Keizer fire adapts to protect staff, community

Keizer Fire District

The spread of the coronavirus has forced businesses and organizations to change the way they operate.

Keizer Fire District is no different.

The first big move that KFD made was back on March 11 when it was decided that they would close the station to all members of the public and require their firefighters to wear masks at all times around the station.

“We want to protect our firefighters, but we also wanted to protect the general public,” KFD deputy fire marshal Ann-Marie Storms said. “Our firefighters are still doing their jobs and doing a lot of interacting.”

KFD also suspended all non-emergency appearances by first responders to community events.

“The health and safety of our community and first responders is our top priority as we continue to learn more and address the specific needs of the coronavirus,” said KFD fire chief Jeff Cowan on the district’s website.

According to Storms, KFD is having all of their non-essential personnel — those who don’t respond to 911 calls — do the vast majority of their work from home, including Storms, as well as office manager, Lynette Komp, fire and life safety specialist, Cody Heidt and IT specialist, Joshua Rutter.

But some of the non-essential staff is still finding creative ways to interact with the community, with a special focus on children.

Heidt and Storms have posted numerous videos on the KFD Facebook page during the past few weeks. Whether it’s reading a story, showing what equipments firefighters wear to put out a fire or giving a tour of one of the engines, they want to show the kids of the community that they are still there for them. 

“How we operate looks a lot different, but this affects everyone in the country. We all have to evolve to an ever-changing situation,” Storms said. 

The district also plans to do a Q & A segment on social media at a later date. 

The only major staffing change that KFD has gone through is altering Medic 37 from a 12-hour ambulance to a 24-hour ambulance, giving KFD three ambulances that are fully staffed at all times. 

The Medic 37 staff will be considered the “swing crew,” giving workers flexibility to changed to a different medic if need be. 

To limit the exposure for medical personnel, only 1-2 people on a six-person crew will be entering a facility on an emergency call. The remainder of personnel in the ambulance will stand-by if more assistance is required. 

“We don’t want to expose five or six people if we don’t have to,” Storms said.

Storms says the district will continue to follow guidelines form the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and encourages people keep following social distancing procedures.