“We’re dedicated. We’re showing up.”
That’s the message from Maplewood Fire Department Deputy Chief Chris Ariemma, regarding the department’s response to COVID-19. The Maplewood Fire Department provides both firefighting and ambulance/EMT services to the community.
Ariemma noted that, while overall calls are down, the time devoted to calls is more than doubling due to the precautions that need to be taken. “The guys on the firetrucks are wearing N95 masks” and full Tyvek suits. In addition, after each call, “we have a procedure where the ambulance is completely cleaned and we switch over to one of our reserve ambulances and that keeps rotating.” As a result of necessary precautions, a call that would have taken 45 minutes in the past, now takes up to two hours.
As the community rallies around its front-line essential workers, Ariemma says the response has been heartwarming: “It’s been really nice. We’ve had many, many people drop off food for us. We’ve had people stop by out front who’ve made signs for us. They drive by and honk their horns.” Ariemma notes that firefighters and EMTs don’t do their jobs for the recognition: “It’s in our nature. Helping people is what we do, but it’s nice to see that response.”
However, the Deputy Chief does ask that people who are experiencing mild COVID-19-like symptoms please call their doctor first (those experiencing trouble breathing or respiratory distress should call 9-1-1). For a fever or a cough, “now is not a good time to go the hospital. The hospitals are crowded. You only want to go to the hospital if it’s truly an emergency.”
“The initial call should definitely be to your health care provider.”