PRESS RELEASE – December 24, 2020 update
Published on December 25, 2020
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Local front line Firefighters vaccinated for COVID-19 nine months after volunteering to staff one of the first Fire Pandemic Medical Response Units in the Nation
Pictured above – Engineer/Paramedic Dave Magnan, who was one of six Firefighters to volunteer to staff the Fire Districts Pandemic Medical Response Unit,
is vaccinated for COVID 19 by the Fire Districts Medical Manager Melanie Starz - Credit Menlo Fire
Pictured above – Engineer/Paramedic Travis Hooper in full protect gear with the Pandemic Response Unit - Credit Menlo Fire
Nine months and 3,509 emergency medical responses later, two of the six Menlo Park Firefighter/Paramedics who volunteered to staff a quickly stood-up, two person, higher risk response unit, organized to better protect themselves with an upgraded level of personal protective equipment (PPE) and protocols, as well as their fellow firefighters and the community, by responding to every possible COVID-19 medical incident in the 29 square mile Fire District that provides essential emergency medical and fire services to the Town of Atherton, Cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park along with certain areas of unincorporated San Mateo County and on contract to the SLAC National Accelerator and Laboratories, became the first Fire District personnel to be vaccinated for the virus that they worked so hard to protect the public, fellow Firefighters and themselves from contracting, all while treating patients in the field, this week.
From potential high risk exposure incidents in care facilities, homeless encampments and cramped housing conditions, where entire families would admit to having tested positive for the virus, to vehicle accidents, suicides, shootings, stabbings, assaults, overdoses and difficulty breathing calls where facts and the patients actual medical condition and disposition were less known, these front line firefighters would see it all, while having to try and do their “normal jobs” all the while being concerned about contracting the virus themselves, and then potentially spreading it to others, even their own families.
Over the last nine months, almost half of the Fire District’s 100 first responders have had to be tested and/or quarantined, due to possible exposures, two firefighters contracted the virus, both survived, but the lessons learned and precautions taken always focused on their health, safety and protecting themselves, each other, their families and the people they served from getting the virus and becoming sick. Ten percent of the medical responses were flagged as patients potentially having COVID, for sure one in three of those were confirmed through follow-up efforts as having had the virus. Daily, emergency calls started to be tracked and locations established as to where the virus was active and spreading. Regardless, emergency field personnel had to respond and treat and touch the sick and injured.
Protocols evolved with knowledge and facts, COVID testing improved, additional equipment was ordered and implemented. Over time, cleaning, better sanitation, face masks, social distancing, clean and dirty uniform procedures were all adopted, refined but more importantly constantly discussed, changed and improved for the better. Eventually, the Pandemic Medical Response Unit was returned to normal duty, as other Menlo fire responders became comfortable with new patient care protocols and safety measures that were put into place.
Fire Chief Schapelhouman said “having our six personnel who volunteered to put themselves at a higher risk in order to protect others, when we knew so little, was an important moment that showed their courage, compassion and leadership. That’s why we put them at the front of the line of our front line fire personnel to be vaccinated, if they wanted to do this, and trust me, everyone in our organization gets it and appreciated it”.
One third of the Fire District’s 150 total employees, consisting of about 45 support staff, or administrative personnel, including senior Chief Officers and the Fire Chief himself, are not considered “front line” and will not be vaccinated at this time. Chief Schapelhouman said “I don’t plan to be vaccinated until every other employee that works for me has had the opportunity to go first. I also feel strongly that front line police officers need to be vaccinated before we do. It’s hard to imagine why these important members of our public safety family and team, “street cops” who closely work to support our front line fire personnel working literally side by side out in the community, are not being vaccinated as of yet. I’m sure it will get resolved but many on my staff don’t feel we should go before them”.
Pictured above – Captain/Paramedic Randy Kelly (left) is vaccinated by Engineer/Paramedic Dave Magnan (right) both volunteered to staff the Fire Districts Pandemic Medical Response Unit. Dave Magnan also volunteered to assist in vaccinating all of his fellow firefighters - Credit Menlo Fire
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