A survey conducted by Industrial Fire World found most industrial fire brigades ready to assist their communities if COVID-19 continues to reduce staffing at municipal and volunteer firefighters.

Conducted April 11, the survey drew a 37% positive response to the question “Is your fire brigade willing to lend personnel to local municipal and volunteer fire departments to help deal with critical short staffing due to COVID-19?”

However, nearly the same number of responders said they were very much concerned that brigade firefighters could be exposed to COVID-19 while assisting those outside departments.

Of those participating in the April 11 survey, 29 percent identified themselves as fire chiefs, 17 percent as fire/safety director/manager and 10 percent as corporate/executive management. Ten percent identified themselves as fire brigade officers while 13% checked the box marked “firefighter.”

Forty-six percent of those responding belong to a volunteer fire brigade. Only 7% belong to mandatory fire brigades where membership is a condition of employment. Another 11% said their company hires contract firefighters from outside the plant.

On the question about lending personnel, some departments have strong reservations on the issue. Eighteen percent said that such aid was against corporate policy at their facility. Another 14% said their brigade responds to outside incidents but only in extreme emergencies.

Four percent said they would need a formal mutual aid agreement in advance to deal with liability issues.

In the largest response of the whole survey, 71% said outside municipal or volunteer firefighters had responded to an emergency at their facility in the past. Sixty percent said their brigade trains together with local municipal or volunteer firefighters.

Although 39% said firefighters working in the community run a high risk of COVID-19 exposure, 35% of those answering said their personnel would be safe if appropriate personal protective equipment is provided.

Asked if they felt morally compelled to respond outside if requested 35% said they would respond if needed without requesting corporate approval. However, another 33% said they would not make a move without the permission of the plant manager.

Only 2% of those responding said they would refuse to pool resources with nearby industry to provide fire protection for the community. Twenty-nine percent said they would pool resources but only with corporate approval. Another 18 percent said they would need a mutual aid agreement in place.

Twenty-two percent said they would work with other industrial fire brigades to provide fire protection but only in an extreme emergency.

As for training, 37% said their brigade was adequately trained to handle the emergencies that outside firefighters deal with normally. Twenty-two percent said their brigade members had full state certification to respond outside the gates.