COVID-19 changes how first responders perform their job in the Treasure Valley

Posted at 3:41 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 12:48:53-04

BOISE, Idaho — The coronavirus has affected us all, but first responders still have to perform their duties during this pandemic causing concern for the safety of the men and women in departments all over Idaho and their families.

"Everybody is in good spirits but there is definitely concern from everybody that works in this field," said Deputy Chief Steve Blados of the Canyon County Paramedics. "One, am I going to catch this because I’m working in this profession? And two am I going to spread this to someone I come in contact with?”

While the rest of us have been directed to shelter-in-place, first responders still have to respond when an emergency happens.

"We’re all concerned about our health and welfare," said Deputy Chief Romeo Gervais of the Boise Fire Department. "The biggest thing people can do and it's the common message, stay home."

COVID-19 has also changed how first responders perform their daily duties Blados told us it's not business as usual for first responders.

The Boise Fire Department checks their firefighters for coronavirus symptoms and takes their temperature before and after every shift, the coronavirus has also prevented the fire department from conducting cross company training scenarios and they are conducting meetings online.

Both departments are wearing personal protection equipment, Canyon County Paramedics wear N-95 masks, gloves and eye protections but if they respond to a call where they anticipate coming in contact with a person with COVID-19, they also wear face shields and gown.

911 dispatchers are asking people questions to determine if they have any symptoms to help prepare first responders for the call, but they wear PPE on every response.

"We are not used to doing that on every single call, it is a pain in the neck," said Blados. "I would tell the public to be patient with us because yes before we make contact with you we are going to put on this protective equipment.”

Both departments told us they have enough PPE for now, but they are rationing how they use it while also stock piling as much equipment as they can from multiple vendors.

Gervais told us the public can help by staying at home, practicing social distancing, limiting burning and not dialing 911 unless it is a real emergency.

"Some systems have seen increases in non-emergency calls which reduces the ability of our first responders to respond to those true emergency calls," said Gervais. "Save 911 for emergencies.”

But we are lucky that we have people in our community who are willing to put their own health at risk which includes the police, hospital workers, firefighters, paramedics and so many others in an effort to keep everybody else safe.

“They are just an amazing group of people, every single one of them, not just the ones who work for our agency," said Blados. "Thank you and I know you are making a huge sacrifice.”