Local firefighters lead state in COVID-19 mitigation

This includes restricting each station — including Steiner Ranch #605 and Comanche Trail #604 stations — to just one company and restricting that company’s social distancing. 

“We normally have four to seven people at any given station, now we’re restricting that number to no more than five and only allowing two of them to be in the same room at the same time,” Frame said. 

“We’ve added in mandatory handwashing and shower triggers, extra cleaning of the station and fire engines, and a full lockdown to all visitors, even other LTFR firefighters who are not on duty.”

LTFR is taking full protective mitigation practices on every contact with the public: physical distance, PPE (gowns, gloves, goggles, masks), and limited interactions with the public or other providers.

“While this is not comfortable for anyone, mitigating spread and stopping unnecessary infectious events is paramount to our mission critical response,” Frame said.

All LTFR firefighters are represented by the association, which is an affiliated union with the International Association of Fire Fighters. 

Frame answered a few more Four Points News questions this week:

1) How have local firefighters been doing since the stay-at-home orders?

The shelter in place orders have dramatically impacted firefighters’ personal lives, but we know that nothing is more important than doing our part, both on and off the job.

2) How has this pandemic changed their jobs? 

We believe that LTFR is the most progressive fire department in the state of Texas on the issue of COVID-19 mitigation. This level of mitigation has changed the station life for our firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s. Physical distancing in the stations means that we don’t get to share a meal or workout as a group. It’s hard, but it is necessary to fulfill our oath to our community.

We’ve really had to lean on our advanced providers over the last few weeks too. Instead of everyone entering every call, we’ve led the way and driven policy across the county, and now we’re sending our best and brightest into each call first. They’re assessing the patient and then determining how many providers are needed to provide the appropriate level of patient care.

A term we use now is risk-management or risk versus benefit analysis. This has placed our firefighters and paramedics into tougher situations and with bigger decisions. They’re under additional stress but tackling the issue and working hard.

3) How does social distancing affect local fire stations, like those in Steiner Ranch and Comanche Trail, and those firefighters on duty?

Only two firefighters are allowed in one room at any time, including the dinner table or living room.

We wear masks any time we leave the station, including in the fire engine while traveling to or from the call.

We are assigning everything from chairs, to bedrooms, and even bathrooms. We’re doing disinfecting cleaning after every use.

We only allow one person in the gym at one time. No big group shift workouts.

Full disinfecting program after every call.

Stations temporarily are not accepting any donations or station visits.

4) How do firefighters protect themselves from being on the front lines as crews usually show up first to most emergencies?

We are responding to every call assuming that every patient is an asymptomatic carrier and we’re taking every effort to make sure that we don’t get infected, and to make sure we don’t infect anyone else.

Lake Travis Fire Rescue crews at the scene of a fire. File photo LTFR

We wear N95 masks on every medical call and contact with the community. We will not enter your home without a mask on. If we’re going to assume that anyone in the public could have it, it’s only fair for us to make sure to protect you as well.

We’ve made changes in the medications we give and the manner and method in which we administer them. This is designed to reduce risk of harm to COVID patients and decrease the spread of aerosolized virus.

5) How has the volume and nature of calls changed over the past several weeks? 

Call volume has held steady. Calls are more often of a higher priority with sicker patients as well.

6) Anything else to add?

The most important thing for our community to know is that we’ve been through challenges before. We’ve tackled drought, wildfire, shared losses, and shared success. We’ve beaten a recession and set the bar with ensuring the right number of firefighters show up to your emergency. We’re going to beat this too.

7) How can the community help? 

Wear a face mask of any kind, any time, anywhere you travel when you’re with people not in your family and home.

Firefighters of Lake Travis Fire Rescue have extensive protocols in place with the COVID-19 pandemic. This photo is was taken a couple of years ago at the Steiner Ranch station. LTFR