With the COVID-19 virus now in Oregon, Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District (Fire District) personnel are preparing for the possibility that infected patients may call 911 and request ambulance transport to the hospital. The Fire District has recently provided enhanced training for its emergency responders on appropriate infection control measures including, personal protective equipment and safe work practices. The Fire District has also made some operational changes to protect emergency responders. When firefighter/paramedics respond to 911 calls for patients with flu like symptoms, they will take extra precautions including wearing a protective mask and gown, or similar protective clothing. The extra precautions are designed to protect firefighter/paramedics from contracting the flu or other viruses like COVID-19.
Fire Chief Roger Johnson said, “We are following recommendations and guidance from the CDC and Oregon Health Authority on how to best protect our emergency responders. We are trying to avoid a situation similar to Washington, where 30 first responders were quarantined after treating a COVID-19 patient.” The Fire District provides fire protection to more than 55 square miles of Sisters County and also provides ambulance services to 800 square miles of territory. “Losing even a few firefighter/paramedics, or volunteers, to a quarantine, would create a problem for the Fire District,” he added.
The Fire District has not seen an increase in 911 calls in the past month but is prepared should COVID-19 appear in the region. Chief Johnson said, “Our people are very well trained, we have implemented policies to limit potential exposures to our responders, and we have sufficient protective supplies on hand.” The Fire District encourages community members to follow the CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.