GLOVERSVILLE — Early screening measures instituted by 911 dispatchers at the Fulton County Communication Center are aiding the Gloversville Fire Department in deciding what precautions to take while responding to calls, says Fire Chief Thomas Groff.
Groff outlined steps firefighters are taking to keep themselves and the public safe during a Facebook Live town hall meeting, answering questions from residents about city activities related to the coronavirus on Friday along with Mayor Vincent DeSantis, Department of Public Works Director Christopher Perry and facilitated by City Clerk Jennifer Mazur.
According to Groff, typically firefighters are the first on the scene of local Emergency Medical Services calls. Early screening protocols adopted at the county dispatch center help first responders determine what precautionary measures to take when responding by determining if there is a risk of possible exposure to the coronavirus for arriving emergency personnel.
“The county instituted protocol for questioning people to determine what the nature of their emergency was and to determine if we need to take other precautions in relation to the virus,” said Groff. “I would encourage everybody if you need to dial 911 to answer the questions and answer them honestly so that we can protect our firefighters and our EMTs, the people responding to your scene and we’ll know what we’re up against.”
Firemen responding to a medical emergency typically wear rubber gloves and masks while evaluating patients on the scene, amid the coronavirus outbreak additional personal protective equipment from a limited supply may be needed if a risk of exposure is suspected.
“If you present symptoms that possibly are COVID-19 positive we’re going to take further precautions to protect our responders,” said Groff. “Our supplies are limited too, we only have so many gowns and so many face masks when we have to use them when we have a possible COVID-19 patient, so we try to keep them in reserve and only use what we need for that particular call.”
For basic calls the fire department may remain at the station while ambulance services handle the response. When the fire department does respond, Groff noted that residents in emergencies that are not immediately life-threatening can expect to speak to personnel outside of their residence or to one crew member who enters their home to assess the situation and determine the next course of action to limit possible exposure for personnel.
“We’re going to maintain social distance and ask you a few questions so they can determine if they need to take further precautions,” said Groff. “It’s not a bad thing, but it’s just a protection for our people so that they can take the precautions and then get you the care that you need.”
“We’re out there every day and we have to protect those seven or eight guys that are working everyday so we don’t have that virus come through our station. It would seriously hamper our efforts,” he added.
Recommendations from public health officials that anyone experiencing non-life threatening symptoms of the coronavirus contact their primary care provider for guidance have seemingly helped keep call volumes at or below their typical volume for this time of year despite the public health crisis, according to Groff.
“They’ve encouraged people to call their primary care provider under certain circumstances or remain at home and people I think are understanding the fact that we’re not putting our first responders at risk by needless calls, things that they can handle on their own or see their own doctor about, so I think it’s kind of tapered off with some of the screening. Although we still have a fair amount of calls, I don’t think it’s quite as busy as usually it is at this time of year,” said Groff.
“That’s kind of encouraging, it gives you the idea that people are taking this seriously, that our citizens are actually trying to do their part,” commented DeSantis, noting that Police Chief Anthony Clay reported city police are experiencing similar rates with calls coming in at or below their normal level.
Additionally, Groff reported that city Building Inspector David Fox continues to provide code enforcement services and monitor construction projects amid a stay at home order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo limiting those working outside of their homes to “essential” workers by executive order. However, the city’s neighborhood quality administrators who enforce property maintenance standards have been forced to temporarily suspend activities under the state mandate.
“Any construction issues if somebody has a question about doing something around their house they can call and we will refer you to Dave and he has been out and about on his own checking on certain projects that are essential or not essential, making sure that people are following the rules,” said Groff.
Although the NQAs are currently unable to report for work, Groff said he has been traveling around the city monitoring for blight related issues to ensure properties are maintained.
“I have been out and we’ve looked at certain items on the terrace and things like that, I encourage people not to put stuff out on the terrace unless it’s your garbage for garbage day the night before and to keep things kind of picked up so that we don’t have these issues,” said Groff.
“It really would be appreciated if people would get out and just pick up a little bit around their own homes, including the sidewalk and the terrace, it helps a tremendous amount with respect to the city,” added DeSantis, noting that the spring thaw often reveals trash and debris that was lurking for months under snowbanks.
While the office is temporarily closed, residents can still report property maintenance and blight related issues to the neighborhood quality administrators’ email address that will be monitored daily by Groff and code enforcers in the fire department.
Issues related to property maintenance and blight in the city can be reported by email to [email protected]