BY ARJUNA GEORGE, SALT SPRING FIRE CHIEF
I am writing to you today to give you an update on what has changed in the Fire Department since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We had taken what was viewed at the time as extraordinary measures to be proactive in protecting the health and safety of our membership and community at large. We closed our offices to the public and prohibited all non-essential member traffic to our fire halls. We cancelled all face-to-face group training and meetings, which have since moved online with great success. Staff began multiple daily decontamination protocols of our halls and apparatus. Listing all the measures here is too lengthy for this letter. Suffice it to say, we were a month ahead of recommended government guidelines.
By taking measures so early on, we have been able to keep our membership completely healthy and able to respond 24/7. We had responded to a structure fire on March 27th in the early hours of the morning and the house was saved. We want you to know that we are here for you, we are healthy, and we are taking every precaution available to us to protect our Responders and our island. Recently, we have formed a Mental Health Task Force to help manage the added stress on our membership. Professional online counselling is also available at no cost to our Firefighters and First Responders. We have been working very closely with BC Ambulance and Lady Minto Hospital to coordinate our response and again reduce exposure to our members and the public. We are continuously improving and adapting to this very dynamic situation.
There have been some changes to protocols with respect to medical calls that you should be made aware of. Most importantly, our First Responders may appear unrecognizable with the added personal protective equipment. For example, gowns, masks, and face shields are now standard. Some of which have been made right here on Salt Spring Island by an army of volunteers inside and outside our department – to whom we are extremely grateful! It is that spirit of togetherness and perseverance that will see us through this Pandemic. As a community we have already triumphed over two natural disasters in the last few years. A catastrophic windstorm and a snowstorm both shutdown our island and forced us into isolation. Albeit far more temporarily than our current situation. This too shall pass.
Many of you have asked, what can I do to help? The obvious answer is stay home and limit the spread of this virus. Our geography works both for us and against us. We are so fortunate to have outdoor space to enjoy and still be able to maintain our physical distance. We are, however, an island with extremely limited resources should this escalate. Therefore, we are asking you not only to stay home but to take great care in all that you do. Do not take unnecessary risks. Drive carefully. Every emergency we can avoid saves resources for where they are most needed.
Alas, we will again persevere. Salt Spring Island is special. Anyone that lives here knows and feels that in their own way. Let us practice gratitude for what we have and patience for the coming weeks and months.