SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
The 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency Services flight is staying mission ready through the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing training and responding to calls at a moment’s notice.
Since firefighters are on the front lines during this pandemic, one way 52nd FES stays mission ready is by practicing measures that keep everyone safe.
“We do a complete wipe-down of all high-touch surfaces at a minimum of three times per day,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Ostrom, 52nd CES FES chief of operations. “We wear masks when we cannot maintain the required separation, like while driving and during training events. We have suspended all multi-crew training, limited vehicle movements and have changed emergency response procedures to minimize interaction between crews where possible.”
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Darliska Shaw, 52nd CES FES assistant chief of operations, said their crew has broken into teams and are separated, so distancing can be implemented as much as possible.
“This has reduced the contact that one firefighter has with other firefighters in case someone did get sick,” said Shaw. “We have also worked closely with the other first and emergency responders on base to ensure that we are all on the same page for responses during the increased risk.”
Not only is FES taking necessary steps to ensure the safety and health of their Airmen, they are also staying mission ready by working side by side with host nation civilian employees.
“Being an integrated department is a great asset to our base response,” said Ostrom. “The reason we have civilian employees in fire protection is to provide continuity, and also provide a fantastic ability to support the local community with our mutual aid agreements. Many of our members are also volunteer firefighters in the local communities and provide much needed technical translation to ensure we are on the same page with tactics, techniques and procedures where miscommunications could prove hazardous.”
Shaw said civilian and military integration is part of their everyday mission.
“Military members bring their experience from different bases and deployments because we tend to move around often,” said Shaw. “The civilians bring experience from usually being at a location for an extended time and knowing the base and aircraft very well. The teamwork between our Airmen and our host nation civilians is great.”
Shaw said their biggest challenge during COVID-19 is Airmen having to live in close proximity with each other on duty, but they are overcoming this with consistent procedure adjustments.
“Distancing is difficult in a fire department; it’s like trying to distance yourself in your house from your family members,” said Shaw. “It’s been a lot of changes in schedule, everyday procedures, and life in the fire station, but the department has adjusted as we always do.”
Ostrom said he could not be prouder of the FES Airmen during this time.
“The Covid-19 situation has required each of them to alter their standard responses and think of new ways to accomplish the mission,” said Ostrom. “We have postured ourselves to provide the maximum protection for each of our individual members to inhibit virus transmission, as well as maintaining the maximum level of mission support to ensure the airfield and our base populace is protected for any emergency situation.”