COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Fire Department implemented new methods to reduce its use on N95 masks.
Assistant Fire Chief Brad Fraizer said that during medical calls, some department personnel are using 'self-contained breathing apparatus', SCBA, or air masks they use when they are fighting fires.
Fraizer said SCBAs are good protection from an infectious disease.
"We want to do our part to conserve that supply, it lessens the strain on that supply of N95 masks that our health care providers really need," Fraizer said.
The department is still using N95 masks in addition to SCBAs. On Monday, CFD said they had 375 masks on-hand. It had about 60 on their front line trucks. The department placed an order for 220 more in late February and expected to receive the masks in the coming weeks.
Fraizer said the fire department is working with the State Office of Emergency Management and FEMA to get more of the masks.
"Right now we are okay, but that might change in the next week or two, so we aren't going to rely on what we currently have."
Fraizer said there are competing demands for the masks across the state and the country, but officials say mask production is increasing.
"We're confident we're going to get what we need," Fraizer said.
The department also changed the way it handles all medical calls, even those that are not COVID-19-related, 'out of an abundance of caution.'
Fraizer explained during a medical call, personnel will stagger themselves from the patient. One firefighter will evaluate the patient within 6 feet, which is considered the 'hot zone,' wearing full protective equipment. The second will be an additional 6 feet away in the 'warm zone,' also wearing full protective equipment. The last is in the 'cold zone,' with medical equipment and PPE ready if additional help is needed.
"We're trying to do our part and protect the public, keep our people from getting exposed accidentally or otherwise and then that way we can still provide the same level of service the community expects," Fraizer said.
The department also scaled back on the non-emergency work it handles. CFD stopped issuing burn permits, fire inspections and community events were also canceled.
"We really want the community to know that the level of service they have come to expect from the Columbia Fire Department has not changed," Fraizer said. "We're just doing it a little bit differently."
Boone County Fire Protection District told ABC 17 News they have enough supplies for now and are continuing to practice similar protocols to CFD.
Fraizer said the department works with medical professionals and other fire agencies like the Boone County Fire Protection District in the surrounding communities to continue to provide the same service, even if it looks a little different.
"If any community can get through this, we are definitely one that can and will," Fraizer said.