NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 58

First Responder by John Montes

DISPATCHES
FROM THE
EMERGENCY
RESPONDER
COMMUNITY

Responder, Tend Thyself
WHY PROTECTING YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY IS YOUR
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC

s we enter the fourth

makes you uncomfortable. During the
month of what is now
Ebola outbreak in the United States in
the most devastating
2014, I heard about a fire department
world pandemic since
that issued powered air purifying respithe influenza scourge of
rators to its members, but no training
1918, emergency responders around
on how to use them. This led to a situthe world have stepped up with selfless
ation where responders were wearing
resolve, putting themselves at risk to
the masks incorrectly while providgive a stranger a better chance to live.
ing care to suspected Ebola patients, a
Even as calls mount and long shifts
level of risk that no responder should
bleed into one another, many respondever face. Make sure you are properly
ers instinctively try to do even more. It's
trained in the use of new equipment-
their nature to run forward, not retreat.
tell your leader that you are genuinely
While that instinct is necessary to
concerned and want to make sure you
The old emergency
help communities persevere through
are doing things right.
services mantra still
this crisis, another reality is also true:
You also need a plan for regularly
applies: Make sure
Responders can't care for others if
checking
on your coworkers and their
you come home at the
they've been sidelined by illness or
families, and make sure coworkers have
end of your shift
other reasons.
a plan to do that for you. This applies
as
healthy
as you were
As COVID-19 has ripped through our
equally to people in the field and those
when you left. Now
communities, thousands of responders
in "nonessential" positions working
is not the time to be
have been infected. Short of getting
from home. If your colleague in billtaking unnecessary
sick, I've heard from many responding lives alone, who is going to call
chances at work.
ers who are exhausted, stressed, and
her every other week to make sure she
near collapse. They are being asked to
has groceries? If another colleague is
do more in higher-risk situations than
a responder and is working a 24-hour
ever before. And yet, as hard as it is,
shift, who is going to check in with his
the old mantra in emergency services
family to make sure they have meals,
still must apply if we are to get through this: Make sure the kids have medicine, and the pets have food and water?
you come home at the end of your shift as healthy as when Have a plan.
you left. Now is not the time to take unnecessary chances
If you're like the vast majority of emergency respondat work, miss a good night's rest, or neglect your diet. Now ers around the world, you signed up for this job to make a
is the time to prioritize your health and safety for the sake difference; you wanted to be there to help people through
of our communities.
the worst moments of their lives. In this historic moment,
There are a number of important steps you can take to you have never been needed more by so many, and you are
protect yourself in this time of crisis. First, establish limits all making a critical difference. Most responders will gladly
about what you are comfortable doing and share those limits push themselves to the limit as long as the pandemic threat
with your leadership. If you feel that you're being asked to continues. But remember that it is in all of our best interdo something unsafe or beyond your capacity, you need to ests that you also take care of yourselves and your families
say something. If a new policy comes out that you don't so that you can be there to see this through to the end.
agree with, run your concerns through the proper channels before you're out on the road doing something that John Montes is specialist, emergency services public fire protection, at NFPA.

MICHAEL HOEWELER

A

58 | NFPA JOURNAL * M A Y / J U N E 2 0 2 0

First Responder_05.20_V2.indd 58

5/1/20 11:29 AM



NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - May/June 2020

Contents
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover1
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover2
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 1
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 2
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 3
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Contents
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 5
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 6
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 7
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 8
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NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 102
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 103
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - 104
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover3
NFPA Journal - May/June 2020 - Cover4
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