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COVID-19 Pandemic Response Listening Session

A new report from USFA summarizes discussions among national emergency response stakeholders about the impact of COVID-19 on the fire and emergency medical services (EMS) and potential solutions to mitigate response challenges experienced during the recent pandemic.

On Oct. 21-22, 2021, the U.S. Fire Administration hosted a national-level pandemic response listening session at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The 2-day session provided an opportunity for the over 40 national stakeholder representatives to discuss the challenges and impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on fire departments, EMS, 911 dispatch telecommunicators and other response agency operations.

These discussions provided insight to the complexity of the pandemic. Challenges were divided into 4 categories:

  1. Workforce.
  2. Logistics and supply chain.
  3. Business operations and continuity.
  4. Agency funding, grants and reimbursement.

For each challenge, a series of solutions were proposed by stakeholder participants for federal and state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) agencies. Many of the participants' issues and solutions spanned 2 or more categories and recurred throughout the discussions.

Adoption of the potential solutions in this report may improve the safety and efficacy of emergency response for a future pandemic or event of national significance. The regulation changes and implementation of the noted mitigations and proposed solutions may provide for a more robust EMS system within SLTT agencies and provide a more resilient workforce and community.

Agencies at all levels should develop plans to prepare for, respond to and mitigate future pandemics with these challenges and solutions in mind.