Fires happen, regardless of COVID-19. But firefighters can never stop their vital work to keep their communities safe.
Carl Leppin, Chief of the Secaucus Fire Department, has been fighting fires alongside his volunteer fire companies throughout the pandemic, but a few things have changed.
Since the onset of the pandemic, both proper protective equipment (PPE) and procedures have changed for any firefighter responding to any kind of fire. According to Leppin, the SFD now limits the number of firefighters that enter each building during a call.
Responding units must wear masks, sometimes on top of oxygen, depending on the situation and the structure firefighters are entering. The goal is to protect themselves as much as possible, Leppin said.
Other procedural changes involve cleaning. Leppin said that he and other firefighters have to disinfect themselves after leaving a building while on a call for any alarm or false alarm.
“We must limit our exposure and protect ourselves so we can help other people,” Leppin said.
With extreme caution
Part of limiting exposure includes call screening to determine if the fire building has residents sick with COVID-19.
“When we call in service, we have to ask HQ if there is a medical alert at a particular address to make sure if there is someone infected or quarantined at that establishment,” Leppin said.
When a building has been designated with a medical alert, responding firefighters wear one extra layer of PPE to minimize potential exposure to the virus.
Leppin said that amid the pandemic, the fire department is taking extra caution in everything it does. Leppin said that he and his firefighters have to protect themselves because they are always in close proximity to each other.
Overall, calls have been slightly down during the pandemic.
Leppin said that a lot of the commercial and industrial buildings are closed and have a limited staff, so those calls are down. The average number of residential calls has remained more or less the same.
Leppin said that as he and the SFD fight fires under the new strictures caused by the pandemic, their dedication to the community has not gone unnoticed.
“Everybody has been very positive and supportive,” Leppin said of the outpouring of donations from the local community.
People have constantly been supplying food donations to the firefighters, with many residents offering to donate food to the fire stations. One homeowner even made reusable masks for every firefighter on the force. Many residents and businesses have donated other protective equipment.
Secaucus Fire Chief Carl Leppin and his fellow firefighters appreciate the support. “It’s been overwhelming and amazing,” he said.
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