Last week, the Press Banner introduced you to Payson McNett, a Cabrillo instructor who’s using technology and innovation to create masks for local healthcare workers as they combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, we get down and dirty with another team that’s helping to make life a little brighter (literally and figuratively) for local residents: the Felton Fire Protection District. Ian Jones, Engineer and Communications/IT Dude, took a few minutes out of his day to enlighten us on the district’s efforts to spread a little cheer during this time of shelter-in-place, and remind us that helpers are just a phone call away.
Press Banner: I read that your department is going to begin traveling through local neighborhoods to increase community engagement. I love it! Whose idea was this?
Ian Jones: The idea was that of our Division Chief Scott Sipes, and Chief Robert Gray. They wanted to find a way to engage with the community amid all the cancelled events. And to remind people that we are still here for the community and as a reminder that we will make it through all this together. They're calling it "Operation Happy Days.” A crew will drive through neighborhoods while observing social distancing. We ask people not to travel to the neighborhoods listed and to observe the shelter in place. We also ask that people not gather in large groups for this event. It's important to note that firefighters will remain inside the engines at all times and visitors are not allowed on or inside the engines. People should be prepared for us to swing by as we have many stops to make on each route. We have received requests for stops through our Facebook page and we have actually used maps from Santa Cruz Regional 911, our amazing dispatch center, to ensure that we are using the most efficient routes.
PB: Will this be happening before drill on Tuesdays? Are you even able to HOLD drill given the COVID-19 outbreak.
IJ: This will take place after our online drill. We have moved our drill to an online setting, using online modules and a weekly check-in meeting via Zoom. We continue to host in-person training for our probationary firefighters whose academy was suspended, all the while observing social distancing and keeping the number of people attending to the minimum required to safely execute the training.
PB: What precautions are your crew taking when responding to medical calls? Have you noticed an increase or decrease in calls?
IJ: On all medical calls our crew is wearing an N95 mask and eyeglasses. If the call is suspected to be a COVID-19 related call, we have varying degrees of additional protective equipment that we will wear, cascading from a gown all the way up to a full Tyvek suit, in addition to masks, eyeglasses and face shields. We want to stress that it is important to answer all of our dispatcher's questions truthfully and completely as that allows us to properly prepare for the call; we will still be coming if you call 911, and we will still be performing the highest level of care possible. But we need to make sure that we are protected so that we stay healthy as well. We have experienced a drop in total calls for service, we believe this is due to people observing the shelter in place, and people avoiding trips to the hospital and possibly exposing themselves to COVID-19.
PB: Back to the fun part: Are other valley departments doing the neighborhood circulations?
IJ: Not that we are aware of, but maybe we will start the trend!
PB: Do you have a schedule of neighborhood visits that we can share with the public?
IJ: 4/28: Mount Hermon/ Felton Grove
5/5: South Felton (Felton flats/ Washington Square/ San Lorenzo)
5/12: Forest Lakes