AUSTIN, Texas - More than 65 percent of first responders from Texas emergency service districts surveyed say they do not have enough personal protection equipment to handle COVID-19 exposure.
The survey was administered by the State Association of Fire and Emergency Districts, also known as SAFE-D. The association represents roughly 75 percent of Texas' 334 emergency service districts, or ESDs. First responders representing 138 of those ESDs - approximately 41 percent of the 334 - responded to the survey. An ESD is a political subdivision funding fire, and or, emergency medical services.
"The real issue is that if we don't have [PPE] and all of a sudden our folks start to come down with COVID-19 - then we don't have EMTs, we don't have firefighters when we need them,” said Cliff Avery, executive director of SAFE-D.
The survey shows that more than 20 percent of emergency service districts are also seeing a reduction in volunteers.
"We can't take the risk with our firefighters, and our EMT’s if they're gonna get sick in quarantine -- because we're going to lose those folks for weeks, and we don't have a ready supply of more volunteer firefighters or professional firefighters, more EMT’s to replace them with," said Avery.
More than 31 percent of those surveyed said they felt their ESD was very well, or well prepared for COVID-19, over 38 percent said they felt prepared, and more than 30 percent said they felt not well prepared, or completely unprepared.
"They're going to need this equipment in every scenario that they encounter. If they go out on a motor vehicle accident, they're gonna need to wear a mask and gloves because they don't know if the person that they are dealing with at a motor vehicle accident might have COVID-19.” Avery said.
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