On March 11, 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the WHO (World Health Organization). This is the first pandemic known to be caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus, namely COVID 19. As this disease took hold of the world, our fire rescue and emergency services were faced with educating and setting up protocols for dealing with the disease. Thanks to our doctors, research organizations and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and County EMS and FRES organizations, guidelines were set up for handling patients that were suspected of having COVID 19.

I am very proud of how our first responders have been involved with this pandemic from the “get go” and set up recommendations for all departments to follow. Their daily updates on the disease have kept anyone involved with patient care informed about the progress of the disease. They have updated you around the clock with recommendations, who to call if you have problems, patient testing and personal safety.

Guidelines for patient care and transport were sent to everyone. Not only have guidelines been set for our EMS providers, guidelines were set for general fire alarm response. How should you respond? Where should you sit on the rig? What should you do when you return to quarters? These are a few of the questions that were addressed by FRES.

According to the CDC, people 65 and over account for 80 percent of the deaths from COVID 19. Agencies should strongly consider not having members in that age group respond. Fire Police should not respond unless requested by the IC. Departments should consider relaxing LOSAP requirements. Members should not worry about consequences to their quota or LOSAP credit. Limit the number of vehicles that respond and the number of personnel that may be exposed to people or premises on the alarm. Keep ambulance crews staffed with a minimum crew. If more members are needed, request additional personal. Check with your county EMS and fire rescue and emergency services for recommendations.

I recently listened to a Webinar about the “mask debate.” The Zoom (a means of holding group meetings over the Internet) presentation was excellent. My compliments to Suffolk County FRES and Northwell Health EMS on providing in-depth knowledge on how this disease spreads. In general, there is no debate! Wear your mask! Whether it is a N95 mask or a common surgical mask, wear it properly. What should you do if you do not have a mask? I am sure you have seen the creative and designer masks people are making at home. Yes, these homemade masks help. What you want to do is to understand how COVID 19 spreads. You must keep your distance and to prevent aerosol or airborne droplets from coming in contact with your face, wear the mask. Droplets of this disease can spread through handshaking, sneezing and exhalation. It is important that the patient dons a mask. A simple sneeze can spread 40,000 particles at 100m/second. Each sneeze can contain MILLIONS of viral particles.

In closing, I remind you that I am no expert on the spread of COVID 19. However, I highly recommend that you speak with the doctors and your county EMS and FRES officials. To all responders; Thank You For Your Service!