CPSE hosts a weekly forum among agencies in the CFAI accreditation process and officers that hold a CPC designation bringing together the most progressive fire and emergency service departments and officers in the world. During CPSE Exchange, attendees learn from each other.

The event is a facilitated, attendee-driven, information sharing session. Here is a summary of the forum held on June 17, 2020.

How is your agency tracking confirmed/potential COVID-19 exposures?

All of the participants indicated they were pursuing similar paths concerning tracking the number of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations versus the number of patients reporting one or more symptoms of the virus. As an example, Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue reported they have been successful in gathering information from the State of Maryland Health Department and then cross-checking that against their records management system. They have been able to identify those incidents in which the field responders had a potential exposure and the responders are then notified via email of their potential exposure. To date, the department has transported more than 1,400 Covid-19 positive patients.

The Everett (WA) Fire Department has been tracking similarly and has internally used the word “contact” for those incidents in which the field responders treat/transport a COVID-19 positive patient and are wearing the appropriate PPE, and the word “exposure” as those incidents in which the field responders have patient contact but are not wearing any or the incorrect (as defined by the department SOG) level of PPE. Any employee with an exposure is quarantined at home and is checked on each day by a member of the department staff via telephone call.

The Edmonton (AB) Fire Rescue Services provides only BLS-level service as the ALS transport service is provided by the province. The organization, however, tracks all categories and classifications of responses on a daily and monthly basis. Currently they are examining the rate of increase in service requests vs past performance that is, in effect, triggered by the increase in the number of people working from home.

The Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fire Department has reported a decrease in the number of EMS service requests, but an increase in the number of critical care responses such as cardiac or respiratory arrests. The staff believes this is a result of residents being reluctant to enter a hospital due to the concern of a potential exposure to Coviod-19. Thus, they are waiting until the medical condition has worsened to the point it can no longer be tolerated by the patient and requires more aggressive treatment modalities.

How is your agency measuring the impact of COVID-19 on your community?

The Everett (WA) Fire Department is examining the financial impact concerning the rate and amount of spending on equipment for Covid-19. They too are tracking the rate of exposure/symptoms among their employees as well as for the presence of antibodies based on a previous exposure.

How is your agency measuring the impact of COVID-19 on your Agency?

Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue has worked closely with their Health Department tracking:

  • Hospital utilization, ER admissions versus ICU bed availability
  • Exposure rates between the state and county levels, vs number of transported patients
  • The number of hours employees are off duty due to exposure or infection but there have not been many exposures to date.

Like Montgomery, the Everett (WA) Fire Department is tracking the rate of infections versus death. Additionally, the department is examining the positivity-rate based on the testing to separate the rate of infections vs the rate of identified infections. 

The Houston (TX) Fire Department reported that it has been tracking the use of PPE (masks and gowns) to ensure they maintain sufficient supplies.

How is your agency measuring the effectiveness of your COVID-19 related policies and procedures?

None of the agencies are currently engaged in such an effort. One commented that it is difficult to reliably measure something that does not occur.

What policies had to be established, did they work?

New Hanover (NC) County Fire Rescue reported they monitor how often the screening done in the 911 center identifies a Covid-19 patient versus what responders have found upon their arrival.

How is your agency planning on using the data and information collected during COVID-19?

The Houston (TX) Fire Department staff are in the planning development stage for a survey regarding the effectiveness of their recently implemented policies and field operations. They want to determine if the resources that were provided were sufficient to meet the challenge. The goal is to use the information to update and/or develop action plans for future pandemics.

The Everett (WA) Fire Department plans to share their aggregated data with the community to ensure there is open communication with the taxpayers. Given the likelihood of significant budget impacts across the public sector, helping the community to understand not only the impact on their lives and private business but also upon the essential services provided by their local government.