Coronavirus: make infection control a priority

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Details about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) are changing rapidly and it's easy to get information overload, but first responders need to be prepared to encounter cases. COVID-19 presents as a respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and spread via respiratory droplets with close contact, like the flu.

Guidance for EMS and PSAP


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published interim guidance on COVID-19 for all first responders. This includes the fire service, emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement and emergency management officials. If you anticipate close contact with persons with confirmed or possible COVID-19 in the course of your work, please read this guidance.

It recommends that 911 and emergency medical dispatch screen callers for signs, symptoms and risk factors of COVID-19. Dispatch should report potential COVID-19 calls to EMS before their arrival. EMS can evaluate individuals and transport them as a Person Under Investigation if necessary.

The interim guidance suggests specific modifications to EMS practices for patient assessment, personal protective equipment (PPE) use and aerosol-generating procedures (e.g., intubation, CPR, etc.). EMS employers can use the guidance to assess current practices, procedures and training and ensure they are up-to-date. This includes:

  • Donning and doffing PPE.
  • Task-specific training and education.
  • Use of respiratory devices.
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate supplies.
  • Decontamination.

Fire and EMS departments should stay in touch with state and local public health departments for developments that may affect their region.

photo of an ambulance with a blur effect

Information for First Responders on Maintaining Operational Capabilities During a Pandemic

During a severe pandemic, workloads increase and staff sizes diminish as employees and their families become ill or are quarantined. This guide provides contingency planning information that can help fire and EMS departments reduce the worst impacts.

Download the guidance PDF 985 KB


Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website for information on how COVID-19 spreads, symptoms, prevention and treatment, and what to do if you are sick.

What the U.S. government is doing

HIPAA disclosure: The Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance that ensures EMS and other first responders receive protected health information about individuals exposed to COVID-19. Learn more about disclosure PDF 741 KB

2020 Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19: Guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on how to protect EMS and other workers who have a very high COVID-19 exposure risk. Learn how to protect EMS workers PDF 1.1 MB

National Fire Incident Reporting System Special Study: COVID-19

Financial and resource support

Cost recovery for fire and EMS departments

Learn how your fire/EMS department can obtain fiscal support for COVID-19 response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Grant Program.

Learn about this grant program

FEMA declarations/emergency management process

Your department may be eligible to order supplies and equipment related to your COVID-19 response under a FEMA declaration or the emergency management process.

Find out how to order supplies and equipment
Wildland urban interface fires and COVID-19

Webinar: IAFC COVID-19 Task Force – March 30, 2020

Webinar: Crisis Standards of Care and COVID-19: What EMS Needs to Know – March 26, 2020

Additional COVID-19 resources

International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
COVID-19 Fire Department Personnel Impact Tracking Tool

Chiefs and company officers are encouraged to use this tool daily to evaluate the personnel and resource impacts of COVID-19 on the fire and emergency medical services.

Access the tool

Share our household chemical safety handout

household chemical safety handout

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PDF ~ 240 KB

People are very concerned right now about COVID-19. When cleaning surfaces, they may not think about the dangers of mixing household cleaners.

Customize this flyer with your logo and share it with your community to increase awareness about the dangers of household chemicals. The handout stresses the importance of proper storage and handling of household cleaners, following instructions on labels and never mixing products, and keeping them out of reach from children.