Cherokee Co. first responders take extra safety measures amid COVID-19


CHEROKEE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – 7 News spoke with first responders in Cherokee County and learned how they’re handling their calls, and still staying safe, amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

“In our community, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve only had one case.’ In my opinion, we should treat every person we encounter as if they have the COVID-19,” Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said.

Cherokee County deputies, Gaffney police officers, and Gaffney firefighters are taking extra precautions due to the Coronavirus.

“These are scary times for our citizens, but it’s also scary for our officers and our first responders, because we go home every day to a family,” Sheriff Mueller said.

“Trying to come up with ways to make sure to protect us, so we can continue protecting the community,” Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano added.

Those at the Gaffney Fire Department have been sanitizing and disinfecting their trucks, and all of the equipment in and on those trucks, but they don’t stop there.

“It kind of led into police cars and ambulances and sheriff’s office and public works,” Chief Caggiano said. “We’ve talked to Highway Patrol and kind of offered this to any emergency services in the county.”

Those emergency crews are also carrying personal protective equipment at all times, but they’re limited.

“If we use PPE on every call that we go on, we will exhaust our PPE in about 48 hours,” Sheriff Mueller said.

So, they’ve come up with a way to save some of their gear. When someone calls 9-1-1, dispatch will ask a series of questions.

“Have you had a temperature? Are you coughing? Are you experiencing shortness of breath? Have you been outside of the country in the past 30 days? Have you been around anybody who’s been outside of the country?”

If the caller answers “Yes” to any of those questions, crews dispatched to the call will be told to take precautions, like wearing a mask and gloves, and maintaining social distancing.

“When we’re interviewing folks, we’re asking them to stay at least six feet away from us,” Mueller said. “And, certainly, if there are calls that we can handle over the phone, we’re doing those over the phone, just to protect our people.”

Right now, Mueller said, their health and safety are most important.

“If we have to start putting officers in quarantine, at the sheriff’s office or the detention center, it can disrupt our operations very quickly due to us being a small agency,” he said.

“I don’t need 40-something firemen sick, so when Mrs. Smith’s house catches on fire, we’re not here for them. We want to be here for the long haul and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing,” Caggiano said.

Chief Caggiano told 7 News his department will be offering the car-cleaning service to all emergency crews in the area every Monday and Thursday morning during this pandemic.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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