First Responders Give Their Point of View During COVID-19

Photo courtesy of the City of Huntsville

To minimize the spread of the coronavirus, Huntsville’s first responders have set new protocols in place to protect both the public and themselves while on duty.

Lieutenant James Barnes of the Huntsville Police Department and Emergency Management Coordinator Adam Winningham of the Huntsville Fire Department answered some questions on how their experiences have been during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have tried to limit our contact unless absolutely necessary,” Barnes said. “Unfortunately, we have a job that, at times, it is necessary to arrest somebody if they are violating the law.”

Police officers are given masks, hand sanitizers and various disinfectant products. Another addition to their duties is to monitor curfew for those out and about between the hours of 11:59 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“Truthfully, it seems that crime has slowed down a little bit,” Barnes said. “I think that the county judge here in Walker County has put a curfew into effect and that has helped us tremendously, giving us probable cause to deal with people after hours.”

According to Winningham, the fire department is also adapting their process in response to the pandemic. When they are dispatched, the 911 call taker will survey who is calling or the patient they are referencing.

“They ask simple questions like have you been out of the country, do you have a cough, things that are related to COVID-19,” Winningham said. “If they come back with any indications of possibilities of carrying the COVID-19, we do have what we would consider full PPE in the sense of COVID-19.”

Despite the more dangerous than average circumstances, Huntsville’s first responders are working as usual despite the pandemic.

“We are still doing our job,” Winningham said. “Our service, our quality of service has not changed at all. If anything, it may have increased a little bit. We are still going to the calls. We are still attending to people whether it’s a house fire, car incident, or a simple medical call we may be assisting with. Our service is still there, we still want to support our community.”

Winningham encouraged people to be open with first responders in the midst of this pandemic.

“As the COVID situation progresses, it is highly likely a lot of people may end up carrying the virus,” Winningham said. “Properly communicate that with us, because of course we don’t want to bring it back to our fire stations and take it to our houses. It’s not that we don’t want to tend to you or care for you during your time of need, we definitely do. But, we also have to look out for ourselves and our families as well.”

Lastly, both stations wanted to remind citizens to follow the CDC guidelines of washing hands and staying at home to keep everyone safe during this time.

“The important thing is to listen to what our government officials are saying, especially our medical professionals,” Barnes said. “Adhere to the distancing rules while you are out shopping and don’t get up on other people. And if you do have an encounter with a police officer, just listen to what we have to say and comply and do what we say and we will get through this together. We are all in this together.”

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