Fort Myers Fire Chief on COVID-19 Precautions

Mar 19, 2020
Originally published on March 18, 2020 7:30 pm

Emergency response agencies, like the Fort Myers Fire Department are often on the front lines during uncertain times.


 As more Covid-19 cases are confirmed in SWFL, WGCU’s Andrea Perdomo spoke with the Fort Myers Fire Chief, Tracy McMillion about precautions his department is taking.


Perdomo:

Chief McMillion, can you please tell me what measures your department has taken during this time?

McMillion:

The main thing, what we're doing as a fire department is looking at a response matrix, make sure we're responding appropriately to the type of patients, make sure we have universal precautions. And also making sure that we have the dispatch information to that, as well as also encouraging our staff to do what we call “self monitoring.” And that's when they actually will take their temperature, they'll look at themselves and make sure that they're not showing signs of any type of flu.

Perdomo:

You mentioned dispatch, what are they doing differently?

McMillion:

We have dispatch questions that have actually been directed and developed specifically for what we're dealing with the coronavirus. To make sure we're asking questions such as whether or not the patient has  traveled, whether or not the patient has flu like symptoms, whether or not the patient has a cough or, or had these things that are symptoms, or telltale signs of the symptoms of someone who has coronavirus. So this way our responders are aware prior to going that this may be a potential one of the things.

Perdomo:

What recommendations do you have for people who may think they have coronavirus and they might be considering calling 911.

McMillion:

So when you have flu-like symptoms, in your mind, you may be thinking, ‘hey, maybe this is COVID-19, or maybe a coronavirus.’ We don't want to clog up the emergency system for those type of calls. Those are things that can be really funneled through their primary care physician to order those tests to actually get you treated, you know, because there still are patients who will have, you know, just a basic flu or who still may have just basic, you know, ailments. So, those are things that your primary care physician can actually funnel, and it doesn't require a call to 911 to actually take care of.

Perdomo:

Can you tell me a little bit about the in-house precautions you guys are taking?

McMillion:

We've are actually going through our stations and our equipment and our apparatus and making sure we're doing daily disinfectants and decontamination of that.  We have a sanitizer that we put into our apparatus and completely decontaminate that. So that is something that's kind of new for us at that level. We'd always, you know, clean our equipment and keep everything clean but,  now we're really going very intentional at that and making sure. We’re actually are wearing more personal protective gear (PPE) on certain type of responses, just because we know there's a potential for that. So definitely a heightened sense of it. We're trying to actually secure through county resources and state resources, more PPE, more equipment, and really, really driving home the message to our staff to, you know, wash your hands more often, make sure you don't touch your face, you know, all the things that are coming out to the community. We're making sure our responders are doing that, even more so.

Perdomo: 

As members of your department come into contact with people who may have coronavirus COVID- 19,  And then they have to be put out of rotation as they are quarantined, are there concerns as to how that will affect the available personnel moving forward?

McMillion:

Absolutely. I talk for City of Fort Myers as well as I think I'm saying this for all other response agencies. We've all looked at worst case scenario, and trying to look at how our organizations could be impacted. You know, God forbid, if we were to really have so many folks who get exposed to it and have to get quarantine or isolated, that we can have to look at how can we still respond to the needs of our communities. We've already kind of spelled it out, put it on to documentation of how we'll actually handle that because it's one of our number one job is to be prepared to be able to meet the needs of our community. So we've looked at how this could potentially could hurt our staff and hit our staffing levels, and how we would actually respond with minimized staffing levels.

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