Langley, WA – South Whidbey Fire/EMS wants to update community members about what it is doing to keep families and first responders safe during the coronavirus, or “COVID-19” outbreak. The Fire District believes that it could be fighting the virus through the summer.
The Fire District is constantly monitoring the situation through local, state and federal agencies. Fire Chief Rusty Palmer says that the District has responded to infectious diseases for a long time.
“This is not new to us,” said Chief Palmer. “We have trained on this very situation and are here to help you and your family if you need us.”
The Fire District has changed how it operates to reduce the spread of the virus to community members and first responders. For example, it’s still responding to every 911 call, but has closed facilities to the public to prevent the potential spread of the virus. Administrative staff is working from home, but will be available to answer non-emergency calls if they are not on another line at the time.
If someone does come to the station, District personnel will come outside, maintain a six-foot distance and ask how they can help. The Fire District does not have masks, gloves, or other supplies to distribute to the public, as it needs to conserve these items so first responders remain equipped for an extended period.
Training for firefighters and emergency medical technicians is being done online to maintain their certifications. When first responders go on a medical call, they will show up with a gown, mask, eye protection, and gloves. This is to protect the patient and first responders. The District also limits the number of personnel entering a residence, and stages additional responders just outside, ready to assist if they are needed. There may be a mask placed on a patient to prevent any droplet transmission.
There are good resources available to South Whidbey residents to learn how to protect themselves and family members during this time. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
- Wash your hands often for 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face with unclean hands.
- 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 it can continue to do business remotely. For example, there will be further updates as to how members of the public can access Board of Fire Commissioner meetings.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS provides emergency services to 15,600 people over 66 square miles. The fire district has some full-time and part-time personnel, but relies primarily on volunteers to respond to an average of 2,600 calls a year. The fire district operates under a balanced budget and has a proud history of passing its financial and accountability audits by the state. In 2017, it earned a double-A rating with a leading bond agency because of its sound financial practices.