- FCABC special announcement: Omicron Variant COVID-19 - Dec 20, 2021
The FCABC in consultation with Dr. Allan Holmes, and based on current public health guidelines, is issuing recommendations in light of the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the interest of preventing the spread in the workplace and protecting our most valuable resource, our firefighters.
With the concerning increase in the number of COVID-19 cases provincially, we all have a responsibility and vested interest to do what we can to correct the current trend. We encourage Fire Chiefs and members to strategize on solutions that work for your respective work environments and realities of your fire halls.
The fact that Omicron appears to be more transmissible seems to account for the fact that we are seeing an uptick in cases, even in those who are fully vaccinated. Fortunately, for those who are fully vaccinated this variant is not causing serious illness in the vast majority of healthy individuals. Even though the symptoms may resolve fairly quickly, you are still required to self isolate for seven (7) days following a positive test result.
In order to reduce the potential for spread it is essential to follow the three primary ways to minimize your chance of getting ill: maintain at minimum a 2 metre separation whenever possible; wear a mask; and minimize your time spent indoors in groups.
COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans should be reviewed and updated as necessary to ensure they capture the latest requirements and are current.
The following list includes some suggestions, if applicable, for consideration for implementation in your departments:
- Mandatory mask use be required inside fire halls
- *Exception to the wearing of a mask would be where an individual staff member is in their own office; they can remove a mask in this setting
- Interaction between stations should be limited to required training and operational needs
- Shift swaps with staff from other halls should be avoided or prohibited
- Consideration of shift interactions that minimizes potential of exposure
- Staff must wear masks whenever they leave the station, including in apparatus, at incidents, and when operating in the public
- Training (all disciplines) requires mask use at all times within the fire hall
- Physical distancing to be maintained. If training outside, physical distancing must be maintained or masks worn.
- Stations remain closed and off duty personnel should only attend stations if necessary
- Oncoming crew members must don masks before entry into the fire hall
- Require every worker to conduct a health check before entering the workplace and commencing work, and report to their officer that they are free of symptoms
- *Volunteer & POC departments require a procedure to be in place for health checks
- Recommend Duty Officer document that crew members are free of symptoms at the start of each shift within department record management system
- Gyms and personal training sessions can remain open as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that is strictly followed
- Define acceptable masks as per department or organization policy/information
- Cleaning protocols, hand hygiene and physical distancing requirements must be defined and followed
- Do kitchens meet physical distancing parameters to ensure 2-metre separation while eating. Consideration of staggered meal times.
- Consideration of prohibiting communal cooking on shift at this time. Members to provide their own meals/snacks and ensure minimum 2 metres being maintained while eating.
- Do sleeping quarters meet physical distancing parameters or should barriers be considered.
- All department members have a responsibility while off duty to ensure they are aware of Provincial Health Officer Orders and recommendations to ensure they are following best practices to reduce the potential for exposure and introduction to the workplace.
Monitor the provincial COVID-19 web page for potential additional PHO requirements.
- Clarification On Vaccination Status - Sep 15/2021
Recently there have been two measures announced by the Provincial Health Officer that have raised a number of questions. The FCABC has received the following clarification:
1) B.C. health officials announced new orders that everyone who works in long-term care and assisted living facilities in the province must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
This applies to all licenced facilities, and every staff member, including volunteers, must be fully vaccinated by October 12.
- First Responders will not be required to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination when responding to an emergent medical incident or other type of emergent incident in these facilities. This includes calls for a "lift assist" as this is considered of an urgent nature as well.
2) Announcement by PHO of expansion of a vaccine mandate for "health care workers" will come into effect on October 26, and will apply to anyone working in acute and community care, along with people who work in home care.
- First Responders are not considered to be "health care workers" and are not required to be vaccinated as a result of this mandate.
Additionally, where fire service personnel are carrying out regulatory work (fire code/bylaw), such as inspections, they are not required to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination to any business or premise that is covered under the parameters of the "BC Vaccine Card".
- Iridia Medical First Responder Support Service ends July 1
The First Responder Support Service related to COVID19, provided through Iridia Medical, will end as July 1.
- FCABC Town hall with Dr. Holmes
Visit the Podcast page to hear the latest from Dr, Holmes
- PHO: Immunization of First Responders (Fire and Police) - April 15, 2021
Further information has now been provided regarding the immunization of first responders (Fire and Police) from the PHO.
Under B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan, vaccine is being provided for frontline and essential workers, in industries where full use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging, where outbreaks and clusters have occurred, and where workers live or work in congregate settings. This priority group has now been expanded to include first responders and school staff.
The list of eligible groups of front-line priority workers was created by the provincial COVID-19 Workplace Task Group and Public Health. The list allows health authorities to be flexible in directing vaccine to high-risk geographic areas in order to protect workers and, in turn, protect our communities. First responders are essential workers who may be exposed to COVID-19 in their communities, or in their workplace given the nature of their work.
The FCABC Executive Committee has been working tirelessly to advocate for all firefighters across the province to be vaccinated; this is an area of important focus for us. We will provide updates as information becomes available for the various health authorities.
We are stronger working together. Take care, be safe and stay healthy.
Fire Chief Dan Derby, ECFO
- Advocating for Urgent Immunization of Firefighters (April 9, 2021)
Recently Firefighters and Police Officers were confirmed by the Provincial Health Officer as essential workers as identified within the COVID-19 immunization priority.
The anticipation was that a method of administering the vaccine would be provided through the network of pharmacies across the province utilizing the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, on March 31st the use of AstraZeneca for this purpose was put on hold before the plan was even rolled out.
With no update regarding the vaccination of Firefighters since the announcement, President Derby today along with BCPFFA President Gord Ditchburn spoke with Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to reiterate the concern and rationale to expedite the immunization of Firefighters across BC.
As information becomes available we will keep you apprised. You can be assured that we continue to advocate for the urgent immunization of Firefighters across the province.
- COVID-19 vaccination eligibility for firefighters (March 18, 2021)
The FCABC is pleased to advise that today Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that firefighters will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. When the timing and parameters of how vaccinations will be available is known, we will provide an update.
The Board of Directors would like to acknowledge the combined efforts of a number of organizations and groups that advocated for public safety groups to be vaccinated. Including the BC Professional Firefighters' Association (BCPFFA), BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP), Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC), MLAs and medical practitioners--your assistance is truly appreciated!
“I’m thankful for the recognition and inclusion of firefighters and police officers across the province, ensuring our continued capacity to respond to emergency incidents in support of the communities we protect.”
Dan Derby, President
- FCABC COVID-19 Committee update (November 20, 2020)
- Latest Podcast with Dr. Holmes - October 15
Visit the Podcast page to hear the latest from Dr, Holmes
- April 5 - PRESIDENT'S UPDATE: FCABC and Provincial Government Stakeholders meeting
This morning our Executive Officer and I had the opportunity to take part in a conference call along with a number of Provincial government stakeholders. This included representatives from EMBC, BCEHS and the Ministry of Health including the Provincial Health Officer Dr. Henry and the Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Emerson. The concerns of the fire service regarding recent changes to response protocols were expressed during the call. The outcomes from the meeting included:
• Dr. Henry reaffirmed that fire services are valued in the pre-hospital care system.
• The decision to change to the response protocols had two primary aspects. First, with community transmission of COVID-19 confirmed, limiting the potential for exposure by minimizing the number of responders was critical. Second, the ongoing issue related to the availability of PPE and the ability to replenish supplies.
• A commitment that representatives from senior PHSA staff including the Executive Vice President of Clinical Service Delivery, EMBC, and the Ministry of Health will meet with the FCABC President and Executive Officer on a weekly basis moving forward. This will allow further dialogue related to First Responder concerns as this situation continues to evolve.
• Confirmation that all purple calls will be automatically sent to fire services CAD to CAD.
We were appreciative of the opportunity this morning to connect with everyone on the call and are looking forward to meeting regularly to collaborate on how best fire services can contribute to improving prehospital patient care. Under normal circumstances First Responder services and the related levels of service provided are determined by local authority. As we know, from a community and service provider perspective there is more to the rationale for a First Responder response then solely the clinical outcome. The FCABC is well positioned to represent and advocate for the diverse nature of our fire departments from across the province.
We are stronger working together.
Take care, be safe and stay healthy.
Fire Chief Dan Derby, ECFO
- April 1 - Letter from President Dan Derby - Re: Provincial Health Officer order regarding notifying first responders
Provincial Health Officer order regarding notifying first responders
At 2149 last night we received notification from John Tallon, Chief Medical Officer, BCEHS and Darlene MacKinnon, Chief Operating Officer, BCEHS that effective immediately, the Provincial Health Officer has issued an order restricting the dispatching of first responder groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. The notification includes direction regarding compression only CPR and Defibrillation as necessary with no oxygenation or airway management until paramedics arrive. The order is intended to minimize the risk to first responders, patients and the broader community.
First Responders are reminded of the importance of PPE for all patient contacts. Best practice to ensure the safety of our members is to utilize the interrogation tool and the strong application of physical distancing during initial patient assessments and full PPE as follows:
• PPE - N95 mask, gloves, face shield or eye goggles
• Fluid resistant covering (e.g. long sleeve gown, Tyvex coveralls)
• Thorough hand-washing post exposure
I recognize this is not an outcome that is acceptable to all members. Our Executive Officer Phil Lemire, the COVID-19 committee and myself have been working tirelessly to have open conversation with BCEHS regarding changes to response protocols. Unfortunately decisions were made without our input or even notification of the pending announcement. Know that we are doing everything we can to work with all agencies and ministries to ensure the safety of the women and men who make up BC fire services and provide information that allows for local fire services to make the decisions necessary for continuity of their local fire rescue services.
We are stronger working together. Take care, be safe and stay healthy.
Fire Chief Dan Derby, ECFO
This is in response to this:
The following and attached memorandum regarding Provincial Health Officer order regarding notifying first responders is sent on behalf of Dr. John Tallon, Chief Medical Officer, and Darlene MacKinnon, Chief Operating Officer.
To: The Fire Chiefs Association of BC
Re: Provincial Health Officer order regarding notifying first responders
In response to the order issued today by the Provincial Health Officer regarding changing the notifying of our fire first responder partners to reduce their potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, we are writing to advise you that effective immediately, the follow changes need to be followed in relation to responding to BCEHS events:
1. First responders will NOT be sent to any potential influenza-like-illness (ILI) or COVID-19 events.
2. Automatic activation of first responders will be restricted to "purple" events only with direction to wear N95 masks and full PPE, application of a surgical mask to the patient, perform compression only CPR and defibrillation as necessary with no oxygenation or airway management until paramedics arrive.
3. Automatic activation of first responders will be considered for specific events requiring technical rescue, or lift assist as requested by paramedics. All responders must, at a minimum, wear droplet precautions including eye protection and a surgical mask.
4. First responders may be considered for a select group of "red" events when paramedics are delayed by more than 20 minutes.
We will be working with our BCEHS IMIT staff so that our internal notification processes reflect this change, but the technology changes will take overnight to implement. Once the changes are made, your fire services will receive notification only for calls as outlined above until we receive further notification from the Provincial Health Officer that it is once again safe to resume our regular notifying processes with first responders.
Chief Medical Officer
- March 18 - FCABC President's update on COVID-19
As you know the FCABC established a committee at the beginning of March to support fire services in planning for firefighters who may respond to COVID-19 related and all incident types to ensure awareness and fire fighter safety is paramount. The committee's focus continues to be providing timely information related to infectious disease control, personal protective equipment recommendations and any specific training and education that may be identified, with an eye ahead to next steps related to exposure control, self quarantine and business continuity for delivery of fire, rescue and medical first responder services.
The committee recognizes the key role fire service leaders have to play, to protect our fire service personnel that deliver fire, rescue and medical first responder services across the province and that we value the importance of remaining vigilant and having a plan in place, to do our part in slowing down the progression of the COVID-19 Pandemic. With this in mind key initiatives the committee is focused on now include:
• Supply Chain Management of personal protective equipment
• BCEHS dispatch protocols for COVID-19 / ILI coded calls & best practices for medical first responders responding to COVID-19 calls
• Prioritization of COVID-19 testing for first responders (in the event of an exposure)
• Hot line for firefighters/first responders to call in consideration of 8-1-1 capacity
While we focus our energy on ensuring capacity for continued delivery of fire, rescue and medical first responder services, energy also needs to be directed to supporting administration, fire prevention and support staff and of course, our individual families. Ensuring we find rest where we can and that our families are well informed and looked after, will allow us to focus on our individual responsibilities.
Below are some websites that have some useful information regarding what to do and what is going on with COVID-19. As fire service leaders it is important that we provide consistent accurate information.
Important links and information
• BC Centre for Disease Control: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19
• BC Ministry of Health: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/coronavirus-disease-covid-19
• Health Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
With regard to our annual Conference and BC Fire Expo. The Executive Committee, in consultation with the Conference and COVID-19 Committees, continues to review the status of our annual event and the potential impacts a cancellation, postponement or continuation may have. We are cognizant of everyone’s concerns and expect a decision to be announced sooner than later.
Many of us have mutual aid and automatic aid relationships in place with our neighbouring departments. Fire Chiefs are encouraged to plan for reduced response capacity and have conversations with mutual and automatic aid partners regarding procedures and capacity to support each other. Attached are two documents to assist fire departments in Business Continuity Planning.
• BCP Pandemic Appendix Template for Fire Departments
• BCP Pandemic Guide for BC Fire Departments
Over the coming weeks and months we will be stretched to lead our fire services, support our local governments response to the COVID-19 pandemic and look after our families and ourselves. As Dr. Bonnie Henry said “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and be safe”.
Thank you for your service and dedication to your communities. Stay healthy and safe.
FCABC President Fire Chief Dan Derby, ECFO