FFs react: Should first responders receive hazard pay during a pandemic?

The idea of hazard pay for COVID-19 first responders was floated last week by White House administration officials, and the firefighter community had an opinion


We asked Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder, a Lexipol senior fire advisor, to weigh in on this hot topic: "I understand why certain people would feel that hazard pay would be a priority, but I don't feel that way. The hazard pay is the pay that started the first day on the job and that comes every two weeks. This has always been a risky and hazardous job. We also have hundreds of thousands of volunteers in North America responding to fire and EMS calls every minute of every day, and they accept the hazard for no pay. What would they get? A 15% bonus of nothing? I get this is a very tough and scary situation, as are the many runs our personnel respond to – and have responded to – well before this crisis, and it is all part of accepting the job. Perhaps reducing the risk to minimize the hazard may be a help to those asking for something extra: Use all the PPE that's issued, social isolate on and off duty, wash your hands, scrub the rigs and do everything the experts are telling us to do. Elected (local, state and federal) officials need to make sure firefighters, EMTs and cops have THE ABSOLUTE BEST in presumptive medical benefits. But hazard pay? I don't think so. That's been the pay all along."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested on Monday that hazard pay for first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic could be included in the next round of relief legislation from Congress.

The news elicited a variety of reactions on social media from the FireRescue1.com community, some strongly opposed and others very much in favor.

Following are a handful of comments, in no particular order, highlighting the myriad opinions on this hot topic:

The firefighting community weighs in on hazard pay for first responders.
The firefighting community weighs in on hazard pay for first responders. (Photo/Getty Images)

1. “No, save that money for our military members going into battle. That is true hazardous duty. As a veteran, I won't accept extra money as a first responder, I will donate it to a disabled veteran's group or a support group for family members of first responders who die in the line of duty. I didn't get licensed for extra money, I did it because I enjoy what I do and giving back to the community.”  -- Linda M.

2. “Call me a bit old fashioned, but we’re already compensated for hazards. We know what we signed up for, it’s worth the risk. The inside of your helmet has the only warning you need, ‘Warning: Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job, which may result in injury or death.’”  -- Brandon Y.

3. “I can’t believe that I’m reading this right. Everyone is bitching for hazard pay? We’re lucky that we’re able to still be going to work to earn a paycheck. Think of all of those that can’t who are sweating out how to buy groceries or pay their mortgage so that their family isn’t put out on the street. I’ve been with my current fire department for over 25 years as a FF/Paramedic and [in total] I’ve been in the first responder business for almost 40. What we’re doing now is just putting one more tool in our kit. We’ve been doing that for years. We’re always training on something new or learning new equipment; facing new dangers. Yeah, you could catch this virus, but you can also get hurt or killed responding to a false alarm or the real thing. You already take precautions for MRSA and other crap. All you’re doing here is upping your game. Be grateful to be considered necessary and have a paycheck.” – Patrick T.

4. “These workers deserve this and so much more. Our gratitude and love to these selfless workers during these trying times.” – Patricia M.

5. “I don't need hazard pay, I am actually working. What I do need is the reassurance that my health insurance will be covered if I do catch it, with no hassle.” – Chris C.

6. “Hell, I'd take it. Go down to the locally owned restaurant struggling to keep its doors open and cater some meals for the station. Everyone wins there. We get food, they get money to pay bills and such. Mom and pop places are going under left and right during all this.” – Derek W.

7. “Keep it, we get paid to deal with hazards. Put the money toward U.S. manufacturing of medical supplies and goods! No more outsourcing of our manufacturing!” – Jon R.

8. “Keep it. I'm still getting paid to work while others lose their jobs. And, I think I speak for a lot of first responders.” – Jason H.

9. “Was a volunteer [for] many years before I became fulltime ... we made $0.00/hour as a volunteer – $0.00 x 1 1/2 = $0.00. Not sure how they’d figure out an hourly wage to do this, but I’m all for it! We couldn’t do it without the help of our volunteers!” – JC C.

10. “I'm sure that it will get sucked up by the companies we work for, and we (those actually on the front lines) will be left the scraps on the table to fight for.” – Walter A.

11. “Some FDs are already paying hazard pay (24-hour shifts + 12-hours straight pay to make their paychecks for 36-hour shifts), while most are not.” – Andrew A.

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