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Woodburn Fire District Chief Joe Budge updates the community on the coronavirus scenario and first-response preparations

Over the past month, the Woodburn and Hubbard Fire districts in partnership with the State of Oregon, city officials and community groups in Woodburn, Gervais and Hubbard have undertaken measures to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 infections that have been currently projected to reach a peak in the local area in mid April.WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Woodburn Fire District Chief Joe Budge

In February, the State of Oregon initiated an incident management team to provide accurate information and manage preparations and response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Incident management teams or IMT are used to manage emergency responses to large scale events including earthquakes, regional flooding, wildland fires, or in this case, a world-wide pandemic. The IMT has direct connections with the fire defense boards comprised of fire chiefs in each of the 36 counties in Oregon.

This organizational structure has been providing a daily stream of communication in both directions from the Centers for Disease Control and the Oregon Health Authority and serves to keep all first responders informed and fully supported as preparations proceed.

Among the first actions were to ensure that all first responders receive proper training in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) that will prevent spreading of the virus and keep first responders safe from infection.

The Woodburn and Hubbard Fire Districts would like to thank the local residents and industries that have donated PPE. This will help to ensure an adequate supply of protective equipment that in turn will maintain the capability of the fire districts to respond to all emergencies.

As always, the career and volunteer firefighters of the Woodburn and Hubbard Fire Districts are ready to respond to any emergency; 62 volunteer firefighters (36 in Woodburn and 26 in Hubbard) provide on-going back-up for the career firefighters for overlapping medical emergencies and fires or other incidents that require more than one response unit. All firefighters have been trained and are prepared to respond to the potential surge of COVID-19 patients.

The Woodburn Fire District also sponsors and an active CERT program (Citizen Emergency Response Team) comprised of 70 volunteers from the local communities that have received special training to assist their neighbors during large scale emergencies. In response to COVID-19, CERT members are prepared to perform a wide-range of community services including:

--Staffing patient surge tents at local hospitals;

--Provide welfare checks to vulnerable neighbors;

--Distribute emergency response supplies to first responders;

--Provide food and household supplies to those in need;

--Assist with COVID-19 testing sites when they become operational;

--Staff information phone banks at the local emergency dispatch center;

--Partner with other community assistance programs

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There are a few things that all of us can do to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 and maintain the ability of the emergency response system to meet the expected surge:

--Reduce the potential spread of the virus by following the "Stay Home – Save Lives" guidance from the Governor, observe social distancing, self-isolate if you become symptomatic, and wash your hands frequently;

--If you experience symptoms associated with COVID-19 (dry cough, fever and tiredness) call your health care provider.

Call 9-1-1 if you are having difficulty breathing or inability to arouse.

For the most accurate and complete information on COVID-19, please visit the Oregon Health Authority and the Center for Disease Control websites at the following links.

The Woodburn and Hubbard Fire Districts along with the local CERT chapter are here and ready to respond to all emergencies. Thank you for your help in minimizing the demand and reducing the potential surge of patients.

Joe Budge is the chief of the Woodburn Fire District.


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