The Strange New Normal Response
As we try to return to as normal a life as we can while still dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that the virus will be remaining with us, as more variants and sub-variants make their way not only across the country but across the globe as well. Thankfully, mortality rates are low and hospitalizations fewer than it was in the past, even though differing waves of variants continue to cause spikes in infection rates. The effects of the pandemic have become something to live with and work around as we continue to answer the call to assist others. The media reports of other viruses such as monkeypox and others mean we need to stay vigilant to protect ourselves. It seems that following CDC guidance to help establish SOPs has become a part of the fire service’s strange new normal response protocols.
Those calls for assistance still come in and put the strain on our under-staffed departments, whether it be an activated fire alarm from cooking smoke or a working fire. With the problem of lithium battery fires becoming more widespread and the hazards from these and other stored energy systems for houses and offices, it will only increase our need to respond to this new category of fire service calls. Thermal runaway for electrical vehicle fires that fail to be extinguished with the usual resources will strain departments more as they face the reality of a multi-hour car fires and not having the ability to respond with a forklift and a water-filled dumpster that is large enough to submerge the burning vehicle. I guess forklifts and watertight dumpsters will need to be included on the strange new normal resource list at the dispatch center. And let us not forget about the risks we face from the hydrogen and CNG-fueled vehicles that are on our roadways.
You may have recently seen the news release regarding the distribution of ballistic PPE and trauma kits to several fire departments in Bergen County. The Bergen County Fire Service Working Group, in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Management, was able to use grant money through the State Terrorism Taskforce / UASI program to make these purchases and to supply gear and equipment to these departments that will be designated to respond and assist as a rescue taskforce at active shooter events. As training is completed and memorandums of understanding and response policies are set, expect to hear more of how this vital resource will be made available to respond where needed.
With active shooter, mass-causality events this year at malls, elementary schools, and parades, along with the almost daily reports of drive by shootings somewhere in the country, the unfortunate reality is it will happen again and can happen locally. When the rescue taskforce is up and running it will be able to be called for to assist as needed for active shooter events in your jurisdiction. Because, unfortunately, rescue taskforces with ballistic protective gear and trauma kits, are now part of our strange new normal response.