First responders advise patience during COVID-19 outbreak

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – During the COVID-19 outbreak first responders are on the front lines continuing to protect and assist citizens despite the risk of potential exposure.

Shelby County police, fire and EMS officials are urging citizens to be patient, understanding and to take the necessary safety precautions as services are strained to better protect themselves and first responders.

“The biggest thing right now that we are recommending for citizens is social distancing, and continuously washing hands to keep exposure down,” said Pelham Fire Chief Tim Honeycutt. “To better protect our employees we recommend that if a citizen were to call 911 for flu like symptoms, they need to let the dispatcher know so that we can properly prepare to deal with them.”

Pelham Police Chief Cheatwood expressed that officers had to take new precautions like limiting one on one interactions with citizens, and requesting that non-emergency calls be handled by dispatch to limit exposure between officers and citizens.

This outbreak will cause many services to be strained, especially for those who might be in an emergency. The police and fire departments are urging citizens to be patient and understanding when reaching out for emergency services.

“The main thing that people need to be prepared to do is answer any question we might have,” said Pelham Fire Department EMS director Matt Maples. “They need to anticipate that we might be wearing protective gear and not to be alarmed. We just don’t want to get infected or possibly infect anyone.”

“Right now is the calm before the storm,” Maples said. “We are anticipating an increase in a number of critical patients. Our call volume is probably going to increase.”

All the departments expressed that their employees were more than prepared and willing to take on the task at hand.

“We all signed up to do this for a living because we care, and we are going to continue to do this because that’s just who we are,” Cheatwood said.

“Our employees are doing very well, and their spirits are very high,” Honeycutt said. “They are still providing the excellent service that Pelham citizens have come to expect. In turn, as their employer we are doing everything we can to keep them safe.”