This is Fire Chief Rusty Palmer with South Whidbey Fire/EMS. I want to update you about what we are doing to keep you and our first responders safe during COVID-19. By all accounts, we could be fighting this thing through the summer.

First and foremost, I want to reassure you that we are constantly monitoring the situation through local, state and federal agencies. We have been responding to infectious diseases for a long time. This is not new to us; we have trained on this very situation and are here to help you and your family if you need us.

We are ready to respond, and have changed how we operate to reduce the spread of the virus to you and our first responders. For example, our facilities are closed to the public, but we’re still responding to every 911 call that comes in! Our administrative staff is working from home, but will be available to answer your call if they are not on another line at the time. If someone does come to the station, we will come outside and ask how we can help with a six-foot distance between us. Please understand that we do not have masks, gloves, or other supplies to distribute to the public, as our supplies are limited and we need to conserve so our responders remain equipped for an extended crisis.

Training for our firefighters and emergency medical technicians is being done online to maintain their certifications. When we respond to a medical call, we will show up with a gown, mask, eye protection and gloves. It can look a little daunting, but don’t worry! This is to protect you and first responders from spreading the virus. We also limit the number of personnel entering the residence to the absolute minimum, and stage additional responders just outside, ready to assist if they are needed. We may place a mask on a patient to prevent any droplet transmission.

There are good resources available to South Whidbey residents to learn how to protect yourself and your family. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

  • Wash your hands often for 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face with unclean hands.
  • Wear a face covering that covers both your nose and mouth when at all outdoor or indoor activities happening in public places. A statewide mandatory facial covering order is currently in effect.
  • Cough or sneeze into a single-use tissue and then dispose.
  • Practice “social distancing” where you stay home or avoid public gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • If you must attend a public gathering, stay six feet apart from others.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you feel unwell, contact your health care practitioner before calling 911 or going to an emergency room.

There are other resources where you can learn more about COVID-19:

Island County Public Health: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Health/Pages/COVID-19.aspx#guidance

Hotline 1-360-678-2301

Washington State Department of Health: www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus

Hotline: 1-800-525-0127

Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov

At this point, the Fire District is working on how we can continue to do business remotely. We will be in touch with instructions as to how you can access our Board of Fire Commissioner meetings, so stay tuned for that update! Thank you for your continued support.