Swanton Fire Department Quickly Adapts During Pandemic

By:  Bill O’Connell

With the sudden appearance and swift spread of the COVID-19 virus and the subsequent state mandated protection guidelines from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Swanton Fire Chief Anthony Schaffer quickly implemented new policies and procedures designed to keep residents, patients and all first-responders safe and healthy.

In his report during the last Village Council meeting, Chief Schaffer detailed some of the changes put in place to protect everyone during this pandemic.  The following is taken from Chief Schaffer’s report.

“Planning continues but changes have stabilized on how we respond to incidents. Our response and operations continue to evolve but at a much slower pace than in March and April. We continue to learn more each week during this local and national emergency.

Three persons (Ashley Terry as a Firefighter I/EMT, Bill Montrie as a Firefighter II/Paramedic and Brian Groves as a Firefighter II/Paramedic) were hired under an emergency provision to get them acclimated to the Swanton Fire and Rescue Department (SFRD) before they are needed. Due to budget concerns the fourth hire is pending.

The following procedure has remained since mid-March.  Personnel wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) on every call they interact with a patient. Air Purifying Respirator (APR) or N95, glasses or goggles, gloves are the minimum, and sometimes a gown. The engine and the ambulance both respond.

The engine crew stages (stands-by), on scene, until one of the ambulance crew members makes initial contact with the patient. One person from the ambulance has the patient put on a surgical mask, an evaluation is initiated, the crew members work together when needed, and call for the engine crew, if needed. The engine crew is sent back to the station if they are not needed.  One change since the last council meeting is personnel that enter long-term care facilities must wear a gown in addition to the other PPE items.

This is a summarized version of how our personnel are currently handling many calls for service.  Day-to-day operations at the station continue. Visitors are limited and anyone that comes in has their temperature taken. They normally wear a mask also. On-duty crew cleans high touch areas, their equipment, ambulances, personnel take their temperature twice per shift when they work longer than 12 hours in a shift, they social distance as much as possible.

As of May 8, 2020, one of our part-time personnel had been quarantined through exposure from his other job. He did not fall ill and returned to work after the quarantine period. The predicted significant increase in run volume has not been an issue so far. Our planning has shifted to sustaining long term PPE use due to the modified response described above.

A factor in the long-term planning is the unknown end of the PPE use on nearly every incident. Personnel that may become ill or exposed, building a PPE supply inventory, and recent revenue concerns are a challenge. Our personnel continue following procedures to conserve PPE to the best of their ability.

We need to continue building our inventory and be vigilant with budget expenditures. Despite these challenges the SFRD personnel are doing a great job.

We have received some donations of supplies and equipment. Thank you to Tom Mier for Ear Savers for the masks, John Smelser for Ear Savers for the masks and Gary and Linda Doyle for the Wagner paint sprayer for decontamination for the ambulance and the station.”

Bill can be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com


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