PARMA, Ohio — As the coronavirus threat grows, there are some who can't follow orders to stay home. More than ever, first responders are risking their lives, to keep us safe and it's taking a toll.
Six Berea firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19.
But nearby cities say their firefighters are ready to answer the call as Berea deals with a cut to its workforce.
Parma is one of several cities able to send mutual aid to Berea through the county’s mutual aid agreement. Berea’s fire chief would just have to ask for help with personnel.
“We’ve covered certain communities, or we’ve provided manpower to cover certain communities,” said Parma firefighter and spokesperson TJ Martin. “We are kind of a kindred spirit with firemen around the world.”
Martin says no one on his team has been infected with COVID-19, but they’re learning from Berea. Although, Martin says they have been planning for this pandemic for at least a month.
He says firefighters are reminded if they are sick or have any minor symptoms to stay home.
“You have to be without symptoms for a minimum of 72 hours before reporting back to work and that means every symptom,” he said.
He says because many firefighters are cross trained as paramedics, they’re more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 while responding to a medical call or EMS call.
“In addition to the gloves were putting on gowns and face shields and shoe covers. You’re taking double and triple precautions which is kind of slowing down our workflow a little bit,” Martin said.
A private quarantine shelter, equipped with bedrooms, a kitchen and WIFI, is also now in place for firefighters and police.
“If somebody was exposed on a mass level we could secure all these guys in one place so they don’t take it home and expose their families,” Martin said. “We have nobody in there by the grace of God yet but it’s there if it’s necessary.”
As they continue to protect themselves, Martin they need help from the community. He says when calling 911, giving every facet of why you’re calling and being honest when asked about COVID-19 symptoms helps them save your life and theirs as well.
“The police and firefighters along with the nurses and the doctors were the front line. Without us nobody’s going to the hospital no fires are getting put out so just be honest with us.”