COVID-19: Police, firefighters taking extra precautions on the job
VANCOUVER -- People may see some first responders looking a little different these days, as they take extra precautions while responding to calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surrey Fire Services Deputy Chief David Burns told CTV News Vancouver if crews are responding to a medical call where there are health concerns, they’ll be donning extra personal protective gear on top of what they already wear.
“It does look a little bit different, not much different than you would see probably in the hospital or in the emergency room,” Burns said.
The additional equipment includes a mask, a clear plastic face shield, a disposable gown, and two pairs of gloves.
“It depends on the type of call and whether the crews actually need to get close enough to a patient to do some intervention,” Burns said. “When we’re called, we have to respond to that, and we have to deal with the situation that we encounter.”
He added calls will first be assessed when they come in, and then again by crews on the scene, to determine if extra precautions need to be taken. When firefighters are finished at a call, Burns said they will safely dispose of any gear that is not reusable, and wash and sanitize any other equipment.
“They don’t go into the hall until all that’s done,” Burns said. He added they are also restricting entry to the fire halls to those who are actually working that day, to reduce risk of exposure within their buildings.
Police are also taking precautions. Sgt. Jeff Scott with the New Westminster Police Department said their officers also have protective gear they can use, as well as cleaning supplies for their cruisers when they’re on patrol.
“The public can expect at times to see officers wearing masks, maybe they’ll be wearing eye protection, gloves,” said Scott.
He said they’re also asking people who request police services to share whether they may have symptoms of COVID-19 beforehand, so officers can take precautions.
“Our officers are committed, they will come, and we’re committed to supporting the public, but we’re asking that the public supports us too,” Scott said. “Policing is one of those lines of work, you have no idea what you’re going to go into at times, and this is another precaution that we have to take, it’s managing risk as we go.”
Other police forces are taking similar steps.
Cpl. Michael Kalanj, media relations officer for the Burnaby RCMP, said in a news release people may be asked COVID-19 related questions when they call for service, such as whether anyone in their house has been diagnosed or whether they are showing symptoms.
According to the release: “Depending on the situation that our police officers are attending, they may wear protective equipment including a mask and goggles," and people are being asked not to be alarmed.
“In order to keep the City of Burnaby safe, we need to keep our frontline officers healthy,” Kalanj said.
Coquitlam RCMP Media Relations officer Cpl Michael McLaughlin issued a news release Wednesday, which also stated officer may wear personal protective equipment in some situations. McLaughlin added they were “minimizing personal contact for things like property crimes," and may find different ways to take statements instead of having people come to the detachment in person.
“Our officers are screening for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, talking to you more on the phone,” McLaughlin said. “And as this pandemic goes on, we’re going to keep adjusting our methods based on the science and direction given by our public health authorities.”