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Local fire departments taking extra steps to keep first responders healthy
March 27, 2020

Kip Kovar
Sports Editor

LESTER PRAIRIE, WINSTED, DELANO, MN – In this time of uncertainty with the pandemic of COVID-19, area fire departments are taking extra measures to keep first responders safe. Since the pandemic began, Lester Prairie, Winsted, and Delano fire departments are making sure they do whatever they can to keep their first responders healthy.

“New protocols have been developed and implemented to prevent the exposure to patients and ourselves,” Winsted Fire Chief Troy Scherping said. “It’s very important that our firefighters and first responders stay healthy as there is no 9-1-2. The situation changes daily, and we have to adapt to it and overcome challenges. Some protocols that we implemented are similar to departments in the area and the county.”

One change the Winsted Fire Department has made thus far is postponing all meetings and training. The goal of that was to keep multiple firefighters out of the same area as much as possible.

“We have currently postponed all meetings and training at the fire hall to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Scherping said. “Meetings are now getting done via phone calls with a computer presentation. Truck checks procedures have been changed to smaller groups on separate days to practice social distancing, but still, complete the necessary task. Currently, we are looking into options of online training to meet our continuing education requirements.”

The Lester Prairie Fire Department hasn’t missed a meeting or training session yet, but they are exploring options to change that going forward.

“We have not yet missed any meetings or training sessions,” Lester Prairie Fire Chief Matt Tonn said. “We are exploring holding our next meeting using an online tool. We are also exploring some options for online training opportunities. We are basically trying to limit fire department members from congregating together only during actual emergencies.”

Another change the Lester Prairie Fire Department has made, among other area departments, is getting more information from the 911 dispatchers.

“The biggest change that we have made is to limit the number of personnel who are potentially exposed,” Tonn said. “If 911 dispatchers are able to gather information that the patient is experiencing flu-like symptoms, this information is passed along to us. We are then able to respond appropriately, with a limited number of personnel.”

While all area departments are taking extra measures, they also have information they want the public to know during these challenging times.

“Everyone must do their part to overcome these difficult times,” Scherping said. “Educate yourselves about what to do by checking the Center for Disease Control, McLeod County Public Health, and the Minnesota Department of Health web pages. We are doing as much as we can to stay on top of the situation with the staff we have on hand. We are currently short a full roster and are still looking for individuals to join our team. Many hands make light work.”

“If a person is experiencing a life-threatening condition, they should continue to call 911,” Tonn said. “If a person thinks they may have symptoms of COVID-19, they should call their health care provider first for evaluation. Providers are better suited to triage patients to determine if they need to be seen in an ER or not. Most local hospitals have rules in place that you should call first. They don’t want you just showing up at the door. Following this procedure will help in slowing down the spread of the illness.”

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