As the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, the Valley Stream Fire Department is taking steps to ensure it can continue to operate during a time when the disease threatens to overwhelm emergency services across the state.
As part of a countywide change in dispatching protocols, when someone calls 911 they will be required to answer a series of questions to ascertain whether an ambulance is truly necessary, and reduce stress on department and county emergency medical services.
“What we’re trying to do is let people know that if they do feel like they have the signs of Covid-19 that they should try and call their doctor first,” Valley Stream Fire Chief Jason Croak said, advising that home quarantine should be the first step before taking others.
In addition to the standard recommended procedures to limit the spread of coronavirus such as frequent hand washing and social distancing, he said Valley Stream firefighters are being advised to limit interactions with residents as much as possible during calls.
Firehouse facilities have also undergone extensive sanitization according to fire Lt. Mike Seltzer, and members are being told to continuously wipe down handles, knobs and wheels on vehicles after every use.
Regarding social distancing protocols, a limited number of volunteers are allowed in a room at any given time, and department members who test positive are advised to stay away from their respective firehouses.
Additionally, for the EMS crews, the entire department ambulance is wiped down after each call to ensure EMTs aren’t inadvertently spreading the disease.
“We’re just trying to do our part in the 911 system,” Seltzer said, “and try to slow this down.”
But like most emergency services across the state, the question remains whether protective supplies, such as gloves, goggles, gowns and perhaps most crucially, the N95 respirator mask, will hold out.
“In the Valley Stream Fire Department we’ve planned ahead, we tried to maintain our stock and restricted access to a lot of stock so in this way we have a reserve,” Seltzer explained.
The department’s procurement for emergency supplies runs through the Nassau County Third Fire Battalion, which in turn makes requests to the county Office of Emergency Management.
Currently, Fire Department EMTs are required to wear gloves, a gown, facial protection and an N95 on calls, but, Seltzer warned, “Things are changing by the hour.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in recent days has warned of emergency supply shortages and on Tuesday set up a donation drive at Eisenhower Park Field 3. The supplies will be given to “our frontline first responders and health care workers,” she said.
Only unopened boxes will be accepted. Suggested donations include:
• Sanitizing wipes
• Hand sanitizer