ln::phone] or contact us online to speak with an experienced attorney.