Fire fighters' ability and willingness to participate in a pandemic
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Current estimates predict that 30-40 percent of the population will be infected with the flu virus during a pandemic. Fire departments should anticipate a higher attack rate for their personnel because of increased exposure risk. Additionally, many variables will negatively influence fire fighter participation rates over and above these attack rates. This thesis analyzes fire fighters' ability and willingness to participate in a pandemic through a comprehensive survey of fire fighters within the twelve National Capital Region fire departments. Issues that may influence fire fighters' ability and willingness to work include childcare, concern of family, adequate personal protective equipment, worker's compensation coverage, and availability of vaccines and antivirals. Collectively, these variables determine a workforce participation percentage (WPP) - the share of fire fighters who will be able and willing to participate in a response during a pandemic. Results indicate that between 30-70 percent of the fire fighters will not be able or willing to work during a pandemic. Although a fire fighter's participation is situationally dependent, fire departments should take urgent steps to address five core areas. These are included in a set of recommendations. Ultimately, the priority recommendation is for fire officials and regional public policymakers to rise to the challenge of the complexity of these issues. Leadership in the face of this recognized pandemic threat, however, remains an elusive solution.
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