The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has imposed costs on the country’s police, fire, and emergency medical services. These first responders risk exposure in their jobs, yet must maintain operations in order to ensure the safety of the communities they serve.
These first responder communities are key stakeholders within the homeland security enterprise (HSE), and their resilience in the face of the pandemic is of concern to DHS. Thus, START seeks to collect data on COVID-19 impacts on first responder communities and provide evidence-based best practices.
The goal of the project is to measure the impact of COVID-19, identify and share best practices organizations can put in place to protect themselves in the short term, and identify strategies to make first responder organizations more resilient to pandemics in the future. Specific objectives include:
1. Build situational awareness of COVID-19 and its effects on first responders.
2. Analyze and understand literature regarding past pandemics’ effects on public safety organizations.
3. Provide initial best-practice guidelines.
4. Monitor current events, collect data, and rapidly synthesize information for use by first responders.
5. Review practices and planning guidance and analyze data to identify and disseminate evidence-informed practices.
The project will use a three-phase, mixed-methods approach. The team will review relevant and available literature, conduct interviews with first responders, leverage available survey data, analyze community-level contextual factors related to infection and mortality, and study the overall impact on service delivery in a sample of first responder organizations. The team will frame results by looking at three types of effects, namely:
1. Environmental - Changes in level and type of demand for services due to the pandemic.
2. Direct - Illness driven absenteeism, reduced productivity, and mortality of personnel.
3. Indirect Effects - The effects of COVID-related absenteeism, productivity losses, mortality (direct effects), and changes in demand (environmental effects) have on operations and ability to provide services.
December 2020 update: The research team has conducted a first round of interviews and anticipates launching a second round of interviews in late January or early February.