Chief Jenifer Collins-Brown offers a situational report of the Topsfield Fire Department in regards to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Over the past few weeks, information about the identification and treatment of confirmed and potential COVID patients has changed several times over with new information being added and reviewed almost daily. As the current FY 20 budget allows, the department has increased the staffing at the station to 24/7 with two firefighter/EMTs or Paramedics on duty at all times. There have been no additional hires or the department to fill these shifts, so they are being manned with the existing roster of firefighters. TFD has experienced several “near misses” where patients displayed possible COVID symptoms and had not been tested, potentially exposing our staff to the virus. As of now, those exposures were cleared as the patients tested negative. However, TFD has begun to respond to patients in town who have tested positive for the virus, they are being monitored and are in contact with the Health Department as regulations and recommendations allow and permit. For this reason, TFD has begun to request through donations and state/federal stockpiles, additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep our members safe. Yesterday, the National Guard dropped of boxes of full-body gowns and KN-95 Masks off as part of the distribution of Federal stockpiles from FEMA. Residents need not be worried about seeing National Guard trucks in the area, Governor Baker has activated a number of National Guard resources to assist in supply distribution and they are responding to the needs of the public, assisting local efforts to keep people safe. Firefighters have begun to respond to most emergencies wearing a minimum of a mask and eye protection, donning full-body protective suits if there is an increased index of suspicion for the COVID 19 on scene. Currently, one member of the department is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID 19, with a second member under voluntary isolation while test results are pending. Those members will only be returning to work once it is 100% safe to do so. Topsfield Firefighters have also suspended weekly department training for the duration of the state of emergency, this is an effort to reduce large gatherings of people. Training continues to be accomplished while members are on duty, especially with constant updates of patient presentation, the latest best practices, and implementing new department policies on PPE and decontamination. In addition, each firefighter is being screened via questionnaire and thermometer as recommended by the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts (FCAM) upon beginning and ending their shift at the station. In an effort to decontaminate apparatus and equipment more effectively, TFD has also purchased a battery operated fogger to apply disinfectant that was graciously donated by the schools, who already had disinfectant that is approved for use against COVID-19. As the state of things in town continues to change daily as does our information on the presentation and treatment of infected patients, the Topsfield Fire Department maintains operational readiness in order to respond to emergencies in town as well as potential mutual aid assistance to our neighboring communities. We encourage everyone to keep up the good work exercising social distancing and isolation practices when at all possible. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or begin to exhibit symptoms, start by calling your Primary Care Physician for advice on how to proceed. As always, we also encourage everyone to remain home, if you must go out, be prompt and wash your hands, and call 911 in case of emergencies. We appreciate all the many generous donations of PPE and well-wishes from the community, it is extremely encouraging during these unprecedented times.
Any questions for the Fire Department can be directed to Chief Jenifer Collins-Brown at 978-887-5148.