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Monday, April 22, 2024
COVID-19: NOTL makes plans for dealing with pandemic

Avoiding community spread key concern as town staff, leaders meet multiple times daily

In the midst of a state of emergency, NOTL’s fire and emergency services department is working hard to make sure the town is ready for whatever problems the COVID-19 pandemic causes, chief Nick Ruller says.

Ruller, who like many people is at home in self-isolation after returning from a family vacation in the United States, is leading the department from home, focused on keeping all the usual fire services are available while also ensuring the town is ready to respond to any pandemic problems.

The major fear, especially in NOTL where many older people reside, is having to deal with an outbreak of the virus in town. So far, no cases have been reported in NOTL.

“Our biggest focus right now is that we want to do everything we possibly can to prevent community spread,” Ruller said in an interview Monday.

He lauded “essential service providers in the community,” such as the pharmacies and grocery stores, which are “taking extreme measures to do their part and that’s incredibly encouraging.”

And he encouraged everyone to follow federal and provincial guidelines for self-isolating, hand washing and social distancing,

“In the fire service, education and prevention is the ideal scenario. Emergency response is your last resort,” said Ruller. “We want to be overprepared and underwhelmed.”

So, a lot of the town’s planning is looking at what steps can be taken “to reaffirm what the province and the federal government are urging, which is to isolate and to take steps to make sure we don’t see community spread,” he said.

In keeping with that, the town’s two deputy fire chiefs are working separately and other teams within municipal departments have been split up, “so that if one or two members have to be isolated, it doesn’t affect an entire team.”

As well, departments have been doing some cross-training so people can potentially fill in as needed.

Deputy chief Jay Plato is co-ordinating the town’s emergency management program and is working closely with interim chief administrator Sheldon Randall out of the town hall in Virgil, Ruller said.

NOTL’s other deputy chief, Darren Trostenko, is overseeing “continuity of services” for all fire operations, making sure the department’s 110 volunteer firefighters are ready if called upon.

The town’s emergency control group, a team of key managers, staff and political leaders is ultimately co-ordinating all the efforts to make certain the municipality is ready – for anything.

That’s a big job. There is a lot of information to process every day and many decisions to be made, Ruller noted.

Right now, “You don’t have a week to mull it over and make a decision. For us, it’s about a critical risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis of our decisions and then moving forward with them.”

Ruller said the community has been hugely supportive of the need to “get ahead of this and get in front of it” and he encouraged people to stay home.

“One of the best things that can happen is, if we want to truly limit any potential for community spread, that is done by staying home.”

Ruller and his wife have four young children and they are in self-isolation until March 31.

“But the reality is, you won’t see me in the community (afterward). We truly believe that non-essential activity needs to be avoided. I don’t want to put my family at risk and, in turn, anybody else’s.”

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