The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the Brookfield Fire Department’s plan to get a new ambulance.
With a new one purchased with CARES Act funds about to go into service, the department will have four ambulances operational. (UDATE: The department said Jan. 20 that the ambulance was in service.)
“When we come back in one ambulance, and we’re cleaning it, and we receive another call, we’re able to jump in the next ambulance and go, both stations,” said Chief David Masirovits. “Each station will have two fully equipped ambulances.”
The new ambulance, in addition to having bells and whistles such as an IV warmer, a cardiac monitor mount and a HEPA filtration system, sports an ultraviolet lighting system “to kill the microorganisms and to protect us and the patients from cross-contamination,” he said.
UV light kills the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Masirovits said. However, it does not replace the regular cleaning of ambulances. After every call, “we mop with bleach, we wipe the front of the cab down, we completely redo the cleaning that takes place every morning,” he said.
The department sometimes is alerted that a call involves a COVID-positive patient. In any event, it treats each call as if the patient has COVID, the chief said.
As of Dec. 28, the department had had three members test positive for COVID-19, he said, adding that he would not disclose whether they worked full or part time. Their symptoms were mild and they had returned to duty.
Masirovits said he is fortunate to have had only three cases in house, “especially with the number of cases that we’ve dealt with in the community.”
Firefighters were able to receive their first doses of the COVID vaccine Dec. 29 and 30. While township officials did not make the vaccine mandatory, they “highly encouraged” employees to do so, and Masirovits announced in a Facebook post his reasons for getting inoculated.
Countywide, COVID-19 has taxed the ability of ambulance companies to meet the demands for service, he said. Even though the department still has had to close Station 51 on Addison Road an average of one-fourth of the time over the last several months due to lack of manpower, it has done a good job answering the calls it receives.
“Fortunately, we’ve had a good solid group of people that have been working here,” Masirovits said. “We’ve been able to cover a vast majority of all the calls that we get.”
Changes within the stations have been made, or are going to be made, to try to prevent the spread of COVID, such as removing all carpeting and replacing it with flooring; getting rid of upholstered furniture; and putting partitions between bunks in sleeping quarters.
The pandemic has changed the way the department goes about its business, and many of those changes will stay in effect even if the pandemic ebbs, he said.