First responders are the ones who run toward danger, but the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is making their jobs even more hazardous.

Correction: Because of a reporter's error, a version of this story published online and in the April 23 edition of the ThisWeek Canal Winchester Times said family members of Madison Township firefighters had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. As of April 21, no family members had tested positive for the virus.

First responders are the ones who run toward danger, but the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is making their jobs even more hazardous.

The Madison Township Fire Department and area law enforcement agencies have adopted new protocols to reduce exposure to the virus for firefighters and police officers.

Those assigned to EMS runs are wearing a half-mask respirator, gloves and eye protection, Madison Township fire Chief Derek Robinson told township trustees during their April 14 meeting held via conference call.

Medics also put a surgical mask on each transported patient, Robinson said.

"I think it's important for the public to know that, so that we don't instill a sense of fear when they see us, or they don't feel like we're insinuating that they're sick because we're putting a mask on them," he said. "This is just a protection or precaution for not only our first responders but also those we're responding to."

Medics also ask "generalized" questions about patients' symptoms or if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who tested positive, Robinson said.

"We haven't had any increased runs," he said. "We're about 17 more runs to date than last year. ... We're pretty much right around average."

At the township's three fire stations, first responders receive wellness checks upon arrival and throughout the day, with any symptoms recorded in a log.

Although some fire department employees and some of their family members have been tested for the coronavirus, the results were negative, Robinson said.

Only personnel are permitted to enter firehouses, and fire inspections of homes and businesses have been put on hold.

Every Madison Township police officer has been issued personal protection equipment, including an N95 mask as well as surgical masks that are placed on prisoners, Chief Gary York told trustees.

"We just look at this as though everyone has this (COVID-19) and just kind of treat it like that, so we can keep everybody safe," he said.

Fairfield County Sheriff's Office deputies who patrol Canal Winchester streets have been "limiting" in-person interactions with residents, according to Sgt. Jesse Hendershot.

The city contracts with Fairfield County to provide law enforcement services.

"Anything we can take over the phone, we're going to do that," Hendershot said. "We have to be very careful with the amount of contact we have."

Groveport police Capt. Kurt Blevins said officers there also have been taking more reports by phone, but they continue to help residents, including an older man who needed toilet paper.

"One of our officers was out and took it upon himself to purchase some and take it to him," Blevins said. "That's not uncommon for us. We do little things like that all the time."

Local businesses also have been kind.

BrewDog donated hand sanitizer and Walmart Inc. provided disinfectant to area departments, Robinson said. Honeywell International Inc. also delivered 90 N95 masks.

More recently, Robinson said he was able to obtain 600 surgical masks and hand sanitizer from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"It's been great seeing these companies support us," Robinson said.

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