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CCFD puts protocols in place to deal with COVID-19

By Staff | Mar 19, 2020

First responders nationwide are trying to formulate strategies to handle the coronavirus pandemic to not only protect the citizens they serve but also themselves.

The Cape Coral Fire Department is doing just that, encouraging all of its personnel to follow the same rules of the road as everyone else, but also providing the same service it always has.

“We’re doing social distancing and all the CDC recommendations. We try to prepare for all hazards. We already had a stash of 95 masks,” said Mike Russell, Fire Division Chief of Operations. “There’s always some sickness, so we had things in place already.”

There have been some changes. The department has started advanced screening and has addressed and adjusted its treatment and transport guidelines to the coronavirus so the department can send the right resources.

A fire truck will continue to come to the scene of a heart attack along with medical personnel, they will just be more protected.

“If there are signs of symptoms, Lee County has specially trained paramedics who will also respond and treat the patient accordingly,” Russell said. “Personnel now require a certain level of protection regardless of the nature of the call.”

The last thing the CCFD needs is to have any of its firefighters fall ill to the virus. Russell said there are personnel on travel restrictions because they fell within the window of travel (they were at an airport or abroad) where they could have come in contact with the virus and are off duty, although they should be able to resume work soon.

Also, the CCFD has been able to flex staff, since the number of restricted fighters is so low. In the event the number gets higher, Russell said they could put those who have been promoted out of operational roles back in.

“I was promoted through the ranks, but I am still trained and qualified. If I had to ride an engine, I could,” Russell said. “It’s not ideal, but we can do that.”

Russell said the timing was right, as 10 new firefighters have been hired as 10 others were offered other jobs as they were set to retire anyway. Once those on travel restrictions return, the CCFD will be at full staff.

The city has mutual aid agreements with other fire districts on a regional and state level that are used on a regular basis.

In the event an entire station gets hit with the virus, the CCFD has plans in place, Russell said.

“We would want to backfill that neighborhood with an additional unit with reserve engines of we had to quarantine an entire crew. If it was widespread, we would have to adjust our secondary functions and direct them to the central functions of the city,” Russell said.

As far as working from home, administrators might be able to as they don’t necessarily have to go out to the scene of fires, but not those who are field based could not, Russell said.