DESOTO – The Red Oak Fire Department scare earlier this week left some people wondering what if.
While it turned out the firefighter in question tested negative for COVID-19, we asked what are first responders doing to stay safe in the wake of the coronavirus spread.
Red Oak Fire Chief Ben Blanton said safety was his top priority and he wasted no time in assuring that us he walks his talk.
Jerry Duffield, who is not only the Fire Chief for the City of DeSoto, but also a Regional Director at the Texas Fire Chiefs Association said his department would do the same thing.
“We are following CDC guidelines in the uses of medical personal protective equipment (PPE) on all suspected contagious or COVID19 patients,” Duffield explained.
In DeSoto a paramedic is now stationed in the dispatch center to assist citizens with COVID-19 concerns in getting the proper help they need. Duffield said this also reduces non-emergency patient contact reducing the opportunities for exposure events for first responders.
“Initial patient contact is limited to one medic to assess the patient and their needs from a desirable position of six feet or more,” Duffield said. “The minimal number of personnel will be used to mitigate the emergency to limit patient contact as much as possible.”
As well, all potential COVID-19 initial responses are performed by a two-person squad in DeSoto. The ambulances are only exposed to patients requiring transportation to the closest appropriate hospital based on the needs of the patient.
“This is in an attempt to keep our ambulances and their crews available and contaminant free for immediate life-threatening medical emergencies,” Duffield added.
He said his personnel are also encouraged to practice personal accountability for handwashing, station and apparatus cleaning, and responsible use of sick time if sick, under the weather, or not one hundred percent.
Duffield said with these measures in place in his department his team is not running short of staff. Even better, he said the department has been fortunate to have received equipment released from the national stockpile including masks, gowns, eye shields, and gloves.
The DeSoto Fire Department also has plans to train to work with local, regional, and State first responder partners.
“Our systems are constantly tested and reevaluated to assure we are there when you need us,” he said. “COVID19 is concerning, primarily because of the unknowns that comes with it at this point. I am confident, given the national priority to mitigate this issue, we will have answers sooner than later. Until then, we exercise caution in any situation that might result in community spread. This includes quarantine of personnel that experienced a validated job-related exposure.”
First Responder’s Tips For Staying Healthy
Duffield’s tips for staying healthy from a first-responder perspective:
- Keep your mouth moist by constantly drinking, preferably water. If a virus is swept into your digestive tract from your mouth it will be killed. In a dry mouth a virus can possibly enter the body through tissues in the mouth if given time.
- Stay hydrated, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep to give your immune system the best chance of fighting off COVID19 as well as influenza, and other seasonal illnesses.
- Keep social distancing of at least six feet and further than that if possible.
- Stay in and stay out of social gatherings, restaurants, or entertainment venues even if not closed due to the disaster ordinances some counties and cities have enacted. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s not worth it.
- Postpone or cancel any unnecessary travel.