6 Mass. fire chiefs team up to tackle pandemic response

The collaborative will track PPE use and identify shortages to ensure each department gets the supplies it needs


By Dave Rogers
The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

SALISBURY, Mass. — Six area fire departments – Newburyport, Salisbury, Amesbury, West Newbury, Merrimac and Newbury – recently banded together to make sure each had enough equipment and resources to fully confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salisbury Fire Chief Scott Carrigan said the idea had been in the works for close to a month but when the chiefs were able to secure a command post at the unoccupied Elm Street fire station in Amesbury, the partnership was officially sealed.

On Thursday, the communities released a roughly 80-second video, detailing the pact, on Twitter and Facebook.

The departments will track the use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, to make sure no one runs out and to quickly identify potential shortages, according to the video.

They are also working to standardize PPE usage per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Also, the departments crafted a consistent policy to address staffing shortages should firefighters contract the potentially deadly virus.

The chiefs discussed each community ambulance service and how to make sure ambulances and crews are there when needed, Carrigan said.

Three departments operate their own ambulance services: Amesbury, Newbury and Merrimac. The other three, Newburyport, Salisbury and West Newbury, use a private company.

Since the coronavirus crisis began in March, chiefs have been ordering their own personal protective equipment and other supplies.

But as Carrigan pointed out, the need for the protective equipment varied, meaning some departments had more masks than needed while others had fewer.

“We just wanted to make sure we had all our needs ahead of time,” Carrigan said.

West Newbury Fire Chief Michael Dwyer said when the opportunity presented itself to join his fellow chiefs, he jumped at it.

“It’s a good thing for us, it’s perfect for our community,” Dwyer said.

Newburyport Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire said the group was not founded because departments were competing against each other to acquire what they needed. It was more about coordinating efforts and making sure everyone had what they needed.

“We realized it was a good thing to get together and be on the same page,” LeClaire said.

In terms of why those six communities were chosen to work together, Carrigan said geography played a big part.

Amesbury, Salisbury and Merrimac are on the north side of the Merrimack River, while Newburyport, Newbury and West Newbury are on the south side. Carrigan said the even split of private and in-house ambulance services was a factor.

Finally, the departments have provided mutual aid to each other for years, LeClaire added.

“We’re all used to working together,” he said.

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©2020 The Daily News of Newburyport (Newburyport, Mass.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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