Protecting first responders during the coronavirus pandemic

Keeping first responders safe

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Birmingham Police Department moved quickly after one of their officers tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday.

The Birmingham Police Department and Fire Department have procedures in place if just such an incident happens.

The officer showed up for work Wednesday at the West Precinct. Three hours into his shift, he got word that he and a relative tested positive. That’s when the police department’s contingency plan swung into action.

“We were able to isolate the vehicle they had been driving. We isolated the area inside the station, but as a precaution we evacuated the entire station so it could be decontaminated,” Chief Smith said.

The precinct was cleared and disinfected, but it was not out of action with the mobile command unit sent to the area. “The virus is still out there. There are still cases coming up positive each day. We know at some point we are going to have an officer or officers affected by this,” Smith said.

Safety is a concern for the Birmingham Fire Department. So far, the majority of calls to rescue units have involved concerns about the coronavirus. “There is still some confusion about what is really going on. We have seen a steady call volume from people who are afraid when they have a sign or symptom of the coronavirus,” Battalion Chief Sebastian Carrillo said.

The Fire Department screens all calls with a series of questions to determine the level of possible exposure for those ambulance calls. Two rescue units are designated for coronavirus calls. At fire stations, people are instructed to social distance and the stations are cleaned regularly. “Exposures we have had have been very, very minimal,” Carrillo said.

At least one firefighter has had the coronavirus already. All officers who may have been exposed to that officer were tested.

The West Precinct is set for a second deep cleaning and decontamination this weekend.

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