Mississauga firefighters raising alarm after running low on N95 masks

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Mississauga firefighters are voicing concerns about being forced to resort to heavier and more cumbersome personal protective equipment in the wake of a shortage of N95 masks.

On June 17, the Mississauga Firefighters Association tweeted that its supply of N95 masks is running critically low amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, firefighters will now be wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) to medical calls.

A SCBA is a device worn by rescue workers and firefighters that provides breathable air. The device, which typically features a mouthpiece and an oxygen tank, can weigh over 5 kg (or 11 pounds). 

At a June 17 press conference, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Service (MFES) Chief Tim Beckett said that while workers might find SCBAs inconvenient, they do work to protect firefighters and patients from the virus. 

"The current mask is a viable solution, even though it's not convenient. Until we can procure more [N95 masks], the public is safe," Beckett said.

Beckett said that MFES managed to procure 6,000 masks back in March, but has used the supply and is struggling to obtain more. He said that MFES is currently waiting for 14,000 N95 masks to arrive. 

At the press conference, he said obtaining N95s has been difficult, as hospital and long-term care workers need them more urgently. 

Beckett was also asked about the situation during a June 17 city council meeting. 

"We are working diligently on trying to secure a stock of N95 masks," Beckett said at the meeting, adding that he's been in touch with the province and other suppliers to try to figure out a solution. 

Beckett also told council that the breathing apparatuses are a workable solution for the time being. 

"It's not ideal, it's not convenient, but safety is first and foremost. We continue to explore viable options and I can assure you that over the course of this meeting I've been communicating with may suppliers and we're looking at how to get through this."

Cover photo courtesy of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services

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