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YORK – Keeping the public safe, as well as local first responders, continues to be the main priority of the York Fire and Rescue Department.

It always has been the goal – now, some of the protocols have just been enhanced due to the coronavirus situation.

Tony Bestwick, acting fire chief, explained that the department “has been in contact with Four Corners Community Health, the York County 911 Dispatch Center, City of York administration, and our York County Mutual Aid Association partners. Using the CDC guidelines recommended by Four Corners, we have come up with a guideline that we will use on the dispatch to an ill patient for our ambulance calls.

“If a person calls 911 and states they are sick, the 911 Center will ask them four questions,” Bestwick explained. “If the answers to these questions bring up a red flag to the dispatchers, that information is relayed to our responding ambulance. This information will dictate to what level of protection our personnel will use for that call.

“For example, if we are dispatched to a broken leg, we will use our normal personal protective equipment or PPE. If we are dispatched to a person with a fever, we will use a much higher level of PPE,” Bestwick explained, “the reason being that we are protecting our personnel from getting sick. Our PPE will consist of gloves, goggles and a disposable gown or suit. This is not to alarm but to protect. One member of the ambulance crew will do the assessment while the other member of the crew stays back to assist when needed. This is to limit our exposure.

“All PPE will be removed before the ambulance driver gets into the cab of the ambulance to drive. After the call, all PPE will be disposed of and ambulance personnel will follow CDC guidelines on decontaminating themselves and the ambulance. So, the use of our higher level of what we call PPE personal protective equipment is not something we normally do. Neither are the four questions that the York County 911 Center will be asking the 911 caller.”

Bestwick said new steps are also being taken when it comes to the station itself. They are no longer giving fire station tours or letting outside agencies use their meeting room. Bestwick said that will continue into the foreseeable future.

“We have shut down our front lobby,” Bestwick added. “If someone is in need of a burn permit or has any questions, please call our nonemergency number at 402-363-2610. We will also be limiting our training activities and using alternate ways of learning for the near future.

“Fire calls and rescue calls with be handled like normal. We still have to respond and put out the fires and help people at accident scenes or industrial accidents. Our personnel know the importance of hand washing and the cleaning of the ambulance after rescue calls. We are not taking this situation lightly but we deal with communicable diseases almost on a daily basis and during flu season every winter,” Bestwick said.

“During this time of constant change, the York Fire Department is as prepared as we can be to serve the citizens of York and our visitors. Our goal is to continue to provide professional service which protects our citizens and our first responders.”

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