Results From Week 5 of the NVFC Survey to Document the Challenges that Volunteer Emergency Services Face Related to Social Distancing and COVID-19

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) created a survey to better understand the experiences of volunteer and combination fire, EMS, and rescue departments dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19 and related social distancing measures. We ask that you take a few minutes to complete the survey here, and that you re-take the survey each week so that we can track changes over time.

Based on survey and other feedback from NVFC members, answer choices related to responder mental health, morale, fundraising, and junior firefighter programs were added to the survey on March 26, and answer choices related to training and recruitment were added on April 9.

Survey Results

Between March 20 and March 25 there were 168 survey completions from individuals belonging to all-volunteer (72%), mostly-volunteer (23%), and mostly career (5%) emergency services organizations. 71 percent of respondents reported having been adversely impacted by COVID-19, compared with 29 percent that have not.

Between March 26 and April 1 there were 78 survey completions from individuals belonging to all-volunteer (68%), mostly-volunteer (28%), and mostly career (4%) emergency services organizations. 77 percent of respondents reported having been adversely impacted by COVID-19, compared with 23 percent that have not.

Between April 2 and April 9 there were 57 survey completions from individuals belonging to all-volunteer (62%), mostly-volunteer (33%), and mostly career (5%) emergency services organizations. 68 percent of respondents reported having been adversely impacted by COVID-19, compared with 32 percent that have not.

Between April 10 and April 16 there were 59 survey completions from individuals belonging to all-volunteer (82%), mostly-volunteer (17%), and mostly-career (2%) emergency services organizations. 78 percent of respondents reported having been adversely impacted by COVID-19, compared with 22 percent that have not.

Between April 17 and April 23 there were 50 survey completions from individuals belonging to all volunteer (63%), mostly-volunteer (31%), and mostly-career (6%) emergency services organizations. 72 percent of respondents reported having been adversely impacted by COVID-19, compared with 28 percent that have not.

Respondents were asked to indicate areas where they were experiencing challenges:

  • Running low on personal protective equipment (PPE):
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16       4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    72%                   60%               66%             59%                  55%                 65%
  • Run out of PPE:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    35%                   25%               15%               16%                 10%                 13%
  • Inability to fundraise:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/26-4/23
    Not asked        46%               34%              55%                  37%               43%
  • Staff unwilling/unable to respond:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    48%                  43%               45%              47%                   45%               46%
  • Can’t get new personnel trained/certified because EMS education processes are frozen:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    31%                   35%                38%             48%                 41%                 36%
  • Concern over mental health of personnel:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1        4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/26-4/23
    Not asked        32%                40%              36%                  35%               35%
  • Unable to recruit new volunteers:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1        4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      4/10-4/23
    Not asked        Not asked      Not asked    50%                 47%                49%
  • Unable to train:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1        4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      4/10-4/23
    Not asked        Not asked      Not asked    76%                 71%                 73%
  • Challenges getting personnel tested for COVID-19:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    19%                   25%               9%                16%                  24%                19%
  • Low morale:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/26-4/23
    Not asked        25%               32%              26%                 16%                 26%
  • Disruption to junior firefighter programs:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/26-4/23
    Not asked        19%               28%               28%                31%                 25%
  • Personnel in quarantine:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    8%                     18%               17%               7%                    18%                13%
  • Struggling with increased call volume:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16       4/17-4/23      3/20-4/23
    7%                     4%                 2%                 5%                    6%                  5%

Respondents were also asked to rate on a scale of 0-5 (with 5 being the highest) areas where they need help most urgently. The average ratings were as follows:

  • Supply/resupply of PPE:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9       4/10-4/16       4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    4.5                     4.0                 3.8                3.4                    3.4                    4.0
  • Need more personnel:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    3.0                    3.6                  2.6                3.2                   2.4                   3.0
  • Supply/resupply of other (non-PPE) resources:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16       4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    3.6                     3.3                 2.8                2.6                   2.6                    3.1
  • Guidance/resources to help keep responding personnel safe:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    3.7                     3.1                  2.4               2.8                   2.9                    3.1
  • Guidance/resources on alternative fundraising strategies:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23       3/26-4/23
    Not asked        2.9                  1.8                2.8                   2.5                   2.5
  • Better information from PSAPs regarding potential exposures:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    3.2                     2.7                 2.0                2.7                    2.3                   2.7
  • Access to testing:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16        4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    2.6                     2.7                 1.8                 2.0                    2.3                    2.3
  • Guidance/resources related to behavioral health:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23       3/26-4/23
    Not asked        2.5                  2.6                2.5                   2.3                   2.4
  • Guidance/resources to help with quarantine:
    3/20-3/25       3/26-4/1       4/2-4/9      4/10-4/16      4/17-4/23       3/20-4/23
    2.8                     2.3                 1.7                1.5                    1.7                    2.2

Notable Trends Analysis

  • 71% of respondents indicated that they were experiencing challenges related to being “Unable to train.” That was down from 76% last week, but was still the answer choice that the highest percentage of respondents reported as being a challenge in the past week.
  • Supply/resupply of PPE continues to be the area that respondents are having difficulty with, although the overall percentage reporting that this is a problem has trended downward (72% week 1; 60% week 2; 66% week 3; 59% week 4; 55% for week 5 for “running low” and 35%/25%/15%/16%/10% for “run out”) as has the “Need Help” rating (4.5/4.0/3.8/3.4/3.4 out of 5).
  • 47 percent of respondents indicated that they were experiencing challenges related to being “Unable to recruit new volunteers.” This was the answer choice with the third highest percentage of responses.
  • The percentage of respondents indicating that staff are unwilling or unable to respond was 45% last week compared with 47% the previous week and 46% since the survey began. “Need more personnel” scored 3.2 out of 5 on the “Need Help” scale last week, behind only “Supply/resupply of PPE.”
  • The number of respondents decreased from 59 two weeks ago to 50 last week. The more responses the survey receives, the more robust and useful the data are. The more responses the survey receives the more robust and useful the data are. Please take the survey every week to keep us informed about your experiences!
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