Fire departments adapting to COVID-19 threat

WatchFrom medical calls to fires, small departments are worried about exposure to the virus.

Cumberland Fire Chief Mike Williamson has been with the department for over 40 years and never thought he’d see the day when he was rationing gowns and gloves.

“Our firefighters normally put the gloves on the way to a call but now we’re asking our firefighters to keep the gloves off until we get to the call because we don’t want to waste them if we don’t need them. We might not be able to get them in the future,” said Williamson.

He’s also happy to have two special masks with two more on the way.

“This is a face shield, I’ve got a couple of these which protects us pretty good from splatter or whatever,” Williamson said while showing the shield.

The chief is usually first to arrive and on many medical calls. He’ll now assess the person from outside and keep his arriving crews even further back to keep them safe.

“The duty officer will respond in there to check the situation,” Williamson said. “If it’s an extreme emergency we’ll have the crew arrive and we’ll suit up and we’ll go and administer first aid.”

And it’s not just the response to medical calls that have changed because of the coronavirus.

“Any call, even a fire call or an MVI we need to take precautions. We need to ask the people have you been around sick people or do you have the virus?” added Williamson.

Training nights have also taken a back seat to COVID-19.

“They can’t be lifting ladders and pulling hoses and standing right side by side. They need to keep their social distancing,” said Deputy Chief Craig Windley.

Of course in a real emergency, they’ll have to put those worries aside.

What Williamson says he’s really worried about is if the virus affects a member of his department or if several have to self-isolate because they’ve been exposed, it would have a serious impact on his department of three dozen firefighters.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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