Stillwater Fire Department adjusts its procedures because of coronavirus

Stonegate Fire (copy)

COVID-19 has forced the Stillwater Fire Department to change some of its response procedures to keep firefighters and citizens safe.

Stillwater Fire Department is forced to adjust to a new way of responding to calls because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stillwater firefighters said.

Stillwater medical officer, Steven Marshall, said policies are changing at the Stillwater Fire Department amid the rise of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma.

“We have had to separate into smaller crews and stay within our specific crew to keep from coming into contact with different people,” Marshall said.

Marshall said new protective measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus within the fire station and when they return home after work.

“We all come to work in sweats and t-shirts, then change into our uniforms," Marshall said. "At the end of our shift, we will shower and then change back into our street clothes. This is to protect our families when we come home."

Marshall also said they are being diligent in cleaning the station.

“We clean every three hours," Marshall said. "We also have plenty of PPE, or personal protective equipment, so we are well protected.”

To ensure the safety of the public, the station has altered the types of calls they respond to. Dustin Portman, lieutenant on truck and rescue, said they are responding to more life threatening calls.

“Parameters for calls are different," Portman said. "Normally if we got a call for an illness, they would send an ambulance and the closest fire station, but now with the pandemic, calls are narrowed down to more true emergencies.”

Stillwater firefighters are also having to adjust to training. Marshall said the Stillwater Fire Department has had to switch to online training.

“We’re making the best of it," Marshall said. "There is plenty of training to be done, but it is a hindrance to not be with all of our people.”

As for Midwest City firefighter Garrett Matlock, COVID-19 has changed the way firefighters have entered houses.

“We take more precaution with this pandemic going on, and we think more about the little things," Matlock said. "For example, now when a person we are responding to says they have a cough, we are more skittish.”

When Matlock and his crew respond to a call and the person shows a symptom of COVID-19, they are required to send an email to their chief and fill out a 214 form to send back to FEMA. They are also required to monitor any potential symptoms they could contract.

“There are specific instructions for calls to minimize risk," Matlock said. "We have to monitor our temperature for 14 days if we come into contact with someone who shows a symptom of COVID and have to quarantine ourselves for 14 days if we experience any symptoms.”

Another Midwest City firefighter, Caleb Bryant, said firefighters are starting to feel isolated in their station.

“We usually train with other stations, but now we are not meeting for training,” Bryant said. “It really makes you feel like you are stuck in a box for 24 hours.”

news.ed@ocolly.com