Police and Fire Departments, CRMC React to COVID-19

Clovis Police and Fire Department headquarters. (CR File Photo)

The coronavirus crisis is forcing agencies around the nation to rethink their operations, and the Clovis Police and Fire Departments are no different.

Both agencies are enacting safety measures, such as social distancing and protective gear, to continue to operate and prevent the spread of the contagious COVID-19.

The Police Department educated its staff with training sessions designed to give an overview on the virus and how to protect against it through social distancing and the use of protective gear such as masks and gloves.

The department is also changing the way its staff communicates.

The department’s daily morning briefings, for example, have been moved online to limit officers from coming in direct contact with each other.

Dispatchers are asking callers if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. This lets officers know whether they will need to wear protective gear when responding to the situation, Lt. Jim Munro told the Roundup.

“It tells our officers that they really need to take extra precautions, so in that case they would mask up, glove up and use other protective equipment that they may feel necessary,” Munro said. “If we have that knowledge, instead of sending three officers in the house, maybe we will just send one and make sure that the others don’t get infected, if the situation is safe.”

Munro said the new precautions will not affect the department’s swift response to emergencies.

“Nothing is going to change, we will still respond just like we always would,” he said. “We still respond quickly, we still respond in numbers and you probably wouldn’t have noticed that anything is different with the police department, when in reality, we’ve made changes to try to address the situation.”

Munro also dispelled rumors that police are stopping and questioning people for going out in public during the state mandated shutdown of nonessential businesses.

“We are not stopping people based solely on the (shelter in place) order,” Munro said.

The department is investigating price gouging reports as well. Mayor Drew Bessinger asked residents to report price gouging in a March 24 address.

“We just want to educate the community that price gouging obviously is not acceptable. If there is an allegation that is substantiated then you will be receiving a visit from someone from our staff, and you could potentially be arrested,” Munro said.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among valley firefighters, the Fire Department is temporarily suspending training that was scheduled to take place outside of Clovis.

Fire Chief John Binaski said the department is limiting its crew interaction as much as possible.

“We are using what we call the stay in the fire station model,” Binaski said. “We have them housed, that is where we want them to be, and they are ready to respond.”

The Fire Department is also limiting staff from frequenting headquarters and city hall when it is not necessary.

Binaski said the department is conducting “doorway assessments” during calls to gather information about individuals who may have COVID-19 and are involved in the situation. Similar to the police, the assessments give responders the knowledge to know when to send just one responder into a house or apartment to prevent multiple people from becoming infected.

“We are sending one person in to see what the patient is complaining of and what the emergency really is. We are asking questions about whether they have traveled outside of the area, have they been to certain counties, do they have flu-like symptoms. Our first goal is to give that patient a surgical mask in order to protect our responders,” he said.

The fire department is communicating with other valley fire agencies to assess what can be done to further protect its personnel while continuing to provide quick and efficient service.

Both the fire and police departments have contingency plans in place to ensure that they will continue to operate if the crisis drags on.

“These plans are designed to help us in case we have a number of staff members that potentially get COVID-19 and in that case, we would move to a different shift schedule to bolster staffing,” Munro said.

Community Regional Medical Centers is also stepping up security and taking extra precautions to keep its staff and patients safe.

Matt Joslin, vice president of service line and support services at CRMC, said the CRMC established a “system live command center” that coordinates the hospital’s response to all COVID-19 related matters across all of its facilities.

“It allows us to be operable and work together seamlessly as we jointly respond to situations like this,” Joslin said at a March 21 city council meeting.

CRMC is continuing to limit access to its facilities, including Clovis Community Medical Center.

The hospital is prohibiting visitors from seeing patients, with a few exceptions, such as labor delivery and situations involving pediatric care.

Joslin said CRMC is preparing for a possible surge in patients.

“In the event that we have community spread or a surge in cases, we have to do everything we can to prepare for that. We are postponing some procedures, cancelling procedures, trying to get additional surgical masks,” Joslin said. “We can hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

Ron Camacho
Ron Camacho was born and raised in Clovis. He attended Clovis High School and graduated from CSU Fresno in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and Journalism. Before joining the Roundup, Ron wrote for Pollstar Magazine and the Sanger Herald. He has a deep appreciation for the arts and is a lover of music, cinema and storytelling. When he’s not busy looking for his next story, Ron enjoys taking weekend expeditions to the beach or mountains to practice landscape photography.