Photos Andy Calvert
When it comes to essential frontline workers, the fire department is usually one of the first responders to arrive at an emergency scene.
“Daily, we have medical, trauma, and fire calls, but now since the inception of Covid-19, things have changed. When we receive a call about a person that is having difficulty breathing and displays the symptoms of the disease, we have to handle the call in a completely different way,” says Division Fire Chief Clete Bonney.
Rome / Floyd Fire departments biggest concern is being able to provide medical treatment while still protecting the firefighters and the citizens at the same time. They are interacting with so many people during a shift; they don’t want to go on a possible COVID-19 call unprotected and then move on to another residence. The goal is to reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus to another patient. Safety is always the first and foremost concern for both the firefighters and the citizens.
“Wearing the correct PPE (personal protective clothing) during contact is imperative. We’ve always had infectious disease protocols in place that the fire department strictly follows. Still, since Covid-19 is an unknown virus, we’ve had to adjust these protocols to a stricter level to limit exposure. We follow the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Department of Health’s recommendations and guidelines. The seriousness of COVID-19 has changed how we asses each situation and incident,” says Bonney.
Chief Bonney explains, “We had to change our response procedures. A normal response to a medical scene consisted of at least five firefighters arriving and entering a residence. We now assign a single firefighter in full PPE to enter the residence and access the patient. Once they have assessed the patient, the rest of the crew will enter the residence (in full PPE), or only one more person will enter (depending on the assessment) and assist in the treatment of the patient until an emergency medical crew arrives.”
The essential part of executing a safe environment for the fire department and the public is keeping everyone safe. The fire department works closely with the E-911 emergency call dispatchers. The dispatchers have a specific set of questions that they ask every caller. Dispatchers relay this information to the responding engine companies, preparing the responding crews to prepare for each incident safely.
Chief Bonney went on to illustrate how detrimental it is for responding engine companies to follow response and PPE protocols for the entire Rome / Floyd Fire department’s safety. “The men and women at the stations are the boots hitting the ground, and they are the people facing this head-on. They are our true heroes and leaders, and we honor every minute they are out there helping our citizens. Rome and Floyd County citizens have always been very supportive of their first responders, and we appreciate them very much”.