Firefighters On Front Lines of Coronavirus Response

Firefighters On Front Lines of Coronavirus Response

Kitty Alvarado

Over the weekend 25 firefighters, seven paramedics and two police officers in Washington state who responded to people infected with coronavirus were quarantined. Now, four Orange County Firefighters are taking measures after transporting a person with coronavirus-like symptoms. This is wake up call for first responders around the country.

“The Palm Springs Fire Department we’re taking it very seriously,” says Captain Nathan Gunkel, with the Palm Springs Fire Department.

Gunkel says when they’re dispatched they get basic information that will help determine what they do when they get there and they’re following CDC recommendations, “The recommendations are that all first responders when responding to persons possibly infected with the coronavirus is to wear both respiratory and eye protection.”

Everyday brings new information. This virus has them reassessing their procedures constantly and making changes.

“Initially we were carrying our N-95 masks with us and then if we decided during the assessment to put them on but as of today, with any flu-like symptom responses we’re putting on our masks prior to entering the residences,” he says.

These masks are a critical tool that help keep our first responders safe.

“It is airborne so we need to keep all the droplets getting in through their mouths, nose or eyes,” he says.

But as the department tried sourcing them on Monday, they ran into issues.

“Because the community basically went and bought all the masks up we’re unable to purchase any more at this time … out of stock with nothing expected until June first,” he says. 

They like many other health officials are making a plea.

“Please save them for the first responders and the medical personnel … we understand, if we’re down who, who does step up to help,” says Gunkel. 

Here are the CDC recommendations for use of masks from their website: 

    • CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings (in the community). Most often, spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet). CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes or nose, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue. People who are sick should stay home and not go into crowded public places or visit people in hospitals. Workers who are sick should follow CDC guidelines and stay home when they are sick.
    • A surgical N95 (also referred as a medical respirator) is recommended only for use by healthcare personnel (HCP) who need protection from both airborne and fluid hazards (e.g., splashes, sprays). These respirators are not used or needed outside of healthcare settings. In times of shortage, only HCP who are working in a sterile field or who may be exposed to high velocity splashes, sprays, or splatters of blood or body fluids should wear these respirators, such as in operative or procedural settings. Most HCP caring for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients should not need to use surgical N95 respirators and can use standard N95 respirators.