California was one of the first states with cases of coronavirus, and many local jurisdictions took swift action to stop its spread. As of April 7, the state has 15,865 cases, with just over 1,000 confirmed cases in Riverside County.
Riverside County is the fourth largest county in California, and the Fire Department Fleet Bureau is responsible for more than 600 vehicles, including apparatus, patrol vehicles, ambulances, and support vehicles. The department runs 170,000 calls per year, and the fleet traveled more than 3 million miles in 2019, according to Jose Gallardo, Riverside County Fire Department fleet services manager.
“This heavy use of the fleet requires a strong maintenance program and professional fire apparatus technicians to service it,” Gallardo said.
He attributes the fleet team’s ability to do its work to strong leadership from senior management in keeping staff members safe and informed.
Here’s how the Fire Department fleet staff protect themselves from the coronavirus:
- Fleet staff members wipe down apparatus before they work on them.
- Each technician is provided disinfectant solution bottles (Vital Oxide sanitizer) and anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning. They clean all surfaces where they will be working (dash, steering wheel, handles, pedals, etc.).
- Personal protective gear includes gloves, coveralls or uniforms, and masks and goggles as necessary. Staff members are instructed to clean work boots when they get home.
- The fleet team is encouraged to provide ideas and solutions, and Gallardo said he keeps up with professional organizations and Government Fleet magazine to learn from other fleets.
- Fleet management requires vendors clean any vehicles before fleet staff pick up vehicles that have been outsourced for repairs.
- Restrict travel outside the state and the use airports. Fleet staff conduct a virtual apparatus inspection with out-of-state apparatus manufacturers rather than in-person inspections to keep up the production of critical fire trucks.
Gallardo reported that the emergency medical services (EMS) team has been “amazing” in keeping staff members safe. This includes implementing call algorithms to prevent first responders’ exposure to COVID-19 patients and treating every medical call as if the patient were already infected. Additionally, apparatus and ambulances are decontaminated after every EMS call.
In addition, the fleet team receives frequent communication from senior leadership, including daily updates on COVID-19 from the county and daily updates and direction from Cal Fire EMS. The fire chief sends e-mails and holds conferences to keep staff members informed and to listen to their ideas and concerns, and the call center team alerts fire crews of possible COVID-19 medical calls.
He added that these measures not only keep the staff safe, but also keeps morale high.