Two weeks ago members of the Palm Springs Fire Department were exposed to COVID-19 during a medical aid call.
“That call came down as general weakness to help somebody out of the vehicle and it changed into that,” says Capt. Nathan Gunkel, the public information officer with PSFD.
He says the firefighters quickly put on their personal protective equipment but it was too late, the exposure had already happened. They got tested and had to stay home.
He says for those exposed, waiting for the results was agonizing, “It’s very emotional they were home quarantined with their families with new babies in the homes, wives, their kids so waiting for the results is very stressful.”
Fortunately their results came back negative but this forever changed the way they do business. Gone are the days when firefighters walk in for a shift and have a cup of coffee first, now, Now the first thing they do is stop at this table set up outside each firehouse answer a few questions.
“If you have a cough, if you have a fever, any shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms and we check our temperature in the morning prior to even walking into the station,” says Gunkel.
Plus their dispatch screen calls in more detail and firefighters are not taking any chances on any call.
“The best way we figured to fix this from happening in the future is to go ahead and have a mask and goggles on prior to even exiting the engine on any type of call whether it’s a public assist or medical aid,” says Gunkel adding that they can always remove gear once they assess there is no risk.
When we see them in uniform it’s easy to forget they too have spouses who lost jobs and children home from school.
“We have the added stress, I mean we’re human just like everyone else,” says Gunkel.
But that doesn’t lessen their resolve to help the community and their brothers and sisters.
“We’re all trying to lead by example, all trying to be on the forefront of this and take care of each other,” he says.