For 134 years, your professional firefighters have proudly staffed Lincoln fire stations, and our mission has been the safety of Lincoln residents.
Since 1939, the Lincoln Fire Fighters Association has given your firefighters a voice to bring forth health and safety issues from the front lines. The unprecedented challenge and risk we are facing today demands that we use our voice again. We need you to know three things: that we are still here for you when you need us; we can get through this with the help of professionals, leaders, and experts; and we need your help.
We are your firefighters. Our sole purpose is protecting the safety and well-being of this community to the best of our abilities. Each day, your firefighters arrive for duty prepared to risk our own health, well-being, and even our lives in pursuit of this purpose.
We train and educate ourselves every day in preparation for fire and health emergencies and events that may strike Lincoln, some extremely likely and some the rarest of rare.
Our ability to respond to a plethora of different and difficult challenges relies on the expertise of scientists, doctors, laboratories and subject matter experts. These experts also help us maintain the highest possible level of safety for ourselves and for those we help.
The current pandemic is a perfect example of a rare, hopefully once-in-a-lifetime, health event, the scope of which we and the majority of the health care community had not seen in our lifetimes.
We know we can trust the experts during this challenge because we have successfully followed their recommendations so far. Around 5% of our 275 members have contracted COVID to date despite persistent shortages in personal protective equipment due to collapsed supply chains and lack of adequate resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is well below similar fire departments and city agencies.
This is remarkable because our only real protection this entire time, even for the paramedics transporting dozens of positive patients in an enclosed ambulance during transports of 15 minutes or more, has been masks and safety glasses, which we have had to reuse for weeks.
This is a time of uncertainty and change, but the firefighter motto stays true, “adapt and overcome.” Make no mistake about it: We will continue to respond to your emergency with the highest level of professionalism to the best of our ability.
This pandemic has developed into a political debate across the country. Our members reflect the community with many differing personal, religious and political views, but we are united on this: Taking the precautions recommended by virus experts and city leaders is the way to reduce spread, help eliminate the virus, and eventually get our lives back to a semblance of normalcy.
This is not a political issue for us. By now, every front line firefighter and paramedic within the city of Lincoln has come face to face with the horrendous effects this disease has on the people we serve.
We live with the risk that we could contract the virus from work and that we could bring that home to our families. We also realize the devastating effects that uncontrolled spread within the fire stations will cause, from station closures to being unable to respond to all incidents with the level of care and response that our community expects from us. That is why your firefighters are diligently adhering to the recommendations of the experts and the guidance of our city leaders to the best of our ability.
We wear masks and social distance as much as possible whether we are on or off duty. This is not a fear response. We are sworn to protect the citizens of this great community, and we have a responsibility to each other and our families. However, we are only a small portion of our community and to control this virus we need your buy-in.
Please join us in following the recommendations from the experts, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, social distance and avoid large gatherings. With the help of our community -- that means you reading this -- city leaders and health care professionals all over this city, we will find a way to mitigate this problem.
Adam Schrunk is president of the Lincoln Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 644. Phil Lewiston is secretary of the Lincoln Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 644.
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