Meader says coronavirus has affected firefighters’ duties
ELKINS — No matter the profession, every job in America has changed somewhat this year because of COVID-19.
This is especially true for first responders, including the emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, police and firefighters, who all had tough tasks to perform on a daily basis even before the pandemic hit.
Elkins Fire Department Chief Tom Meader said several things have changed within his department since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the top priority being the use of masks.
“COVID has affected the way we do things a little bit, but our main thing is our mandatory mask rule that has been in effect quite a while,” Meader told The Inter-Mountain. “Anytime we leave the building on any type of call, we have to have our mask on.”
All West Virginians have been asked to wear masks after Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order.
Meader said there are only a few instances when masks are not mandatory for his department.
“If there’s a structure fire and they are on their own air packs, that’s a different story,” he said. “But if they’re not on an air pack and they’re still doing like overhaul, they still have to wear a mask.”
Meader said each member has an individual mask and that EFD has 35 specially designed masks featuring the fire department’s logo. He also said the department is stocked with disposable masks as well.
Cleaning around the fire department has also increased and hand sanitizer is now supplied in each truck and around the building for firefighters to use.
“We are doing heavy cleaning all the time and we are very cautious now,” Meader said. “We definitely wipe everything down every day. That includes all the door knobs, tables and anything else people may come in contact with. And we have hand sanitizer everywhere, radio room, television room, kitchen, and everyone seems to use it. “
It’s also not as easy to get into the fire department as it once was, as COVID-19 restrictions are now in place. Meader said anyone who enters the building must have a mask on.
“Anyone wanting to come into the Fire Department must have a mask on,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you are here for, you have to wear a mask to get in.”