Local fire agencies share how they're protecting firefighters during the COVID 19 Pandemic

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) For firefighters, personal protective equipment (PPE) is now part of their everyday uniform. The PPE protects first responders in case they are exposed to COVID 19.

"Full personal protective equipment would be gloves, which we always wear, every medical call we go on, we'd add an N-95 mask to filter the virus, glasses if they don't wear them already and gowns that are splash protection," Reno Fire Chief, Dave Cochran, said.

Dispatchers are now screening calls so that first responders can be prepared if they have to respond to a call involving someone who may have the virus. If a caller tells dispatch they have symptoms, RFD now requires firefighters responding to wear PPE. Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue taking protecting a step further, requiring its firefighters to wear PPE to every medical call.

Cochran said with the high demand for PPE, the agencies are concerned with potential shortages.

"There is always a concern and a worry do we have enough personal protective equipment because I feel it's at least part of my obligation to make sure these crews have the tools they need to perform the service," Cochran said。

Captain Mark Thyer, of Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue, said they anticipate having to get creative to get equipment.

"When one company has an N*95 mask, the other may have the gowns we need, so we're going to have to reach out to a lot more organizations to get that equipment," Thyer said.

Both agencies have plans in place if there is a staffing decrease because of the coronavirus, but with peak fire season around the corner, there are more concerns。

"How is that going to affect the fire season response? Are we going to get help if we need it or are we going to be able to provide help is someone else needs it?" Cochran asked。 Beyond that looming challenge, Cochran said the biggest issue for his firefighters right now is a lack of test kits for COVID 19。

"We want to make sure that one, we're not sending someone who is COVID positive out in the community and transmitting that in the community, but two, if someone is a-symptomatic and we can confirm that they don't have the virus instead of having them quarantined for 14 days out of an abundance of caution," he said.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020


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