Fire department on track after COVID-19 issues

By Chance Chamberlain

Harrisonville Fire Department suffered from staffing issues early this month due to COVID-19, but Fire Chief Eric Myler said they are back on track to have everybody back.

“We had four staffers come back positive at the end of September and the beginning of October which caused us to have some issues when trying to staff the station. Even though we only had four positive test results, we had to quarantine everybody who encountered the positives, so it left us short handed. In the beginning, calls died down because people were stuck at home, but the reopening of everything has caused a resurgence and it hurt us bad while our crew had been quarantined,” he said.

According to Myler, there were rules to restrict staff from cross contaminating at home and other places of work. These rules were relaxed when the city and county eased the stay-at-home order.

“When this first started back in March with the stay-at-home order, we had restricted staff to be full-time workers only because we did not want our part-time staff to contaminate their other places of work or their families at home. That caused the full-time staff members to work hard to make sure everything was covered.

“In June, we allowed the part-time staff to return to work because of the relaxed orders from the county because of the low COVID numbers. This was our first hiccup due to COVID, but we are glad to be back at full staff now so that we can better serve the community,” Myler said.

Although the fire station experienced a small outbreak, the team at the Harrisonville Fire Department has done its part in making the workplace a safer amidst a global pandemic. Myler said the station has implemented new cleaning and sanitization procedures for the ambulance, living quarters and equipment after a call.

“We have protected ourselves to the best of our abilities throughout this whole thing, which is what makes our positive cases kind of shocking to me. We wear masks, gloves and goggles on every single call to minimize skin-to-skin contact,” he said. “When we carry a patient in the ambulance we take them straight to the hospital and upon arrival to the station, we spray disinfectant over the entire vehicle and we use our new UV light to rid the vehicle of any remaining germs.”

Myler added, “After the crew cleans and sanitizes the ambulance and equipment, they are required to shower and do their laundry upon entering the station. This makes sure that they are clean and ready to go if we get another call.

“We also do a daily cleaning regiment with our UV light and our disinfectant spray in all of our bunk rooms and common areas so that we can keep the living quarters as safe as we possibly can,” he said.

The fire department has also implemented daily screening for all crew members before they can take their post. Each crew member must go through a temperature check and a symptom check to validate they are COVID free.

Despite all the setbacks the fire department has faced recently, Myler said he is excited to have everybody back in the station, especially because they are unveiling new equipment this week.

“I am grateful that everybody is back to work that was out sick because we have had a good amount of calls recently. It is also good to have everybody back because we are getting our new pump truck in this week and it will be a cool way to celebrate the fact that all of our crew is back to being healthy,” he said.