MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – The Menlo Park Fire Protection District has announced the formation of a Pandemic Emergency Response Unit, which will respond to all suspected novel coronavirus cases in the fire district’s jurisdiction.

The unit’s two staff members will take all precautions to avoid contamination when responding to coronavirus cases, such as using the highest level of personal protective equipment, minimizing contact time and decontaminating before leaving the scene and before entering their fire apparatus. The district announced the unit’s formation Saturday.

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“We can’t afford to have our first responders on the sidelines while they are waiting for testing, testing results and/or to complete a mandatory 14 day quarantine, even if they are symptom free,” Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman. “We believe that by raising the bar on our personal protective clothing and by putting this new special response unit in place, we can slow or help to hopefully more effectively stop its spread.”


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The unit’s two members, Fire Captain and paramedic Jason Martin and engineer Carlos Carpenter, will respond to all reports of suspected coronavirus to minimize potential exposure to the rest of the district’s firefighters.

The district has already developed contingency plans if the unit becomes overwhelmed with reported cases, including adding one or two more Pandemic Emergency Response units. To date, the district has only received a maximum of seven reported cases in one day, a number that is expected to increase.

“At some point, we know one of our firefighters will contract COVID-19, most are not in the risk categories and all are extremely healthy and fit based upon the daily expectations of our profession, but our collective goal is to delay, or stop, spread for as long as possible,” Schapelhouman said.

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