Terre Haute firefighters, paramedics discuss impact of COVID-19 pandemic

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)—As of Monday, 13 Terre Haute firefighters are in quarantine and 5 of those 13 have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Jarred Rankin has been a paramedic for 6 years and he said he never imagined that he’d be on the frontlines during a global health pandemic.

“We kind of pride ourselves on the fact that we’re the person that people turn to on their worst day,” he said. “That service has not changed. We’re still available to everybody. But we have changed how we approach those calls. It’s very different today than how it was one or two years ago.”

Personal protective equipment, limiting the number of crews on scene and asking callers for a brief coronavirus health screening are some of the new protocols in place for Terre Haute firefighters and paramedics. ServPro also sanitizes all equipment and each truck after each call.

All fire stations are closed to outside visitors except for family members and EMT and paramedic students. Face coverings are mandatory at all times.

Vigo County’s Emergency Management Director, Dorene Hojnicki, said it’s important to keep citizens safe but they want to make sure everyone stays in good health.

“It is taking a little longer to work through a call because they have to keep themselves safe. But they also want to keep the place that they’re responding to safe,” she said. “It’s just a metered step for how people are approaching and having to think several steps down the road.”

Terre Haute Fire Chief Jeff Fisher said the virus has affected at least 50% of the department.

“We’re staffed right now at 145 firefighters. So we’re talking about 70 to 75 people that this has affected in one way or another,” he said. “It’s affected me. I’ve had to quarantine due to this.”

Rankin said there are still many unknowns with the coronavirus; however, he feels like they now know how to better handle the situation.

“I think we still have that level of fear for taking it home to our families or passing it on to someone else,” he said. “But just like anything else the more exposure you have to it, the more we got used to the idea of taking care of COVID-19 positive patients.”  

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