Since the introduction of covid, the new buzz word in the media has been “hazard pay”. The term hazard pay originates in the military, where you would receive additional pay when in battle. During this pandemic many have rallied for additional pay for those on the front line of the crisis. Nurses, grocery workers, truck drivers, public safety and more, all well deserved. The issue is in public safety our check is “hazard pay” already. Now sure, most of us don’t make near enough to cover our bills but in the end we signed up for this knowing what the risks were. We knew we would most likely have to work a part time job to survive, so any extra pay is always welcome. The issue is what the extra pay is called.
The general public will generally get behind anything for public safety, they understand the risks we sign up for and like to show us appreciation when possible. Unfortunately for us, most of them have no clue what public safety pay and budgets look like. Most citizens who walk into my firehouse think everything they see is provided by the County or City. Little do they know that we pay for our own cable, wifi, coffee, condiments, breakfast, lunch, dinner, tv’s, weights, basketball goals, etc… (and the list could go on and on). As you can imagine, that can get expensive. Most stations have dues that range from $20-$40 per month, that covers the above mentioned, except meals. Meals are an entirely new dynamic, each station can handle them in many different ways. For the sake of this example I will use my station. My station has 5 of us, we all pitch in and pay ⅕ of the dinner costs. Generally we can get our breakfast and dinner (lunch is on our own) for about $8-10. That provides us with two good meals. Since the pandemic has begun our ability to find food has become extremely hard. I am sure most of you have found the same problem when looking. With food being scarce the cost has gone up, and the selection down. One of our recent meals was ribeye steaks, something we would normally never buy. We had to get those because our store was out of ground beef, chicken, and anything else we would normally eat, that shift meal cost us $18 each. This has happened numerous times as of late. As you can imagine, that hits a budget hard. On top of food cost increase, add on the fact that most of us are bringing cleaning supplies from home as well. A lot of departments (by no fault of their own) are unable to obtain normal cleaning supplies due to people hoarding them. Lysol, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and other essentials are necessary to properly decontaminate our stations and ourselves. None of us want to take this crap home to our families so we willingly bring in our own stuff, which also costs a lot more to purchase than normal. This is not something we are asked to do, it is another way we take pride in what we do. It is also another step in protecting our families.
So as you can see, although we may not think we deserve “hazard pay”, essential pay would help a lot. It offsets additional costs we are incurring right now, as well as all front line workers. We are nothing special, we are just like anyone else, surviving paycheck to paycheck as best we can. All along hoping to keep you and your family safe.
Thanks for reading this, and remember, this is just my opinion, I do not represent the fire service as a whole. God bless and stay safe.