BREAKING NEWS – March 21, 2020  COVID 19 – Pandemic Update

Menlo Park Fire Protection District

Pandemic Emergency Response Unit goes in service!

Adapt, Improvise and Overcome!

Captain Paramedic Jason Martin and Engineer Carlos Carpenter became the first two firefighters to staff the Fire District’s new Pandemic Emergency Response Unit today. Perhaps the first of its kind in the Nation, this unit will only respond to all suspected COVID-19 incidents in the Fire District. As a result, hopefully only two personnel per day will come into direct contact with suspected COVID-19 patients. Individuals on this specialized unit will be using the highest level of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and personal protective equipment (PPE) on each call, along with minimizing contact time that should help decrease the potential for exposure. Decontamination prior to leaving the scene and prior to entering the apparatus should eliminate the risk of exposure from contact with equipment, clothing, and/or apparatus, as specified by recently developed Fire District guidelines.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which provides critical fire and emergency services to its areas in the Town of Atherton, Cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, unincorporated San Mateo County and the SLAC National Accelerator and Laboratories, is trying to navigate, prepare and prevent, an unexpected draw down on its most precious resource, its firefighters! Having a singular emergency response unit dedicated to COVID 19 is a creative strategy supported by its workforce of almost 100 Firefighters, who equally want to protect each other and their own families.

Fire Chief Schapelhouman said “I was pleasantly surprised to find out that some of our personnel are volunteering to staff this unit. Our Fire Paramedics and crew members are on the front lines of this epidemic, daily attending to emergency medical incidents that represented about 65% of the 9,300 emergency incidents we responded to in 2019. So stopping community spread is of vital importance to us and is job one right now! We can’t afford to have our first responders on the sidelines while they are waiting for testing, testing results and/or to complete a mandatory fourteen day quarantine, even if they are symptom free. We believe that by raising the bar on our personal protective clothing and by putting this new special response unit in place, we can slow or help to hopefully more effectively stop its spread.”

(From L – R) Fire Captain/Paramedic Jason Martin and Engineer Carlos Carpenter staff the District’s new Pandemic Emergency Response Unit (Credit Menlo Fire)

With the number of COVID-19 cases and suspected cases is going up daily, it made sense for Firefighters to do what they do best, adapt, improvise and overcome! Captain/Paramedic Martin had already modified the amount, type and quantity of emergency medical equipment to be used on a suspected COVID-19 incident, to help limit cross contamination, exposure and the need for decontamination. Captain Martin said “this is our first day of looking at what we are doing in a much different way, we need to rethink everything from both an exposure and transmission perspective, so we don’t get sick ourselves, or help to spread this virus.”

One firefighter who volunteered to staff this specialized response unit (Not Martin or Carpenter) wrote “Chiefs, I would like to volunteer to be placed as the permanent, Acting Captain on Rescue 6; or until further notified.  After the conference call today, I understand the importance of limiting the exposure to as many Fire District employees as possible.  Furthermore, I understand the level of severity of my volunteering action.  With that said I have no doubt that I will uphold the Fire Districts requests, demands and recommendations to the highest level.”

Fire Chief Schapelhouman said “the number of our off-duty firefighters grew again today, as yet another Menlo Park Firefighter, the seventh, was home sick and scheduled for testing. At some point, we know one of our firefighters will contract COVID-19, most are not in the risk categories and all are extremely healthy and fit based upon the daily expectations of our profession, but our collective goal is to delay, or stop, spread for as long as possible. Every one of our employees that I speak with says the same thing, their collective mission is to try to NOT spread it to other firefighters, members of the community, or their families and friends. We strongly believe that these collective strategies and pro-active moves will help make us more successful. In our profession, you need to quickly adapt, improvise and overcome on the fly and often under dynamic circumstance . We are daily evolving our thinking, awareness and counter strategies in combating this invisible enemy!”

(From L – R) Fire Captain/Paramedic Jason Martin and Engineer Carlos Carpenter in full PPE, staff the District’s new Pandemic Emergency Response Unit (Credit Menlo Fire)

How it works - Any time a suspected COVID-19 call is reported by Fire Dispatch, or called for by one of the other nine on-duty Captains or two Battalion Chief’s, the Pandemic Emergency Response Unit (Rescue 6) will respond so as to minimize exposures to the rest of the workforce and community. If this unit gets to busy, there are contingency plans, with triggers in place, to add a second and even third similar unit. Thus far, the most calls for COVID-19 the Fire District has had in one day is seven, but that is expected to increase.

For updates on local community impacts and emergency operations, please go to our web-site at or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Next Door. This Community information “Dash Board” was specifically established to keep you in the local loop, because local information seems to be in short supply at times, but is critical to you, your families, friends and overall community well-being!

Coming next, we will provide you with the latest information on how your Firefighters are supporting our local dinning establishments by buying take-out meals!

More: Home News