The West Fargo Fire Department has been planning and preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic emergency since the end of February. Additional personal protective equipment, decontamination and sanitizing products have been ordered and most supplies have been delivered. Each week, the department has adjusted our common operating picture as new information emerged about the pandemic. A tiered approach of adjustment for our operations has been followed in the past several weeks, and as the confirmed cases of COVID-19 begin to occur in our area, we are ready.
The department has adjusted or suspended the following services to ensure we are practicing social distancing as much as possible, while also being ready for emergencies as they occur in the City of West Fargo.
- Public access to fire stations was suspended March 16th, 2020
- Fire inspections and permits have been suspended for the next 15 days, until March 31st, 2020
- Administrative staff have been reduced at each station with staggered shifts in place
- Group and hands on training has been suspended, and online training has been assigned in leu
- Official travel has been suspended
The department has also adjusted our operations to slow the spread of the virus beginning on March 4th, 2020
- Twice daily surface disinfection guidelines for stations and apparatus were instituted
- Additional screening at Red River Regional Dispatch Center (RRRDC) to identify high risk calls before fire department arrival
- Using an N-95 mask and eye protection for all calls to medical facilities/clinics, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and group homes and to high risk calls defined by RRRDC or fire department clinicians on scene
- Changing the way in which scene size up and patient contact is made for high risk calls, either identified on scene or by RRRDC prior to arrival
- Adding decontamination measures for all medical equipment in each call
- Documenting fire dept EMS clinician exposure for high risk calls
To maintain our operational readiness, on March 13th, 2020 the department began to adjust our daily staffing coordination to include;
- Twice daily temperature checks of our firefighters on duty and office staff
- A department wide recall of staff to determine how work/school shutdowns will affect their availability
- Daily contact with on duty/on call firefighters to see if they are ill or there is an illness in their family. If a family illness occurs, that firefighter is removed from service for 14 days
- Instructions were given to firefighters to reduce their exposures such as avoiding gatherings over 10 people, and notifying the department of travel outside of the metro area
Moving forward, the West Fargo Fire Department is well suited to adjust staffing needs as the pandemic unfolds. We are working with our neighboring fire departments in the metro to coordinate our staffing levels to ensure the right resources are available and ready for service. The department wants to remind everyone in the city to practice good social distancing, hand hygiene, and check on your neighbors often during the next few weeks. Follow us on social media and the department website for further updates.