Florida leaders discuss protecting first responders, residents from coronavirus

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis hosts event

ORLANDO, Fla. – Area fire chiefs, elected officials and representatives from Port Canaveral came together Wednesday for a roundtable discussion about coronavirus preparedness efforts for first responders.

Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis hosted the event, which was held at the Orlando Emergency Operations Center.

"We want to make sure that these men and women have the necessary equipment and gear, because they already have the expertise and they understand that we've got their backs," Patronis said.

During the meeting, officials spoke about the critical role 911 and first responders play in stopping a potential outbreak.

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“If we, in fact, know that it’s a viable case, we’re going to limit the number of people that are going to be in contact with that patient,” Orlando Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale said.

There was also discussion about education and being prepared with the proper tools to respond to any given situation.

“We’re making sure the men and women are being fresh on their skills, they’re fresh on their education and being able to use the equipment in an efficient and effective manor,” Patronis said.

Local leaders discuss preparations to prevent coronavirus
Local leaders discuss preparations to prevent coronavirus

After the meeting, Orange County Fire Rescue and the Orlando Fire Department demonstrated equipment that could be used if paramedics and firefighters respond to a potential coronavirus patient.

Rescue vehicles were outfitted with plastic curtains to isolate the patient treatment area. Paramedics would also wear protective suits, and a decontamination unit could be used to disinfect the vehicle in a span of 20 minutes.

The event is one of several happening across the state to reinforce Florida’s preparedness to respond to potential cases of the coronavirus.

Officials continue to stress that the risk to the general public remains low, but everyone is urged to use hygiene and protective measures similar to preventing the flu.

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