ORLANDO, Fla. – When COVID-19 arrived in Orlando in March 2020 it immediately became apparent things had to change in order to keep Orlando police officers and community members safe.
“Before COVID, we did have PPE kits in cars,” said Deputy Commander of the Emergency Management Team Lt. Jerry Goglas. “And we use them. However, going out there after COVID, it’s just the need to use them on every call, it just became apparent.”
That meant getting supplies to protect more than 800 officers and other staff at the Orlando Police Department. Goglas teamed up with Support Services Division Manager Claudio Rosado to get the job done.
“Our mission here at the Support Services Division is to support those who protect us,” said Rosado.
“We didn’t want them to be in the faces of people not knowing the severity of COVID-19,” said Goglas. “We’ve never dealt with anything like this before.”
They said in the beginning, it was difficult to get enough masks for everyone.
“It wasn’t easy, because as you know, there’s over a million police officers in this country, and everybody needed the same equipment. So we just worked diligently with suppliers,” said Goglas.
They put together kits for officers with goggles, gloves, N-95 masks, gowns, everything they could need on a call to stay safe. The kits are disposable, so officers are able to grab fresh ones at OPD Headquarters as they’re needed.
The team also made sure that officers and staff had access to several different kinds of disinfectant sprays and wipes-- all things officers may need on a daily basis regardless of COVID -- because they never know what they may come across in the field.
“We have disposable masks that the officers use. Which, in the beginning, like I said, they were hard to come by,” said Goglas. “But you never know if anything else will come up in the future, a different variant of COVID, you know, it may not be over. So we just make sure that we that we keep our numbers up.”
“What was the hardest part of getting everything and moving quickly?” asked News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Trooper Steven Montiero.
“Organizing, reaching out, and again, having patience on the deliveries, suppliers aren’t always as fast as you as you want it to be,” said Rosado
Another effective tool OPD has been using is the AeroClave. They first learned about the device from AdventHealth, and it’s been very effective at helping the staff keep everything from rooms to patrol cars sanitized.
“This decontaminating unit, there’s nozzles in here and we’ve used it in offices, we’ve used it in community rooms. We’ve used it in police vehicles,” said Goglas. “We found that we can decontaminate a room, a large room, without having to go inch by inch .I mean, you can do steering wheels, it doesn’t leave any residue, you just close the vehicle up, leave it for about 10 minutes, and it’s done.”
Along with the supplies, they developed a process to keep people safe in the event of an exposure.
“We created a three-step process when it comes to deployment,” said Rosado. “In case we did have an exposure somewhere in the department. So the first step on that is to isolate and contain the area. Step two is to deploy the AeroClave system which is going to decontaminate the area. Once that is done, wait a few hours, maybe one or two hours, and then we get a cleaning crew to go out and wipe down the area.”
Precautions were especially necessary during the protests in Orlando during May and June 2020.
“It just became difficult, but we weren’t able to step away from the fact that we had to do our job. You know, so whether we had people in our face not maintaining their distance, we just we just did the job to the best of our ability,” said Goglas.
Goglas and Rosado are being recognized as heroes during COVID for their efforts in helping keep the entire police department safe.
“What do you think makes a hero?” asked Monteiro.
“Hero, to me, is someone who has the principles of a leader which is, you know, always trying to do the right thing, no matter what happens,” said Rosado. “Be resilient under pressure, adversity, we don’t measure leadership during good times. We measure it during adversity. And I think this is a prime example of that. Throughout the agency, I mean, from the police officer on the road, to the chief of police, we all had the leadership in place. And it’s in our blood.”
“You know, there’s a lot of people in the community that just came out and helped each other. So to me, there’s a lot of heroes out there,” said Goglas.