They have hand sanitizers, gloves, and masks. But what some Lowcountry firefighters say they don’t have is financial protection if they contract the Coronavirus while on the job.
South Carolina firefighters say they will do whatever they can to help the public and treat patients who may have the coronavirus.. but who is going to protect them?
Apparently not the current state laws when it comes to workman’s compensation.
Hardeeville firefighters say they had to learn through the media that they may not be paid for time off work if they catch the virus.
That’s because the workers’ compensation laws in South Carolina don’t address pandemics like this.
Instead of blanket protection because of what the face every day, to get money if they are infected, these firefighters may have to prove they got the virus in the line of duty, not at home or at the grocery store.
“We are having different reactions to this when we come in contact with it. Some are mild some are major. It is one of those things we don’t want to take any chances with and one last thing they need to have in the back of their mind that everything is covered” says Joey Rowell, Hardeeville Fire Marshal.
“They are going to go and they going to do their job and save lives regardless of their insurance situation. So we owe it to them to be equally resolved to do what we have to do to protect them and their families,” said Harry Williams, Hardeeville Mayor.
“Hopefully those elected bodies will take a look at this and realize that public safety, as well as the health care providers, are the ones first and foremost on the front lines battling this,” said Rowell.
News 3 spoke to several other local departments about this issue.
The Bluffton Fire Department says it has plans in place and firefighters and EMT’s have been told this is not a problem.
The Town of Hilton Head says it will pay any First Responder who contracts the virus on duty for at least 14 days but the individual will still have to apply themselves for long term workman’s comp, as well as prove they did get it on duty.
Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams has stepped up for his Firefighters, he says he called or wrote to every local State legislator and the Governor himself to ask for changes in the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission policy and to change the wording to protect all first responders from COVID-19 and all pandemics.