Anne Nesbit, Special to KP News

As the Fire District 16 Public Information Officer, I have been asked by community members about plans made by the District to prepare for, and respond to, the COVID-19 outbreak. 

We have two primary goals: The first is to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect the women and men of our Fire District. Without them, we cannot serve you. The second goal is to maintain an adjusted continuity of operations for our community. Again, this goal is about helping you. Not just for outbreak-related responses, but the numerous incidents that will continue to occur every day not related to the outbreak.

We are following a well-established set of protocols for infection control, workplace protection and community mitigation. Each of these efforts requires specific actions, which the District has undertaken with all of the guidance provided by the CDC, Washington Department of Health and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. We have also leaned on resources offered to us by the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Firefighters.

Specifically, here are some of the actions taken to date:

Fire Chief Morrow has formalized our management structure under a standard Incident Management Team approach. This approach allows the District to remain organized under one set of expectations for the duration of the outbreak. 

Working with the District’s Board of Fire Commissioners, we have passed a resolution that allows for emergency purchasing and procurement, should it be necessary. We have also ensured that each Commissioner is ready to clarify or establish policy if needed.

Working with the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, the District has secured additional inventories of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our emergency responders. For any PPE that we are running low on, we have developed alternate plans for protecting our emergency responders.

Our operations have shifted, consistent with direction from Pierce County EMS, allowing the District to be notified of the need for PPE at the time of dispatch. County EMS has also provided the ability for our emergency responders to assess, treat and release patients at home instead of transporting to a hospital if there is not a need.

We have made sure to provide all of our personnel — administrative, career and volunteer — all the resources and information they need to feel confident and safe while at work. 

Working within a structured workplace protection plan and community mitigation plan, we have closed our facilities to all but essential services. We have deployed an employee check-in/monitoring procedure, and have provided direction if a quarantine or isolation scenario occurs.

We have established and prepared a District facility as a quarantine or isolation location in the event an employee or volunteer chooses that over home quarantine or isolation. 

We continue to refine contingency plans to keep the District operating and delivering emergency services around the clock.

Finally, while we continue to be stewards of community resources, we are keeping good records in anticipation of reimbursement opportunities from the federal, state or local authorities under the declaration of an emergency. The District wants to make sure we are getting these additional expenses covered, if available.

We will continue to keep our community informed. I am a direct resource for you at all times. While the District cannot do immediate delivery of food, medication or supplies, we often have connections to resources, both internally and externally, that can. 

I encourage you to continue your own planning efforts, doing so in a manner that is appropriate for your situation and the scenario that is realistically presenting in the community. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.

We in the Key Peninsula Community have a long history of taking care of one another. Now is a great time to check in on each other, know your neighbor, plan and be ready. It is our combined effort that will keep us safe and get us to the other side of this current outbreak.

Anne Nesbit is the Key Peninsula Fire Prevention and Public Information Officer at KPFD 16, and a volunteer battalion chief. She can be reached at 253-884-2222.