From the Firehouse - First responders deal with COVID-19
Posted On: May 06, 2020
Greetings from the front lines.
The last few weeks have been a challenge for the 60 members of IAFF Local 2442 to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic has added a new layer of stress to an already stressful profession. As Firefighter/Paramedics and EMT’s, we are as essential as essential can get for the citizens and visitors of the Town of Normal. We take more pride than ever in reporting for each tour of duty at the Firehouse.
For the most part, its been business as usual as we have still responded to fires, car accidents, medical calls, and hazardous materials spills in much the same manner that we always have. On the majority of calls that we respond to, the only difference that you might notice is our use of N95 masks anytime we are outside of the firehouse, fire engine or ambulance.
Our dispatch center has added additional questions to their call taking script in an effort to identify anyone with potential COVID-19 symptoms. Dispatch will advise in route to the address if there is a high suspicion of COVID infection which triggers additional protective measures for any of our personnel that may be in contact with an infected person.
We don additional personal protective equipment outside of the building; including: face shields, gowns, booties, and in severe instances: self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). We only send the necessary number of personnel into the building that is needed to carry out patient care. From there, the hospital is given an alert of a potential COVID patient and a pre-designated ambulance is used to transport that patient in order to keep our front-line ambulances as clean as possible.
At the conclusion of the call, all equipment, staff, and the transport ambulance go through a complete decontamination process. The health department and our Administration notify our members any time a patient tests positive for COVID, and we are constantly monitoring ourselves for symptoms that could be related to the virus. Possibly the biggest concern for our members is exposing their family to the virus should we carry it home with us.
On the Labor front, we’ve been fortunate that our department had a large inventory of personal protective equipment and an operational plan for transporting potential COVID patients in place early on in the pandemic. Additionally, the Associated Firefighters of Illinois have been able to secure legislation that ensures any of our members who are infected with COVID will qualify for presumptive infection criteria for workers compensation purposes.
Unfortunately, our current collective bargaining agreement expired on April 1st so we had recently opened negotiations with the Town of Normal on a new contract. Negotiating a new contract during a global pandemic and the social economic effects associated with it is sure to be a tremendous challenge for our Union.
No matter what happens, the members of Normal Firefighters Local 2442 remain committed to providing outstanding service to our community. Through solidarity, we remain equally committed to protecting our members who are out there on the front lines.
By Matt Hill, President, Normal Fire Fighters
Livingston & McLean Counties Bldg & Trades Council