ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – St. Petersburg Fire Rescue is teaming up with Sunstar Paramedics to create three strike teams to answer coronavirus calls.
Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with fire department chiefs made the announcement today.
“Our first responders here in St. Petersburg are simply the best,” said Mayor Kriseman. “And we want them to be and feel safe.”
There will be three strike teams based at different parts of the city. One will be based at the Northwest Pool, one at the Fossil Park Pool and the third at the Campbell Park Pool. The pools, along with city recreation centers are currently closed. Each team is made up of three first responders who will work 12-hour shifts.
Fire Rescue, Rescue Chief Ian Womack explains, the goal is to limit the number of first responders who have contact with potentially positive COVID-19 patients. The strike team members are also equipped with special gear and ride in specially equipped vehicles to hopefully limit their exposure.
Womack says members of the team are volunteers.
“These are individuals, employees, first responders who have volunteered to put themselves at the tip of the sphere, so to speak, for the organization, to not only protect the community which they have sworn to do,” said Womack. “But also to protect their fellow brothers and sisters.”
Prior to the strike teams, if someone called 911 with symptoms of the coronavirus, operators would send the closest units possible. Now, dispatchers will ask callers a variety of questions to determine if the individual who needs help could perhaps have the coronavirus.
“A lot of work has been done with the Pinellas 911 dispatch center,” said Womack. “We were initially trying to drill down to what the CDC gave us as far as screening guidelines for travel history and contact history.”
Fire rescue officials say the closest first responders will stall answer calls for citizens who have a need for immediate assistance.
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