Helping Those Who Help Others: A Gift for Seattle's First Responders

As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the U.S. approach to public health, nowhere has its impact been felt more acutely than among the nation’s first responders. From doctors and nurses to paramedics and firefighters, front line workers have had to adapt their traditional practices to the new realities of COVID-19.

“It’s impacted every area of how we connect with a community to provide service,” said Harold Scoggins, chief of the Seattle Fire Department. “It made us stop and think about new and different ways to accomplish many of the things that we do.”

For Chief Scoggins, who oversees a department of more than 1,000 uniformed personnel and 100 civilians, the threat from COVID-19 is a daily concern. Thus far, 29 of his first responders have tested positive for coronavirus, and 173 have had to quarantine due to possible exposure. Keeping his personnel healthy is the first step to ensuring they do not pose a risk to the community they serve.

Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold Scoggins

Protecting First Responders in Seattle—and Nationwide

“Now our firefighters wear masks, gowns and goggles on all EMS responses,” Chief Scoggins said. “The last thing we want is for someone who is not healthy going out into the community.”

In May 2020, Seattle’s first responders got a boost when the CDC Foundation teamed up with SC Johnson, which has committed a total of $15 million to all of their partner organizations supporting underserved communities, health workers and first responders in the fight against COVID-19. Through one partnership, SC Johnson and the CDC Foundation provided care kits to more than 7,000 first responders in Seattle’s King County, one of several cities targeted by SC Johnson early in the response. In total, the CDC Foundation working with SC Johnson provided nearly 80,000 such kits to first responders in almost 100 locations throughout the country.

“Our company’s fundamental purpose is to work for a better world,” said Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “SC Johnson teams have come in 24/7 to make cleaners, disinfectants and hand sanitizers that can help protect those on the front lines and their families during these challenging times.”

They knew our first responders would be coming into contact with people in the community and would need tools to stay safe. That spoke really loudly to our personnel.


Rekindling a Previous Partnership

The kits, which included cleaning products and hand sanitizer, were intended for the personal use of Seattle’s first responders as they work daily in the community. The gift, Chief Scoggins said, was a welcome one.

“I thought it was an amazing gesture because they knew our first responders would be coming into contact with people in the community and would need tools to stay safe,” Chief Scoggins said. “That spoke really loudly to our personnel.”

Such partnerships are at the heart of the CDC Foundation’s work, filling gaps in public need with the skills and resources of partners like SC Johnson. Having connected originally with the Foundation during the 2016 Zika emergency, SC Johnson was proud to team up with the CDC Foundation once again to serve those who are serving others.

“Trying to provide a little relief to our firefighters, to give them additional tools they can use in their homes to help keep things clean and safe, has really been wonderful,” said Scoggins.