IAFC releases guidelines for mass-gathering response during pandemic

Nationwide protests involving spontaneous mass gatherings prompted the early release of the document

By Janelle Foskett

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) today issued guidelines related to responding to mass gatherings and large crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The document, titled “Response Considerations: Incidents Involving Crowds During COVID-19 Pandemic,” details nine response considerations meant to address potential gaps that could be faced by fire departments – whether urban, suburban or rural – when responding to incidents involving mass gatherings and large crowds during the pandemic.

The nine points, which are explained in detail in the document, are as follows:

  1. Maintain situational awareness.
  2. Unified command is the recommended framework for developing comprehensive incident objectives and strategies.
  3. Provide unified messaging and consider developing a crisis communications plan.
  4. Adhere to social distancing guidelines at all incident locations, including the incident command post (ICP), staging areas and treatment areas.
  5. A safety officer should be assigned to review the IAP for safety implications, develop a medical plan, monitor social distancing and PPE practices, present safety messages, and suggest adjustments as needed to prevent unsafe acts.
  6. Identify unsafe areas during mass gatherings and incidents involving large crowds.
  7. Consider needed adjustments to rescue task force (RTF) operations.
  8. Ensure that emergency/gross decontamination provisions for first responders are in place that harmonizes with the guidance of departmental and public health authorities.
  9. Avoid developing guidelines that depart from or that are not in harmony with existing national and local policy and directives (includes links to examples).

IAFC President Gary Ludwig noted that the guidelines were set to be reviewed by task force members; however, in light of the nationwide protests that have erupted around the country related to the death of George Floyd, the decision was made to release the document early.

Ludwig noted: “As this document illustrates, protest issues that may lead to spontaneous mass gatherings are not just urban issues. Real-time tracking of protest issues indicates that rural communities are at risk as well. As such, I encourage all fire chiefs - urban, suburban, rural/volunteer, combination, or career – to review this document for fresh information that will add to your operational readiness.”

Learn more at the IAFC website.

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