Mississauga, Brampton fire departments not seeing impact to service levels during Omicron surge

In the weeks since the holiday season began, service and staffing shortages in emergency responding units have been since across the province. But fire departments in Mississauga and Brampton say that’s only partially true for them. Both departments say they have seen an increase in staff who can’t work, either because they have COVID-19 or are awaiting test results — however, that hasn’t changed their response capabilities.

Chief and director of Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services Deryn Rizzi said fluctuating staff levels were seen over the holiday period when around 40 employees were off,but that wasn’t significant,

“During that time, when we hit our peak, we worked with our association, the IAFF 1212, and collaboratively implemented rapid antigen tests and after, that our numbers have improved and stabilized,” she said.

Currently, the department isn’t seeing any major shortages although that could change at any moment, said Rizzi.

Municipal protocols put in place mean all fire department staff must complete a rapid antigen test and receive a negative result before they can even start their shift, coupled with additional screening measures.

Though this move won’t stop the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it can help to stop “volatile workplace spread,” said Rob Grimwood, Mississauga Fire deputy chief.

Over at Brampton Fire, media contact Jacqueline Fulton said their department has also seen an “increase in the number of staff that need to isolate due to COVID-19,” though there has been “no impact” to emergency response capabilities.

“Brampton Fire and Emergency Services has a pandemic response plan in place, and will continue to monitor and adjust as required,” said Fulton.

However, this is not the situation at Peel Paramedics, where multiple “Code Blacks” — when there is one ambulance or less available to service the community — have been issued in recent days.

As explained by Rizzi, the Mississauga Fire department has a tiered response agreement with paramedics where, if necessary, the department can assist and be deployed to life-threatening calls such as when a person is chocking or unconscious, is suffering major trauma or has difficulty breathing, among other conditions.

“We have the capacity to assist if and when Peel Paramedics Services need our assistance,” she said.

Pending discussion with paramedics is ongoing.

If the situation was reversed and Mississauga Fire saw critical staffing shortages, there are multiple mutual aid plans where the department could rely on neighboring fire services during large emergencies.

Both departments confirmed they will continue to respond to every call they receive and have ensured residents that if they need help, their response will be there.

“If anyone is in need of assistance, Mississauga Fire Services will be there and we have been there before and we will be there today, tonight and tomorrow,” said Mississauga Assistant Fire Chief Stephane Malo.


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