The Santa Rosa Fire Department has introduced a new Pandemic Response Unit Tuesday, one of the first of its kind in California, after the recent death of a first responder.
The PRU consists of one pandemic and one emergency medical technician dedicated to coronavirus calls.
“They have a higher level of personal protective equipment and a higher level of decontamination equipment,” said Assistant Chief Scott Westrope.
Its mission is to better protect first responders so they can continue to be there to protect the public.
When a 911 call comes in, emergency dispatchers ask questions to find out what is really wrong with the patients.
“So if they have flu-like symptoms but they suspect they have COVID or are worried they have COVID, that will fire up a response that will get the squad in addition to an engine or truck,” said Westrope.
The PRU, also known as Squad One, knows how to decontaminate themselves and their equipment and all other emergency vehicles and personnel and if need be, the patient and family.
“This is in addition to our normal daily staffing at 10 engines, two trucks and a battalion chief to protect and serve our community,” said SRPD Chief Anthony Gossner.
Plans for the PRU have been in the works for some time, but might not be in operation yet, if not for the tragic death two weeks ago of Santa Rosa Police Officer Marylou Armor from COVID-19.
“The issue at Santa Rosa PD with their covert exposure really propelled us,” said Gossner. “These were things that would normally take weeks, we got this done in about a week.”
The additional staff will cost additional money so the city is looking into grants or maybe reimbursement from the federal government. But the thinking was something had to be done to save lives now and they’ll figure out how to pay for it later.