Publication:

The Western Star - 2020-03-25

Data:

Extra careful

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STEPHEN ROBERTS stephen.roberts@thewesternstar.com

First responders throughout the province are enacting measures to mitigate the possibility of COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread. Joe Power, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services and fire chief for the Labrador City Fire Department, said he could only speak for his own department right now but believed many departments across the province were taking the same measures. According to Power, firefighters will start asking people questions about COVID-19 at emergency scenes, including whether they have been out of the country, whether they have been in quarantine, in contact with anybody with COVID19, or in contact with anybody with flu symptoms. “You will see first responders ask those questions,” Power told The Western Star. In the event somebody with COVID-19 called in an emergency, he hoped the person would be able to notify the dispatcher of their condition. Power said the Labrador City Fire Department was waiting for confirmation whether their bunker gear is enough to withstand the virus. If not, he said they would have to suit up and mask up for every call they receive. “I’m only speaking for my own department here,” he clarified. Power said all the department’s training and social gatherings have been postponed. “We will be taking precautions to protect firefighters,” he said. “But regards to working a fire or car accident or anything like that, we’re still going to respond.” Todd Flynn, the City of Corner Brook’s director of protective services, said they’re trying to limit the exposure of firefighters to the public as much as possible. The department is updating personal protection equipment for firefighters. The fire hall itself will be open only by appointment and otherwise closed to the public. The facility, as well as firefighting apparatus, have undergone extensive decontamination and cleaning. Firefighters will be required to clean at the beginning and at the end of every shift, said Flynn. “We’re basically just looking at the way we respond to various incidents. We have protocols in place regardless for medical responses but we’ve stepped it up in PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) for our firefighters,” he explained. “We have processes that have been stepped up on how we enter into these situations or these scenes and how we vacate them and how we decontaminate after we have responded to or attended one of these scenes.” Furthermore, administrative staffing has been reduced. There has been no reduction in the number of Corner Brook Fire Department responders. AMBULANCE COMPANY Meanwhile, Gary Rogers, the manager of Reliable Ambulance Service in Corner Brook, said the private ambulance company would be following the recommendations of the Department of Health and Community Services. However, he didn’t see a big change to its approach. “We’re always supposed to use the proper PPE and the (take) precautions (such as) handwashing and sanitization and cleaning our equipment supplies after every patient,” he told The Western Star. “It’s just a matter of making sure that everything is done and no steps are missed, especially now with COVID-19 on the go.”

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