Adapting to the “New Normal”

Like everyone, our fire company has made many adjustments to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our response policies have been altered to limit COVID-19 exposure to our citizens and our responders while still providing the level of care our community deserves.

While our response patterns have been altered slightly, the pandemic has also presented challenges in other aspects of the operation of our fire company — including the ability to train. By implementing a few modest changes, the fire company leadership ensured that our members continued to receive training on routine topics and COVID-19 procedures.  Video conferencing tools and online curriculum delivery became staples of responder training when in-person interaction was not recommended.

The annual countywide fire academy is generally hosted and instructed by Neshannock Township fire instructors.  At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, three of our personnel were enrolled in this program.  Although the program was forced into a brief hiatus, our instructors were able to make effective use of online instruction combined with staggered and socially-distanced practice sessions to allow all fire academy students to finish their entry level training.  These adaptations to the way we train have also allowed our fire company to resume weekly training sessions for new and veteran members alike while limiting COVID-19 transmission.

The pandemic has also caused a disruption to another key component of fire service operation across the country: funding. In the summer of 2020, COVID-19 relief funds for fire departments were made available by Lawrence County.  Despite applying for relief funding and meeting the funding criteria, our fire company was not provided any relief funding from Lawrence County like other fire companies in the county received. 

We were, however, able to secure a COVID-related grant on our own through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  This grant was utilized to purchase a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) washing system that sanitizes our masks and breathing apparatus to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 contamination.  This system was installed in early 2021.

Just as we all are, the fire company continues to monitor our operations and adjust to this “new normal.” We have always been impressed by the goodness and resourcefulness of our citizens, businesses, and visitors even during challenging times.  Please join us in keeping a focus on safety as we continue to adapt to changing conditions!