Lincoln County emergency medical services, fire departments, and law enforcement are exercising caution in an effort to protect themselves and the public as the coronavirus spreads in Maine.
Jefferson Fire Chief Walter Morris, in a phone interview, said Jefferson Fire and Rescue personnel are implementing some new procedures.
“We are trying to stay on top of this and are doing what we can to protect first responders and members of the community,” Morris said.
Morris said Jefferson firefighters and first responders had an emergency officers meeting Monday, March 16 to discuss their approach.
“Typically first responders go directly to the scene in their private vehicles, but we are going to have everyone come to the fire station first,” Morris said.
“This will let us make sure our first responders have on all the proper equipment and limit it so we don’t have five or six responders at a scene if only one or two are needed,” Morris said.
“We don’t know how long this will transpire or go on for and we are airing on the side of caution,” he said. “We have eight or nine active first responders and we don’t need all of them coming down with this at once.”
Morris said there are new protocols in place for the dispatchers at Lincoln County Communications, who now ask callers certain questions about their symptoms and travel.
“Depending on the caller’s answers, they let us know what we should anticipate and if there is a potential hazard to first responders,” Morris said.
Morris said the department is following state guidelines, which are changing daily.
For example, Morris said the department canceled an upcoming business meeting because more than 10 people would have attended.
“We are using texts and emails to keep members informed as we go,” Morris said.
Morris said he watched a coronavirus webinar from the International Association of Fire Chiefs after the fact because so many people were trying to watch it when it aired live.
Morris said the department is restricting access to the fire station.
“We knew this was coming, a little bit, and we were able to stock up on some supplies, face shields and respirators,” Morris said.
Across the town line in Waldoboro, Police Chief John Lash listed some precautions his department is taking in an email response to a request for comment.
The precautions include cleaning shared workstations and cruisers before and after shifts, answering as many calls as possible via telephone, not responding to nonviolent or routine EMS calls, promoting proper hygiene techniques, and if time allows, asking questions like “Have you been sick?” or “Have you recently traveled?”
Lash said the police department is remaining visible in the community and assuring residents that its services are still available.
“I want to stress that we are not shutting down like the rest of the world. As public safety, we understand that we don’t have the luxuries that others do and have made oaths to take such risks,” Lash said.