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Chief Truty's 
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Dear TLMFPD community,

4/6/2020 - 

For quite a while now, I've been using a news aggregator app on my tablet.  This is an app that effectively gives me story headlines and a few sentences from dozens of different websites and allows me to then choose which story I want to look at more closely.   After watching dozens of different websites related to any specific topic for awhile I've come to learn, no surprise, that the overwhelming majority of websites have their own lenses that they present information through.  I can now do a decent job predicting relative to any news item, which perspectives news sources will provide.  This could be positives vs. negatives, optimism vs. pessimism, solutions vs. problems, fact appealing vs. emotion appealing, etc. and it comes across not only in a journalist's perspective on an issue but which stories are chosen to be published. 

All that to say, aggregating all the news sites together, this is what I've come to learn about our current predicament: 

  1. There WILL be a time in the future when we will be looking back at this without all the precautions currently being asked of us but looking beyond today, forwards or backwards, is not comfortable and what we've become used to. 
  2. Working through this crisis will not be linear.  It will come in fits and starts with setbacks and forward leaps. We shouldn't focus on any one of them but recognize overall progress is being made. 
  3. Existing cultures are a huge factor in how successful certain strategies will be.  This is obvious at all levels of society, local through international. 
  4. Even though at times it may not appear obvious, social distancing and sheltering-in-place, and public use of masks are working. 
  5. Of the hundreds or thousands of methods of dying in our world, there is now one more to add to the list and there will be more people to die from it. 
  6. At the initial breakout of the virus, the world knew almost nothing about it, however scientists are learning more about it and responding to it at a breakneck pace. 
  7. The main problem for the world is not the virus.  It's the numerous virus-initiated changes to our lifestyles and beliefs that have been heaped on us simultaneously.  It's difficult enough for us to make one significant change in our lives let alone the multiple simultaneous ones being asked/required of us now.   Address them one at a time.
  8. You can always find an information source that will tell you what you want to hear.  There's a certain comfort in this however there's a real risk to your reality when you and your information source are wrong.  Force yourself to look for facts and not just validations of what you want to believe. 
  9. As much as we would like perfection in leadership it will never happen.  Crises do not call for perfect leaders but courageous ones.  Mistakes will happen and changes will always need to be made based on new information.  We just need to keep moving forward. 
  10. Blame is never helpful especially when it distracts from the requirements to accomplish the mission.   
  11. Buried amongst the myriads of tragic stories are many stories of individuals, organizations, and communities that have decided to face the challenge head-on and support their neighbors, friends, and communities. 

On the light at the end of the tunnel angle, there are indications that shelter-in-place and quarantining are working well.  Notably, the San Francisco area has not experienced yet the anticipated surge predicted as they enacted early sheltering-in-place requirements.  This is far from a certainty but the concept of "flattening the curve" and the means to achieve it is showing some positive results. 

Also, some institutions have begun working on exit and recovery strategies.  Word is that implementation of exit strategies will be regional and based on declining infection rates which means there will be confusing overlaps between regions that are showing signs of recovery while others will still have growing infection rates.   In Colorado and in El Paso County, we are not there yet with declining infection rates.  Statewide, we are still at about a 10% daily growth rate and that number needs to go negative.  Continue to practice social-distancing, honor the Governor's masks in public request and continue learning to be patient with shelter-in-place. 

Hang in there.  This is not easy for any of us and our families but there is now another week behind us and we are one week closer to the end with progress being made every day. 

3/29/2020 - 

The other day my wife shared with me a Facebook post she came across that said, "After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking time, this week I discovered that wasn't the reason."  Certainly, the opportunities to innovate with our time is prime right now.   

One of the less thought of elements of being an astronaut is the social isolation that comes from being in a metal tube thousands of miles from earth for weeks or months at a time.  From the 11-day mission of Apollo VII in 1968 to today's 6 months odyssies on the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts are keen on what it takes to live and operate with no physical contact beyond a few close friends.  That experienced lifestyle can offer a few suggestions on how to cope with quarantines and the social isolation we all feel. 

First, create a rhythm.  Don't go into each day wondering how the day is going to play out.  Plan it out.  Quickly, you will discover this new rhythm becoming a new norm and comfort coming from it.   

Second, use technology and engage with others outside your home.  The more we share in each other's lives, the more normal it feels because that is how we normally function.  The more support we can offer each other, the more the burden feels like it's being shared or is being shared.  Empathy and sympathy can be powerful tools to help us deal with our own stresses.   

Third, keep busy.  Granted we don't have all the requirements that must be done daily on the ISS but we can find things to do to make the days go by quicker.  Start that new hobby you've always been thinking about starting.  Take an online class that many colleges are now offering for free.   Find online games to play between households (or within households).    

Lastly, begin working on expecting that you will have a new norm to live with for the next several months.  The more that you can decide what the new norm will be, the sooner a normalcy we begin to return.  We did this in 2001 and we can do it again.  However, don't ignore the sadness that you will feel about losing the old norm.  It's real. Don't avoid it.  Walk through it and include others to help you walk through it, or walk through it together.   

Regarding your TLMFPD staff, we are doing as well as can be expected.  We’ve been blessed to not have to significantly alter our services or take any extraordinary measures yet.   We are very grateful for the outpouring of support by the community in wanting to help with donations or showing their appreciation.  Like everyone else in the healthcare system who is on the frontlines with the virus, personal protective equipment (PPE) is the number one supply concern.  We expect manufacturers to catch up with the demand but it's an unknown as to when that will happen.  So if you still have opportunities to help us with supplies, please email medsupplies@tlmfire.org. 

The other night I watched an impromptu concert where all 8 band members played synchronized from their basements across the country.  It was very powerful in how people are not sitting back and coming up with unique ideas on how to keep moving forward.  Our community locally has these people as well who are rising to the occasion and providing ingenuity through volunteerism, new ways of doing business, and reaching out to each other in so many different ways.   When you see it repeatedly, you can't help but be encouraged and even moreso when you're a participant. 

We've got a bit of a journey ahead of us, but there will be an end.  Much of our norm will return, some of it will not.  However, we will have experienced each other in new ways and we will all be better people because of it.

3/23/2020

3/22/2020 - 
Who would’ve thought that we would be seeing another chapter in future history books being written as we speak.  However, it’s the history books that have helped me handle all of this, leading me to take a humble approach as I think of what Americans experienced during the Depression with rationed food, or what Europeans and the Japanese felt during World War II when their countries were annihilated or necessitated population centers to go into hiding… for months or years.   This broader perspective should help us to continue to believe, to know there will be an end and then look forward to looking back.   We are learning much about ourselves right now.  It seems like our world, that is so used to having everything including all the answers yesterday, is struggling (including me) when this no longer is the case.  “Lord, please grant me patience and do it NOW!”   This is not to minimize the struggles each of us may be currently experiencing.  They are real but I assure you there is a light at the end.  China, including the original virus source province,  has now gone a few days with NO new virus infections.   Hopefully, all of this can help generate a different perspective that could offer some comfort. 
 
Here are a few things to keep you updated on how TLMFPD is responding to the crisis.   First,  in order to limit exposure potential to your responders and preserve scarce resources,  TLMFPD has altered their approaches to how we do patient management.   In non-life threatening and non-emergency situations as determined by the person who answers the 911 phone call, we are taking a more cautious approach with patient interaction.  This caution includes but is not limited to: 
 
  • additional questioning from the 911 calltaker to provide more advanced details to first responders, 
  • calling potential patients from our emergency vehicles before we come in the house, 
  • asking potential patients to come outside rather than us going inside, 
  • asking anybody with COVID19-like signs/symptoms to wear a mask (which we provide) while engaging with our paramedics, 
  • only sending one paramedic into a home to do an initial assessment, 
  • recommending no hospital transport if a patient is not in any form of moderate or severe distress or in need of services that only a hospital can provide.  T o be tested for COVID-19 is not a reason to be transported. 
 
In addition, should you see any of our crews in full-protective clothing while treating a patient,  this does not indicate the patient they are treating has COVID-19.   It means there is enough information to make the patient a possibility and therefore require sufficient protective equipment on your responders part.  So far your crews have done a great job of keeping themselves free from exposure. 
 
Second, the state is notifying all residents to be diligent about the correct usage of 911.  (Click here for the public statement.)  There are a number of 911 centers that are receiving COVID-19 inquiries that should either be going to the local public health department or to the caller's primary care provider.  911 centers are already being taxed due to the extra efforts going into protecting the field responders and these types of questions greatly distract and strain the system even more.  Please call 911 only in an emergency.  (Click here for our links to other agencies.)   We understand, appreciate, and encourage the community to stay informed but the 911 system is not the place to get your information from.
 
Third, the Colorado National Guard has been activated in some locales to provide support to the healthcare system where strains may be showing or are imminent.   They are not being deployed to prepare for any martial law-like restrictions.  These kinds of rumors just continue fueling fears that many people are trying to work through. 
 
Lastly, it's remarkable the number of people stepping up to provide community support in providing free delivery services, keeping our restaurants open by purchasing take-out, making donations to the healthcare and EMS systems, and creating online opportunities for people to have social interaction.  Some online service providers are providing their products free to assist where they have strengths.  Businesses are retooling their industries to deal with resource shortages.  I want to thank all of you that are posting suggestions, positive stories, ideas that encourage us all to look out for each other.  When the going gets tough... 
 
We have a journey ahead of us.  Think of it more as a marathon requiring endurance,  rather than a sprint.  Eventually, it will be over but in the meantime, let's be creative about how we handle this individually as well as taking care of those around us.  Get away from the news and the Internet.  Find a good book, go for a walk, learn to play board games again.  We can choose for a period of time to not listen to what can seem like endless doom being preached.   
 
Together, we will more than just survive, we will be stronger and our communities better because of it. ​

3/14/2020 - Beginning today, the Chief will be occasionally providing some insight as to how TLMFPD is handling the effects of the COVID19 pandemic and comments on how the community is responding to it.  We would invite you to ask questions about TLMFPD's preparedness and response as well as any other concerns or rumors you may have heard about the pandemic.  Questions we think the community could benefit from hearing, we will post on a COVID19 page we will be creating shortly.  To ask a question, just click on the 'Contact Us' button at the top of the page.

3/14/2020 - A new norm may be evolving, that of the presence of the COVID-19 virus and its societal impacts.  It is still too early to tell if the long-term outcome is complete virus eradication or if it becomes just one more bug we will deal with every day.   Know the TLMFPD is aggressively working towards being as prepared as possible with the latest information available.  It’s been our position early on that we need to have plans in place that address whatever the current situation is knowing we may need to make future pivots as more is learned.   A World War I general once said, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  This is not an excuse for poor or no planning but rather expect plans need to be modified as the situation becomes more real.   Preparedness levels across the country are proceeding at different rates and in different forms and we are planning for our community. 

Here is what TLMFPD is doing to address all of our questions and concerns:

  • Daily, we are monitoring all federal, state, and local health departments websites and receiving updates from them as distributed.   Lead agencies on the outbreak management are public health agencies, not fire departments, hospitals, or emergency managers.
  • We are working hard on having a presence on any regional calls or meetings on policies, procedures, and information related to the virus presence and planning in our area.
  • Our Training Battalion Chief is putting out a daily “situation report” to our staff that provides the latest of what we are learning and need to change or know.
  • We are having daily meetings to keep all of us on the same page.  What we are covering includes:
    • General employee health/well-being
    • Station safety and cleanliness
    • Adequacy of response and station supplies
    • Alternative staffing plans for both Operations and Administration
    • Changes in EMS/hospital protocols initiated by EMS or public health officials
    • Updates from our medical director regarding EMS system approaches that affect us directly
    • Staff communications
    • Monitoring latest virulence research and EMS impacts
    • Internal information management and finance monitoring and tracking
    • Monitoring community reaction and news releases and channeling appropriate information to the community.
    • Effort coordination with our government officials
    • Anything else related to the outbreak
  • Our supply inventory is stable now but we also have additional supplies on order from our routine vendors as well as having put supply requests in to regional and state emergency managers.
  • We are engaging our regional fire and EMS partners to coordinate shortages of either supplies or staff.
  • Will be developing a page on our website that will provide links for the community to monitor information themselves.

However, what we do know is that society will not completely recover until a sense of normalcy is regularly felt within the community and it's not too early to talk about returning to normalcy.   With whatever data we have, the sooner we can start the dialog on what that new normalcy may look like and how to move in that direction, the shorter our current crisis will be.

Disaster experts know that recovery is one of the pillars of crisis management and that once a crisis takes place, the quicker recovery can occur, the less long-term impact there is, i.e. a quicker return to normalcy.  This is called resilience.  Resilience is about how quickly we can return to a normalcy, an old one or a new one.  During short-duration disasters such as weather events and local emergencies, the timing of recovery initiation is straightforward, once the disaster event is completed (although recovery planning starts before the disaster).  However, longer term, slower-growing crises like COVID19 are more challenging as to when to initiate recovery because the end of the event is ambiguous both in timing and its appearance.  Collectively though our society will recover when individuals can begin a recovery process even if the end is ambiguous.  So what can we do to begin recovery. 

First, don't forget the forest for the trees.  Most social and mainstream media draw you to the trees even if they are weeds rather than focusing on the forest.   A rapidly growing tree or weed can be more newsworthy, exciting, and social-media friendly (and fearful) than a slow-changing forest.   This means keeping everything in context and perspective.  For sure, we need to keep doing all the responsible things that our health organizations are suggesting and encouraging but we need to not jump at every new tree.

Second, educate yourself and if you can't educate yourself, look beyond the media for a trustworthy source to keep you informed.   True, data can be manipulated to present a certain perspective however there is also truth in data and having trustworthy sources can provide some degree of peace.  Traditionally, as imperfect as they are, government agencies have been the most objective. 

Third, respect different levels of risk tolerance.  There are people who jump out of the back of airplanes with nothing but a piece of fabric attached to their backs and there are those who get scared of heights when standing on a step stool.  Neither is "wrong".  It is just who they are and respecting this reduces the bitterness and blame that inevitably will follow.

Fourth, recognize that pivots may be required.  Slow and rapid developing crises require decision-makers to frequently act on conflicting, incomplete, and ambiguous information.  As greater clarity becomes known, new decisions will be required based on the new perspective and often it can be the exact opposite of a previous perspective and decision.  Expect and respect the need to make a pivot and don’t panic over it. More often then not, the pivot will move us closer to the end.  If we wait for complete clarity, no decisions will ever be made and that can magnify and extend a crisis. 

Fifth, don't focus on the magnitude of the change but the rate of change.  The magnitude of a change (the number of people infected) can be intimidating but the rate of change (number of people infected per day) can make it more manageable.  Most people can adapt given an appropriate amount of time and a reasonable rate of change.  Know that this outbreak will peak before it ends.  The rate of change numbers will reflect this earlier and can therefore bring peace quicker.

Lastly, begin working on accepting the new norm.  This may sound intimidating at first but most of us are already doing it with technology innovations and cultural changes.   As this change will include a more valuable impact and that is on our health, it's still not impossible to adapt and to take reasonable risks.  All change will come with a certain degree of risk because change breeds uncertainty which makes us uncomfortable.  We do it every day though when we drive a car when statistically thousands will die every year in auto accidents. 

A normalcy will return.  You can bank on it.  It may be quite different.  Odds are it won't be that different.  However, the sooner we can begin working on this ourselves, the quicker our collective society will recover.