Santa Monica Fire Department

Fire Departments across Los Angeles County are launching an educational outreach campaign to encourage firefighters to remain vigilant about COVID-19 protections while on calls and in their stations.

The “COVID-19 Safety Stand Down” is being rolled out county wide, including in Santa Monica, and the program includes training documents/videos aimed at staff who work in the EMS or firefighting roles.

The video includes testimonials from several firefighters who described the severity of their symptoms after contracting the disease and a detailed account of Torrance firefighter Rickey Cradle who nearly died after a three month battle with the disease. Cradle was rushed to the hospital with dangerously low oxygen levels. He spent three months in the hospital and 69 days on a ventilator. During that time he lost several toes to blood clots, underwent five brain surgeries and had a host of other procedures to handle the repercussions of the treatments.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a challenge of historic proportions and has already taken a significant toll on our communities,” said a statement issued by the County Fire Department and Department of Public Health. “Firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel have not been immune to the impact of COVID-19. Thousands of firefighters and EMS personnel across the country have contracted this deadly virus, and, sadly, dozens have lost their lives. Although some progress is being made, the spread of COVID-19 appears to be picking up speed, including the spread among our region’s fire and EMS personnel.”

Santa Monica Fire Department is participating in the program and Deputy Chief Judah Mitchell said it’s a good reminder to everyone to follow the safety protocols.

“The first thing I’m actually really proud of is we haven’t had any of our members test positive,” he said. “We’re following all the guidelines and doing this has been a big help. We’re cleaning stations twice a day, adhering to personal safety and hygiene, physical distancing in the station, and everything is working. This message is just a reminder to be vigilant in what you’re doing so we can all be safe out there.”

Mitchell said firefighters are used to equipping themselves with different gear depending on the call. He said they wear different protective gear to respond to a fire or accident and now that they are responding to medical calls with the additional chance of COVID-19 exposure, local firefighters are adapting to include more protective equipment on what would have previously been a low-risk response.

He said SMFD continues to respond to all the calls that come in no matter what the situation and firefighters need to be acutely aware of the hazards they might encounter on a call because their responsibility is to maintain the ability to render aid to others.

“A lot of other departments have had people test positive,” he said. “If you look at it, it’s not that we’re special, but we’re the tip of the spear,” he said.