The new tool will help state leaders understand how first responders are impacted by the virus and provide real time data on cases, quarantines, and vaccinations
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK N.C. — Earlier this month, RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), under the North Carolina Department of Insurance, released a statewide voluntary registry for fire fighters, emergency service workers and other first responders to report COVID-19 cases, quarantines, and vaccinations. The new registry aims to standardize collection of this information from over 1,300 state departments and make it available to fire service and public health authorities in real-time.
First responders have a higher risk of COVID-19 infections and tracking data in real time will help inform state leaders what resources are needed to increase safety.
“We have known for months that fire departments across North Carolina have struggled with the operational burden of mitigating employee COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks,” said Robert Furberg, Ph.D., senior clinical informaticist and lead researcher on the registry at RTI. “Although many jurisdictions have found their own ways to track COVID-19 cases, the new tool is the first effort to standardize a procedure across not only the state, but the country.”
The reporting tool shows metrics such as the total number of state departments reporting, total active COVID-19 cases across jurisdictions and the number of first responders in quarantine from exposure. There is also a field for first responders to report if they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Throughout the pandemic, our first responders have risked their own health and safety to protect our communities and it’s our duty to protect them,” said Mike Causey, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner, and State Fire Marshal. “This new technology will allow me and other state leaders to see first-hand the health issues of our first responders, so we have the data necessary to get them the needed help.”
The International Association of Firefighters previously created a nationwide COVID-19 tracking tool, but the new OSFM registry is strictly focused on the statewide needs of North Carolina’s first responders. In an earlier press release, OSFM shared that the reports are critical to underscore the need for additional support to state legislators.
In the future, the OSFM plans to use the same reporting tool from RTI to report cases of various cancers and how they are impacting the field.