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South Bend first responders take precautions as the coronavirus spreads

NOW: South Bend first responders take precautions as the coronavirus spreads

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Companies in Michiana are opting for remote work to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. 

However, for some industries that is not an option. 

For police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians, there is no option to work from home. Their job requires them to be out on the streets and come face-to-face with community members on a daily basis. 

However, both the South Bend Police Department and South Bend Fire Department say they can, and will be, taking a number of precautions to stop the spread. 

“We have hospital grade cleaning gear, disinfectant,” said Erik Schlegelmilch, a SBPD patrolman. 

Schlegelmilch says officers already wipe down their cars after each interaction, but the importance of that practice has been re-iterated the last few days. He adds they also get updates from the city regularly and discuss the latest state and national developments during roll call. 

Each patrol car is equipped with hospital grade disinfectant, masks, protective eyewear, and gloves. 

“It's a risk that comes with the job,” said Schlegelmilch. “When society calls 911 for help, I took the oath to be there. I’m healthy, so I’m going to respond.” 

Schlegelmilch says SBPD is dedicated to helping the community during this outbreak. 

“Society counts on the police department,” said Schlegelmilch. “Criminals are not going to stop being criminals because of this. The criminal doesn’t, you know, listen to the CDC, going, ‘Well, the CDC said to stay home.’ No. Crime is still going to continue and we need somebody out there that’s going to stop the criminals and help out society.” 

On Monday at a press conference, South Bend Fire Department Chief Todd Skwarcan said emergency operations for his department will continue as the coronavirus makes its way through Indiana. 

Skwarcan said the department is meeting daily to make sure firefighters and EMTs are supplied with the right equipment and resources. He said the department will do its best on each call they respond to, but residents may notice a more limited response. 

“Working with our dispatch center to properly assess the acuity of a call,” said Skwarcan. “You may see one firefighter enter a residence. You may see fewer apparatuses respond to a call, but those are all managed through the service that does the triage for us, but all emergency operations will be attempted to be managed.”

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