The year 2020 was definitely a different time for Public Safety and most of the world. With the arrival of the first reported cases of the SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 virus in the region, the Public Safety team and POA senior management researched to make appropriate changes to safety protocols.

The POA has had a pandemic plan in place for years as part of Community Emergency Operations. It is evaluated on a regular basis to ensure it’s current.

With pandemics, each virus has unique challenges as it creeps over the area. Testing and eventual vaccination/prevention are part of the plan.

Early in the 2020 pandemic, our area saw low numbers and Big Canoe Public Safety had fewer medical emergency calls than usual because many residents opted for tele-visits with their doctors or found treatment at urgent care centers rather than visiting emergency rooms via ambulance.

Throughout the summer, Public Safety received minimal calls for potential COVID-19 emergencies, although a few employees contracted the virus.

During the late fall and early winter, calls increased and the department received numerous calls related to COVID-19 symptoms; unfortunately, several members of the Public Safety team suffered by experiencing the virus firsthand.

Most staff probably contracted the virus through off-duty contacts with family or friends. However, some are not sure of their exposure route. 

Public Safety closed the fire station to all visitors to protect critical staff that must respond to emergencies. The fire station front lobby is always open if someone has an emergency or needs to contact Public Safety staff.

When the new fire station was designed, one feature included was a limited-access lobby so people could come in if caught in bad weather.

The lobby was also designed for easy decontamination in case of a medical emergency or condition when a patient must be treated in the lobby until an ambulance arrives. Because it is isolated, proper decontamination can be accomplished quickly to prevent pathogen spread into the firehouse proper, which serves as the home for three firefighters each day.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, firefighters’ families usually gather at the fire station to enjoy a Christmas meal together since a crew must be ready to respond to emergencies 24/7/365.

This year the holiday event didn’t happen. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, families could not come together. A sudden snowfall also kept us apart.

Many things have changed in the past 12 months. Normal day-to-day station life must stand ready to handle all calls while ensuring responders are protected from COVID-19 exposure.

The Big Canoe Public Safety staff comes to work because it is a true calling and passion for each of them. They are ready to serve the residents of our community whatever the need might be.