In the wake of placing six emergency workers off duty because of possible exposure to the coronavirus, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District now has a Pandemic Emergency Response Unit.
The two-person team will respond to calls of suspected COVID-19 cases, according to a March 21 press release from Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
The district recently received seven calls of suspected COVID-19 in one day and expects to see that number go up.
Schapelhouman said that the district will aim to minimize contact with whoever may have COVID-19 while on a call to decrease possible exposure to the disease.
"Captain Paramedic Jason Martin and Engineer Carlos Carpenter became the first two firefighters to staff the Fire District’s new Pandemic Emergency Response Unit (last week)," Schapelhouman wrote in the press release. "Perhaps the first of its kind in the nation, this unit will only respond to all suspected COVID-19 incidents in the Fire District.
"As a result, hopefully only two personnel per day will come into direct contact with suspected COVID-19 patients. Individuals on this specialized unit will be using the highest level of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and personal protective equipment (PPE) on each call, along with minimizing contact time that should help decrease the potential for exposure."
The new team will also be responsible for decontaminating each scene it visits and fire apparatus used on the call to prevent traces of the virus on equipment, clothing and/or the apparatus as outlined by district guidelines, Schapelhouman said.
"We believe that by raising the bar on our personal protective clothing and by putting this new special response unit in place, we can slow or help to hopefully more effectively stop its spread," he said.
Some fire district personnel have volunteered to serve on the unit, he said.
"The number of our off-duty firefighters grew again today, as yet another Menlo Park Firefighter, the seventh, was home sick and scheduled for testing," Schapelhouman wrote in the press release.
"At some point, we know one of our firefighters will contract COVID-19," he added. "Most are not in the risk categories and all are extremely healthy and fit based upon the daily expectations of our profession, but our collective goal is to delay, or stop, the spread for as long as possible."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.