Safety first for Columbus fire

By Josephine Birdsell
Staff Writer

The Columbus Division of Fire altered its addiction response methods to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.

The daily overdose average in Columbus is 8.14 overdoses per day. There was an uptick in overdoses earlier this month, reaching 13 overdoses per day on April 4, said Steve Martin, public information officer for the division of fire.

This issue was discussed on April 15 as the city of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods gave a virtual neighborhood update on the westside area.

The increase in daily overdoses is “two-fold,” resulting from upticks in both psychological emergencies and illicit drugs, said Lieutenant George Wallace.

However, the division of fire is responding to emergency calls as usual. The division of fire also increased the number of firefighters at work in response to the pandemic, Wallace said.

The division of fire’s Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team, which consists of firefighters/paramedics, police officers and social workers who work to connect addicts to rehabilitation facilities, is still in operation.

However, to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, the RREACT team is not making visits to addict’s homes for face-to-face meetings as it usually does. Instead, members are leaving informational pamphlets on the door-step and checking-in with addicts by phone.

RREACT is still transporting individuals to rehabilitation facilities when requested.

The division of fire will continue to enter homes on emergency calls if necessary, but asks that people meet firefighters and paramedics at their door and wear face-coverings when possible.

“Obviously we can’t do the six feet safe distancing when caring for patients, so we’re trying to keep everybody at the lowest risk we possibly can,” Wallace said.

Firefighters are wearing personal protective equipment and disinfecting trucks after every emergency call to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19.

“We’re still responding. We’re still fulfilling our mission just like we always have. We’re just doing it in a little different way,” Wallace said.

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