The work of this former student: providing protective equipment to agencies during the pandemic


Labriola-Cuffe worked in hospitals for 12 years after graduating with a Bachelor of Exercise and Athletic Science from Penn State in 1996. She had also worked as a paramedic and firefighter and eventually decided to work full time in the emergency services.

Labriola-Cuffe is the Chief of Fire Training for Westchester County Career Fire Academy. She oversees the training of all paid and volunteer firefighters in the county. But his job responsibilities were shifted during the pandemic to work full-time at the county emergency operations center for more than two months.

She said Westchester County is a big business. Its population is just under a million and it has 11 major hospitals. There are 45 police departments, 58 fire departments, 50 EMS agencies, over 100 skilled nursing homes, adult care facilities, and many homes for the disabled – which workers and residents all need to have. protection.

“This is something so unprecedented. It’s much more global than I had imagined, ”said Labriola-Cuffe. “I learned a lot about disaster planning, anticipating. We are trying to plan what will happen next. I have taken the disaster planning, coordination and communication learned in my classes to a whole new level throughout this pandemic. “

Labriola-Cuffe was on the ground in March to help manage logistics in New Rochelle, a city in Westchester County, when it was the first hot spot for the coronavirus outbreak on the east coast.

As the county liaison with the New York State Incident Management Team, she saw the crisis up close. She met with officials from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and the New York State Department of Health.

At the time, the New York State Police were distributing swab kits to the Albany area state laboratory. She said 400 to 500 people per day were swabbed, but the lab could only perform about 200 tests per day.

“Since then, I have been working 13 hour shifts, six days a week,” she said. “I took disaster training like no other. “

Labriola-Cuffe said Westchester County saw a sharp increase in the number of deaths in April and PPE is more important than ever. The refrigerated trailers served as additional mortuary space, and she purchased supplies for the funeral homes.

“Funeral home workers need the proper equipment to embalm the bodies of victims,” she said. “This is something I could never have imagined in a million years that I would be working on.”

For the past three years, Labriola-Cuffe has been enrolled in Penn State’s Masters program in Homeland Security, with the dual option in Counterterrorism and Public Health Preparation. It is offered online through World Campus and taught by the Penn State Faculty of Hershey College of Medicine and Penn State Harrisburg.

In addition to spending the last few months working in the pandemic response, Labriola-Cuffe completed the wrap-up project which was a graduation requirement.

Before the pandemic, she had worked on developing protocols for EMS and police to incorporate their response into an active shooter. His flagship project was to require bleeding-stop tourniquet training in schools for active shooter scenarios.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said of her last semester.

“We are” stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever, and Penn Staters around the world are coming together in new and amazing ways. In these difficult times, our community continues to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron wrote on Digging Deeper, this really is a “We Are” moment – and we want to hear your “We Are” stories.

Visit to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other in overcoming the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are!

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