PHOENIX — In a nationwide scramble to keep first responders safe, the City of Phoenix says they are competing with government agencies across the country for personal protective equipment (PPE) for police and firefighters.
City leaders say they have a two-week supply for its police and firefighters, and a spokesperson for Mayor Kate Gallego says she is comfortable with that amount.
The City of Phoenix is working with regional partners to secure more masks, goggles, gowns and gloves, but even the fifth largest fire department in the country doesn’t have the clout to get what it wants.
A city spokesperson tells 12 News they’ve ordered more than a million masks alone and received just 18,000.
“The market has proven challenging because of disruptions to shipments out of China and Hong Kong in particular. We have had multiple orders where delivery dates have been postponed,” said city deputy communications director Matthew Heil.
On Tuesday, Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner expressed her frustration after photos surfaced showing firefighters using rain ponchos in place of gowns.
“We have ordered millions of dollars of personal protective equipment that keeps getting hijacked before getting to the city of Phoenix,” Kalkbrenner said. “I use the word 'hijack.' It’s probably not an appropriate term, but that’s what it feels like when we can’t get the equipment to our members.”
The ponchos provide the same layer of protection and are approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an adequate alternative, Kalkbrenner said.
So where are supplies intended for Phoenix being re-routed?
Some online news outlets in recent days have speculated FEMA might be intercepting supplies.
A statement provided by FEMA to 12 News says those reports are false.
“FEMA has not redirected or seized any PPE,” an email from FEMA states. It goes on to say, “FEMA and our interagency partners are working to meet demands for supplies through new acquisition, DOD allocation or Strategic National Stockpile sources.”
The city says they’ve made appeals to Congress members and the governor for answers.
On Friday, Governor Doug Ducey said his priority is to get PPE to hospitals.
“We are waiting for the surveillance data that we receive from hospitals. The doctors and nurses have to be the priority right now,” Ducey said.
A Phoenix fire captain responsible for PPE inventory told 12 News Friday afternoon they expect more PPE shipments early next week.