TAVARES – You might not think that responding to white powder calls, chemical leaks, and meth labs would prepare firefighters for a potential case of suspected Ebola, but you’d be wrong.
Lake County Fire Rescue’s Special Operations Response Team (SORT), made up of HAZMAT and the Light Technical Rescue Team (LTRT), consists of more than 30 highly trained members who have recently worked with local medical professionals to assist in state-mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) training.
“We run HAZMAT calls day to day,” said Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Anthony Cuellar, chief of special operations. “We have the proper equipment, so we are very well versed.”
Drawing from their own experience working in dangerous and hazardous environments, and following the Centers for Disease Control procedures, SORT has also recently recorded a training video that demonstrates how to put on and remove protective equipment, also known as “donning and doffing.”
“Donning and doffing procedures are the same across the board, but depending on the severity of the chemical or environment, the equipment used may be much more advanced,” Cuellar said. “What we are dealing with is full body protection. Your biggest concern is body fluids and splash protection, and SORT is the subject experts on this.”
In recent years, SORT has worked the Groundhog Day tornadoes in Lake County and a multi-vehicle fatal crash on I-4 in Polk County, to name a few.
“We will go whenever and wherever needed,” Cuellar said. “We are always on call.”
Tommy Carpenter, Manager of Lake County’s Emergency Management Division, said Public Safety is one of the many county, state and private establishments who have been in constant contact working together since the first case of Ebola reached U.S. soil.
“The Florida Department of Health, Lake County, public safety officials and local health care providers are continuously working through planning and training processes to respond appropriately to any emergency that may arise,” said Carpenter.
For more information about Ebola, visit www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/ebola/index.html.