Aid to Beirut Firefighters
Getting PPE to first responders in Beirut and beyond
Across the world, first responders have been risking their safety this year during the pandemic to ensure they do their jobs and help others. In Beirut, as elsewhere, firefighters, nurses, doctors and other professionals are more likely to contract COVID-19, as they serve the public in high-risk spaces.
Firefighters were among the heroic emergency first responders to the Beirut blast. And Beirut firefighters continue to be at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in Lebanon, even after losing ten of their colleagues in the August Beirut port explosion.
These tragic fatalities were an especially painful blow in an undersized fire department. According to international standards, one firefighter is needed per thousand citizens. Following this guideline, Beirut’s population in excess of one million residents means it needs some 1,500 - 2,000 firefighters. It currently has less than half that — only 600.
Despite their work in saving lives across the city, the Beirut fire department receives little support from the city municipality, and relies on support from charitable organizations to help maintain their supplies.
Thanks to a medical donation from Direct Relief, Anera has recently distributed medical supplies and personal protective equipment to help the brave men and women of the Beirut Fire Department so that they can protect themselves and others from COVID-19 while on duty.
The shipment of supplies had arrived in port, pending customs clearance, when the explosion happened. Remarkably, given the utter devastation, the shipment was salvaged undamaged after the blast.
We inspected the shipment inventory to ensure it hadn’t been damaged before distributing the donated items, much of it to the very same first responders who arrived on the scene to extinguish the fires. The remaining items were distributed to other municipalities to aid the response to recent wildfires in Chouf district.
“We would like to thank Anera for its donations. We hope we can continue receiving aid as we are in urgent need of support to maintain our humanitarian work while keeping our first responders and the local community safe from COVID-19.”
— Claude Helou, director of Beirut Fire Department inventory
The department has 650 members, half of whom are irregular volunteers, and the other half are underpaid employees based in departments across the country. The firefighters have a long list of equipment shortages, ranging from the most basic — water cannons, alarms and oxygen masks — to automatic ladders and thermal cameras.
Hassan Abboud is a member of the Beirut Fire Department. “I’ve been working in the brigade since ‘96. The fire brigadiers have always faced difficulties, obstacles and threats — whether from Israeli raids, accidental explosions of fuel ships or events like the Beirut blast. Each of these events has taken the lives of firefighters.”