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COVID-19 Resources for Fire Departments

COVID-19 Information for Fire Departments
Updated February 18, 2021

Obtaining Current Information for the Fire Service

The Vermont Fire Academy distributes situation updates regularly via e-mail.  These messages contain a collection of pertinent information from the State Emergency Operations Center.  Fire service personnel who wish to receive these messages can subscribe to the e-mail list by CLICKING HERE.

If you need assistance or information, call 1-800-615-3473 to reach the Vermont Fire Academy who will help route your call to the appropriate agency or person.

COVID Vaccinations for First Responders (Updated February 18, 2021)

Who is eligible to receive the vaccine now?

Only members that actively respond to emergencies and have patient contact can receive the vaccine at this time. Please note that only front-line responders who are assisting with the care and transport of sick and injured persons will be eligible for vaccine at this stage.

Auxiliary, support, junior members, dispatch and non-responder administrative staff are not able to receive the vaccine yet, however, they will be covered in the community-wide vaccination program grouped by age band.

How do responders access vaccination clinics?

As the State prepares to move into the next phase of vaccine distribution, it is important that vaccines are made available to those eligible emergency responders that have not yet received one.  Eligible first responder personnel may be able to access the vaccine by contacting their local hospital.

If a response agency has questions about the vaccination process or still has eligible responders who would like to receive the vaccine, but have not yet received an appointment for their first dose, the agency head may call the Vermont Fire Academy at 802-483-2755 or Richard Cogliano at Vermont Emergency Management at .

COVID Testing for First Reponders (Updated January 22, 2021)

A list of testing sites is available on the Vermont Department of Health website and prioritized hours for first responders are listed below.  First Responders are ALWAYS welcome at our testing sites. Registration any day can be found here. First Responders have special walk-in slots held for them at the following locations and times:

  • Berlin (3336 Airport Rd., in rear of credit union building): Wednesdays, 6:30pm-7:00pm
  • St. Johnsbury (161 Sherman Dr., parking lot tent): Thursdays, 9:00am-9:30am
  • Morrisville (Northgate Plaza, between nail salon and laundromat): Mondays from 5-5:30pm
  • Bennington (120 McKinley St.): Tuesdays, 9:00am-9:30am
  • Fairlee (5445 Lake Morey Rd. E): Wednesdays, 9:00-9:30am
  • Middlebury (154 Creek Rd.): Wednesdays from 12-12:30pm
  • Newport (189 Prouty Dr.): this clinic has walk-in availability for First Responders all day, every day.
  • Springfield (51 Pearl St., Level 1): Thursdays from 8:00am - 8:30am

Hand Sanitizer Available to Emergency Service Organizations

The State of Vermont has free hand sanitizer available to emergency service organizations. There is a limited supply, therefore, each organization is limited to one gallon and it is required that you reserve yours by clicking here.  After making your request online, you will receive confirmation of your order. You can also arrange to have another department pick up your supply. The sanitizer can be picked up on weekdays during regular business hours at the following locations:

Vermont Fire Academy, 93 Davison Drive, Pittsford

Vermont Urban Search and Rescue/Haz-Mat Warehouse, 189 Troy Avenue, Colchester

Personal Protective Equipment

As you are aware, there is currently a shortage and high demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, face shields, and isolation gowns.  Requests for PPE are being handled and coordinated by the Vermont Department of Health.  Resource requests will be prioritized based upon resource availability and provider need with the understanding that not all requests may be met. 

COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment Guidance - v. 1.6 (Released November 6, 2020)

N-95 Respirator Disinfection in Your Region (Released April 23, 2020)

For EMS services - Assess 30-day call volume and assume ONLY two responders per run as services should be limiting crew size. Ensure 14-day stock of PPE is delivered. Deliver enough basic masks for patients in the supply. Consider N95 medical masks for aerosolizing procedures.  Obtain monthly call volume from EMS (list provided via SIREN) then, to get 14-day supply divide calls per month by 2; multiply the result by 2 considering 2 crew members per run and then add contingencies as described below.

Example: XYZ ambulance has 40 calls per month. 14-day supply of KN95s = 40 - ADD 15% for calls requiring additional staff + 50 surgical masks for patient use. Total order = 46 N95s or KN95s (Round up to 60 due to box count of 20 per) plus 50 surgical masks.

For Law Enforcement - General guidance is to limit contact to the greatest extent possible. General masks or surgical masks should be used for closer contact. KN95s should be used for arrests and transports. 

For Fire Service - For those directly involved in EMS response PPE plans as noted above. For non-EMS departments, avoid direct close contact and use general masks as prescribed by the Department of Health.

All - First responders should limit contact to ONE responder for all calls unless medically or operationally necessary.  

General, non-medical, mask use is recommended when in public.  All agencies should continue to try to source PPE through their supply chains.  For emergency requests, contact the Emergency Operations Center at 800-347-0048.  Additional detail, including guidance for re-use and storage for decontamination (units to accomplish this are inbound to VT).

Healthcare worker guidance is linked on the VDH website and includes the following links:

COVID-19 What to do if you are a Healthcare Worker

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Strategies for Scarce Resource Situations

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Conservation Measures Contingency Operations Summary

CDC N95 Respirator Summary

CDC Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators

CDC FAQ on Infection Control

CDC Guidance for Healthcare Professionals

Conservation of Personal Protective Equipment 

As you are aware, personal protective equipment (PPE) is currently in high demand with a very limited supply.  The issuance of PPE is being prioritized based upon risk of exposure.  Responders should utilize PPE following CDC Guidelines, for any patient contact. 

If you currently have PPE or receive it in the future, please utilize it appropriately by screening contacts from a distance to determine if the use of PPE is necessary.  Consider minimizing the number of responders who are exposed to patients to further conserve PPE.  It is not recommended that you provide PPE to the general public as that redirects supplies from where they are needed most.  Encourage the public to comply with the Governor’s stay at home order and practice social distancing to protect themselves most effectively. The CDC Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators can be found by CLICKING HERE.  The Vermont Department of Health and Vermont State Emergency Operations Center has released guidance on N-95 Respirator Reuse and Decontamination, which can be found by CLICKING HERE.

For more specific information regarding EMS interaction with COVID-19 please CLICK HERE.

Monitoring Fire Department Capabilities

It is possible that local fire departments could see a decrease in the availability of responders due to illness, quarantine, self-isolation, family responsibilities, or assignment to essential work.  Each department should develop a system for responders to report their availability.  The Vermont Fire Academy is monitoring the fire service capabilities within each County through a designated County representative and reporting this information to the State Emergency Operations Center.  If your department is experiencing or anticipating a shortage of personnel or other resources due to COVID-19, this should be reported to the designated County representative listed below by the department’s Chief Officer.

County                 Designated Representative        Contact Information

Addison               Dean Gilmore                    Email:            Phone: 802-373-4198

Bennington        Chad Prentiss                    Email:  Phone: 802-375-5433

Caledonia           Patrick McLaughlin          Email:  Phone: 802-585-4468

Chittenden         Al Barber                             Email:  Phone: 802-777-2240

Essex                     Steve Young                       Email:   Phone: 

Franklin               Todd Cosgrove                  Email:  Phone: 802-585-0741

Grand Isle           Shaun Coleman               Email:  Phone:  802-524-5958

Lamoille              Brad Carriere                     Email:  Phone: 802-730-6770

Orange                 Chad Whitcomb                Email:  Phone: 802-356-2100

Orleans                 John Harlamert                Email: Phone:802-673-9702

Rutland                Robert Schlachter            Email:           Phone: 802-342-0919

Washington        Gary Dillon                         Email:  Phone: 802-371-7515

Windham            Tom Goddard                    Email:         Phone: 802-579-9526

Windsor              Ben Whalen                        Email:  Phone: 802-376-6939

It is recommended that mutual aid and automatic aid plans are established in advance of the need.  This should be coordinated on a County or regional level.

As COVID-19 positive cases continue to become more acute statewide the Emergency Operations Center is asking if your agency is impacted in its ability to deliver service because of infections, that you share that with the SEOC. It will help inform a variety of strategies, including vaccine distribution. To report impacts of an emergent nature, you can call the emergency operations center at 800-347-0488

Recommended Changes to Fire Department Operations

In order to protect the operational capability of Vermont’s Fire Service during this unprecedented event, the following recommendations should be considered.

Close your fire station to the public.  Limit access to emergency service facilities to emergency responders to decrease exposure to the virus. If the general public is likely to come to your station to seek services, direct them to a service area where they can be isolated from the interior of your facilities and contact with personnel can be controlled. 

Discontinue non-emergency department activities.  Do not allow your personnel to gather for any purpose other than emergency response and preparedness activities.  This includes cancelling business meetings and training or seeking alternative means to meet such as conference calls and web-based meetings.  If you have a staffed station, emphasize the importance of hygiene precautions, frequent disinfection, and appropriate social distancing.

Do not allow sick personnel to respond to emergencies.  Prohibit personnel from reporting for duty or responding to emergencies if they have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 or if they have felt unwell with respiratory symptoms in the last few days.  This includes cough, fever, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.

Reduce the exposure risk in emergency response vehicles.  Increase ventilation in emergency vehicles by operating the ventilation system in non-recirculating mode and consider bringing in as much outdoor air as possible by opening windows.

Decontaminate, clean, and disinfect.  Keep touch surfaces and equipment disinfected.  Your department should identify an appropriate disinfectant that is effective against COVID-19.  Visit the EPA website for guidance on selecting an effective disinfectant by CLICKING HERE.  Disinfect the interior touch surfaces of apparatus and equipment after each use.  Use appropriate disinfectants on the surfaces within your facility frequently including bathroom fixtures, door handles, phones, keyboards, and other surfaces.  CLICK HERE for more information on cleaning and disinfecting your facility and equipment.  For information on cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, CLICK HERE.

Self-contained breathing apparatus face pieces and regulators should be cleaned and disinfected according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Most manufacturer’s permit the use of a hypochlorite solution (50 ppm of chlorine) made by adding approximately 1 mL of laundry bleach (verify that the bleach contains 5% sodium hypochlorite) to 1 liter of water.  Allow the disinfectant to have a minimum of 5 minutes of contact time before rinsing with tap water and drying.

On scene precautions.

  • Pre-Entry (size-up): Ask questions and look for clues.
  • Entry:  Limit personnel, look for clues, limit time inside
  • Post Entry: Isolate, decontaminate, document

Keep your distance.  Maintain a minimum of 6 feet from members of the public when responding to calls whenever possible and assess the situation from a distance.  Limit the number of personnel that enter a building if the situation can be handled safely by a smaller crew.  If you must enter a building or come in close contact with a person to effect a rescue, use the proper PPE.  Doff the PPE as soon as you leave the building and immediately wash your hands thoroughly.

Be aware of emergency occupancy changes in your community.  As more people are impacted by COVID-19, it may become necessary to establish medical treatment surge facilities and isolation shelters in your community.  The Division of Fire Safety will be monitoring this situation through the State Emergency Operations Center and will keep local department officials informed of any such plans in their communities.  Keep apprised of these changes as they may need to be placed in occupancy types that serve this purpose but were not originally designed for this use.  These uses may necessitate that departments develop or revise their pre-plans for potential emergencies at these locations.  If a fire department has questions regarding the buildings within their jurisdiction being used as medical surge or sheltering facilities, please contact the Division of Fire Safety Regional Manager for your area.

Consider withholding outdoor burn permits.  A statewide burn ban can only be established during periods of extreme fire hazard, which is not applicable in the current situation.  Town Forest Fire Wardens have the authority to cease the issuance of burn permits. By doing so, you may be able to limit the potential for personnel exposure as well as reserve the resources that would be needed for a wildland fire to make them available for other response activities.

Check on the wellbeing of your responders.  Check on your members often to ensure that you maintain a strong emergency force.  In addition to developing illness, recognize how the stress of not working, schools being closed, and many more unknown circumstances can take a toll on your responders and negatively impact this wellbeing.  

Guidance on Fire and EMS Department Non-Emergency Activities (Updated November 19, 2020)

Based on Governor Scott’s Executive Order Addendum 8, as of November 13, 2020 the following guidelines are meant to be used by Fire and EMS departments as best safe practices for activities related to non-emergency operations.  This guidance only applies to departments whose responders have the essential need to participate in trainings, meetings, and work details within the confines of the emergency services facility or other designated locations. This guidance does not apply to emergency response.

Requirements for Entry

Prior to any in-person activity at your station the following are responsibilities of the department leadership and attendees:

  • Individuals shall not attend if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in contact with any person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.  Individuals should also not attend if they have been recommended to quarantine due to health, contact, or travel reasons or if they have not completed a recommended quarantine according to Department of Health guidelines.
  • Individuals shall not attend if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Those symptoms are:
    • Fever, a fever is considered a temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Additional symptoms that may be associated in addition to the ones above are:
      • chills/shaking
      • muscle pain
      • headache
      • sore throat
      • loss of taste and smell
  • A safety officer who is knowledgeable about the most current health and safety requirements must be appointed for each event. This person must be physically present for the duration of the event and have the authority to stop or modify activities.  
  • Prior to entering the facility individuals shall be screened per the department screening guidelines, to ensure they have no symptoms of COVID-19.  This screening shall be documented and include verification that the individual has no symptoms of respiratory illness and a temperature check. 
    • Individuals who show any signs of respiratory illness and/or a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater shall not be allowed entry and must leave.
  • The most current health and safety requirements shall be posted and all individuals entering the facility shall be made aware of them
  • The facility must be routinely cleaned and disinfected and have sufficient disinfection supplies on hand.  All vehicles and equipment must be disinfected between uses to the satisfaction of the safety officer. Disinfecting guidance is available here.
  • The facility must support access to handwashing and/or hand sanitizer.

Classroom-Based Training and Meetings

  • No classroom-based in-person meetings should take place at this time.
  • Classroom-based training that involves practical evolutions that can not be completed virtually and are considered essential to a department’s operational status are addressed in the Essential Classroom-Based Training below.

Essential Classroom Based Training

  • Where Classroom-based training that involves practical evolutions that can not be completed virtually and are considered essential to a department’s operational status, the following rules shall be in place:
    • No more than 10 individuals may participate.
    • All participants must wear a department approved face-covering while in the facility. Guidance for face coverings can be found at:
    • The facility used must provide sufficient space for adequate social distancing of participants.  Activities should always be spaced 6 feet apart and individuals should maintain adequate social distancing of at least 6 feet.
    • If multiple groups use the same facility, care must be taken to ensure that each group remains distinctly separate without commingling in shared spaces.
    • The space should be well ventilated, preferably allowing significant outside air replacement rather than recirculation. 

Outdoor Training and Work Details (to include large open well-ventilated areas including apparatus bays)

  • Where outdoor training takes place, the following rules shall be in place:
    • No more than 10 individuals may participate in one location.
    • All participants must wear department approved face-coverings while in proximity to others. Guidance for face coverings can be found at:
    • Activities should always be spaced 6 feet apart and participants should maintain adequate social distancing of at least 6 feet unless close contact is absolutely necessary.
    •  When participation requires close contact (within six feet), personal protective equipment shall include eye protection and gloves in addition to the required face covering.
    • When vehicle use is required and the availability of vehicles requires more than one occupant, face coverings shall be worn by all.  Passenger compartments should be well ventilated, preferably allowing significant outside air replacement rather than recirculation.
  • Any incident that results in bleeding or other bloodborne pathogen exposure requires compliance to the OSHA Bloodborne pathogen standard.

First Responder Mental Health Wellness Information (Posted May 21, 2020)

The following resources for responders have been provided by the Vermont Department of Mental Health.

First Responder Self-Care
Understanding Burnout
Signs of Burnout
Getting Support from Team Members

COVID-19 Cost Recovery for EMS and Fire Departments

Information is available from FEMA regarding COVID-19 Cost Recovery for Fire and EMS Departments.  Click here for more information.

COVID-19 Emergency Services Resources:

U.S. Fire Administration, Information for First Responders on Maintaining Operational Capabilities During a Pandemic, Revised March 2020

Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 Information

International Association of Fire Chiefs COVID-19 Resources

Respirator Reuse Memo, Released March 27, 2020

N-95 Respiratory Reuse and Decontamination Guidance, Released April 3, 2020

Vermont Department of Health, Vermont EMS Memorandum, Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Personal Protective Equipment Update, March 27, 2020

Fire Department Frequently Asked Questions - posted April 1, 2020

Occupancy specific cleaning guidance from the CDC – Posted April 28th 2020