Watertown firefighters and police officers have begun taking extra steps to protect themselves from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and both departments have found it hard to keep supplies of equipment to protect them from the virus.
Along with extra equipment, the Watertown Police and Fire departments have started using some new procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Fire Department may ask people to come out of their homes to reduce firefighters chances of getting COVID-19, said Watertown Fire Chief Bob Quinn.
“On certain Medical calls we will have people exit the home if they have COVID-19 symptoms or are in an environment with a COVID-19 positive person,” Quinn said. “This also reduces the risk to the Firefighters responding to the call as lees people will have interaction with the patient. All patients will get the proper required care but we will be operating differently to protect unnecessary exposure to our members.”
The Police have changed how they are taking reports for minor incidents, said Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn.
“We are letting people know for minor incidents we are going to take reports over the phone,” Lawn said. “My whole overall philosophy is to minimize exposure to my officers, keeping our officers healthy is my number one goal. We will take any steps we can do to reduce exposure to them. At the same time we are providing all the necessary services. We will still respond to all the 911 calls, all emergency calls, all medical calls.”
Watertown’s first responders are also wearing more personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The equipment consist of gloves, mask, eye protection and possibly a gown depending on the nature of the call,” Quinn said of the gear being used by firefighters.
The police wear gloves and use masks — sometimes the cloth ones and others the full plastic shield. Lawn said that officers are asking people if they have had exposure to the Coronavirus.
“We try save masks for those sorts of situations,” Lawn said.
Another way to reduce exposure is by closing public access to the Police Station.
“We locked the front door so people come to front door, we see what their needs are through speaker,” Lawn said. “If they need to come in for an emergency we will do that.”
The town’s three fire stations have also been closed to the public.
Neither the Police Department or the Fire Department has had someone exposed to the Coronavirus without wearing protective gear, but if they do they would have to be quarantined. Quinn said that it seems likely that it will happen at some point.
Quinn recommends that people take preventative measures, so that they don’t unknowingly expose a first responder to the virus.
“Because this virus spreads so rapidly our firefighter could get exposed like anyone else would, by not practicing social distancing, washing hands and staying at home and away from crowds,” Quinn said. “Everyone should be very diligent when at a grocery store or pharmacy to not touch anything unnecessarily and have hand sanitizer available to clean up if no soap and water is available.”
Both the Fire and Police departments have had a hard time getting enough protective gear.
“If anybody has any PPE they would like to donate to the department they can contact our EMS officer, Lieutenant Dave Meagher at 617-972-6516 or email@example.com. Anything would be greatly appreciated,” Quinn said.
The Police also wipe down their cruisers after each shift using disinfectant wipes. Masks, disinfectant and wipes have been hard to come by, Lawn said. Anyone who has extra supplies can donate it to the Police Department by calling 617-972-6500.