As many of you are experiencing firsthand, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has failed to secure, prioritize and deliver adequate supplies of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to fire and EMS departments. Despite daily assurances from FEMA, the supply chain for these desperately needed resources is not reaching fire departments at the local level.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on our members across the United States and Canada. Thousands have tested positive for the virus, two fire fighters (one in Chicago and another in Detroit) have died in the line of duty, nearly 6,000 have been placed under quarantine and another 4,500 have been isolated, with numbers rising each day.
Still, the PPE is not being delivered.
In March, we were assured that representatives from FEMA and the Health and Human Services Healthcare Resilience Task Force had established that fire and EMS agencies are at the same level of priority for PPE as hospitals and healthcare facilities. Yet by his own admission, the head of the COVID-19 Supply Chain Resilience Task Force, Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, fire and EMS agencies are not at that same level of priority.
In an April 4 White House Coronavirus Task Force Meeting, he said when referring to the distribution supply chain, “We’re geographically aligning the supply chain … down to the county level … and then aligning it by priorities of point of care: public hospitals first, VA hospitals, private hospitals, nursing homes, first responders, acute care” – clearly not the same priority.
There is more than $95 billion in disaster relief available to FEMA to fight this pandemic. But instead of sending supplies to hot spots across the country or other municipalities in low or short supply, FEMA is delivering supplies immediately to medical distributors for resale – those distributors are marking up supplies to unaffordable price levels for jurisdictions.
Per FEMA’s plan, we have advised affiliates to report inventory and PPE burn rates and to coordinate with local emergency management offices and state emergency management agencies on requests for PPE.
The questions we need to make sure they have to have answers to are: Without inventory, how long before your department runs out of PPE? Are members reusing N95s and other PPE? Are members worried about getting COVID-19 and infecting others, including their families?
Help us hold FEMA accountable.
Tell your story to your local media about the dire need for supplies in your fire department. The IAFF is available to help tell the story of our members and locals working without adequate PPE due to FEMA’s failure.
If your local has been negatively affected by FEMA’s inadequate response and you want to share your story in the media, contact IAFF Director of Strategic Campaigns and Media Relations Doug Stern for assistance at [email protected] to discuss the best strategies for garnering local media attention and weave your experience into the national story with other media outlets.