First responders taking extra precautions amid pandemic

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Cal Fire San Diego, and San Diego Police Department said they continue to be staffed and prepared to respond to emergencies, while taking extra precautions not to spread or expose themselves to the coronavirus.

“Our firefighters, lifeguards and paramedics stand by and are prepared to respond to the same emergencies with the same level of service,” San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell said Monday at a news conference.

Stowell said firefighters will wear special protective gear including gowns, goggles and gloves. They are also taking a new approach towards patient assessment. 9-1-1 dispatchers will be asking callers about their health, their recent travel and whether or not they are showing any potential symptoms of the coronavirus.

“The health of our first responders needs to be a priority so that we can continue to provide that level of service to our residents and to our visitors,” Stowell said.

At Cal Fire, dispatchers are already in groups of 10 or less to comply with federal social distancing recommendations, according to Captain Isaac Sanchez. No other employees are allowed into the dispatch room and non-emergency services including burn permits, station tours and public events are not available at stations. Non-essential employees can work from home, Sanchez said.

Sanchez and other agencies are urging 9-1-1 callers to tell dispatchers and first responders if they are under quarantine or if they are displaying any flu-like symptoms.

“That’s something that you should be mentioning regardless of the agency that responds out to your residence,” Sanchez said.

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