By LINDA WOODLAND
They are on the front lines every day.
Helping people in all manner of distress, transporting the sick and injured, and fighting crime.
And now Fostoria’s safety forces face a threat that’s lurking around every corner — the coronavirus.
Fostoria Police Chief Keith Loreno said when the conversations about coronavirus first started, he called Seneca County General Health District to ask what his officers should be watching for to better protect themselves.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of differences between that and the flu,” he said.
“I’m not going to suggest it’s business as usual but the guys have the neoprene gloves in all the vehicles we typically use anytime we’re dealing with anyone because of the biological hazards,” he said adding each vehicle is also equipped with masks and hand sanitizer.
“Unfortunately, just short of wrapping the officers in bubble wrap, there’s not a whole lot we can really do. I mean, we’re, dealing with people in a close environments and, unfortunately, sometimes we have to go hands-on with people,” he said.
“So there’s not a whole lot of things we’re doing different other than paying attention a little more if someone has flu-like symptoms,” he said. “That’s about the best we can do.”
The police chief said everyone is paying more attention to when people cough and keeping a little more distance from others.
“You look at that five-, six-foot rule when you’re talking to people. So there’s some of that stuff going on subconsciously.
The police department will soon have one tool at their disposal to help fight off any airborne germs.
“Before the coronavirus became the media highlight, I ordered ultraviolet lighting
equipment that actually is for surfaces and for the room and air handler unit. The ultraviolet clears and basically kills all kinds of viruses, bacteria and things like that,” Loreno said of the new equipment that has not yet arrived.
There are also an hand-held ultraviolet units that can be used to sanitize the keyboards and interior of the cruisers.
“So we’re going to start to use that in the vehicles,” he said.
Loreno said the officers themselves wipe down and keep their cruisers clean.
“We don’t have a contractual service or anything. That’s their office environment and they certainly don’t want to get sick either so they’re very good about that.”
Fostoria Fire Division put a policy in place for its EMTs and firefighters responding to calls.
“Depending on how the call comes in, if a call comes in that sounds similar to the symptoms for the coronavirus, we will typically put a mask on the patient and our EMTs and firefighters will actually put on a mask as well. So we try to do the double-barrier,” Fostoria Fire Chief Brian Herbert said.
“The precaution is really kind of the same precaution we take for flu symptoms. Just want to make sure we try to protect ourselves and protect the patient and more importantly protect the facility if we’re taking them to Fostoria hospital. We want to make sure they’re aware of what we are bringing in so they can take the right precautions as well,” Herbert said.
As for the ambulances, Herbert said those are wiped down daily and then a company comes in quarterly to deep clean and sterilize the squad.
“But if we get a call similar to that (coronavirus) then we will do an extra precaution and wipe down that bed,” he said. “We try not to get complacent on things like that. That’s the hardest part, to try and not get complacent.”
Regardless of all the precautions Fostoria safety forces put in place to try and keep themselves safe from the coronavirus, avoiding people is not one of them.
“We’re going to end up being face to face with people,” Police chief Loreno said. “We’re going to all be helping people and we’re going to end up making the physical contacts. There is no way around it with our job.”