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How local emergency crews are prepared for COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 6, 2020 at 2:25 pm MDT

PHOTO: Supplied. First responders with Regional Emergency Services in Fort McMurray and the rural hamlets are taking steps to protect themselves against COVID-19 exposure. From left to right: Mitchell Tobin, Kris Solbak, Kurtis Gudmundson, Grant Harty, Juston Wacey and Jordache Mywaart.

Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz said our local emergency crews are prepared to respond to any calls during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We are prepared in our knowledge and our approach, we’ve adapted our screening techniques.”

When a call is made to 9-1-1 a dispatcher will ask a series of questions to determine the emergency and then see if the caller has symptoms of COVID-19.

Once first responders arrive on scene they will confirm if the screen questions were asked and if they were identified, they will be wearing personal protective equipment, which may include a mask, face shield, hair cover, apron, gloves and shoe covers.

“What’s changed is the urgency to wear it more often and we are at a heightened awareness on what is COVID-19 and what is not.”

First Responders will also be going through screening and practicing social distancing to ensure the safety of their crews and the community.  Only one crew member will enter the scene at a time to conduct an initial assessment and complete a physician consult before transport to the hospital or recommending the patient to stay home if there are no life-threatening injuries.

“We’ve got three levels of screening, for two reasons. For the safety and health for our own staff so we can continue to provide our services to the residents but also to protect others, so we are participating in the stopping of the transfer of this virus.”

He added that they are doing everything that they can to help with the situation.

A state of local emergency was declared for the region on March 20 by Mayor Don Scott on the advice Chief Butz, along with the Director of Emergency Management and the CAO.

“I support it, when you look outside of the region and you look at what other municipalities are doing we are in line with everybody else and are following Alberta Health Services guide.”

Chief Butz said he is Proud of our region.

“Our community and our residents are no stranger to adversity and challenge. We made it through the wildfire in 2016 and we will make it through this one”

He said the experiences of stress will be somewhat like what we have been through before and encourages people to get mental health support.

“Reach out and make sure to stay connected as we are with the Fire Department, we are going to do everything we can to stay connected to our community.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association Wood Buffalo is providing mental health resources online.