PARMA, Ohio (WOIO) - Brian Parsons has been working with the Parma Fire Department for nearly 14 years, but he nor anyone else could have predicted such a challenging year.
“It has been a very different year from years past,” the paramedic said.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant a new set of changes to Parma’s Station 5.
Since this past March, the station’s members have done everyone in their power to stay safe.
“We started wearing more PPE, gowns, goggles, and items of those nature to help protect us, protect patients,” he said.
Other changes included special spray machines meant to disinfect emergency vehicles and special, designated trash bins for used protective gear, which could pose a threat to patients and the whole station.
The updates also took place inside the station.
Station 5 now has a small sanitation station, with a temperature gun and a log to track who has visited and if they had a fever.
“We went so far as now we wear masks in the station to prevent contamination and spread to other firefighters,” Brian said, “to make sure we don’t spread it around the firehouse and we have a lot of guys off sick.”
Perhaps one of the more subtle changes has been with one of the station’s most valuable assets: time.
Brian explains that the extra steps needed to wear the proper protection for any emergency add as much as 20 minutes to a typical response. This year, neighboring fire departments have had to rely on each other to meet each other’s needs.
“There can be times where, in the city of Parma, we have four squads,” Brian said. “And if there’s four calls and we’re all out, there’s no more squads in the city of Parma, so other cities may help us and in the same way we’ll help them. We are definitely running harder now.”
Of course, that won’t stop Brian and the rest of the first responders at his station from helping their community. As they prepare to receive their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine—which could mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic—Brian wants to thank other essential workers in that very community.
“We’ll go grocery shopping and everyone’s thankful for us, but it’s people that are out there like that as well that we’re thankful for, too— that help support the community and keep the community going,” he said.