Fire chiefs from rural volunteer fire departments in the Denali Borough set protocols in place today for responding to emergency COVID-19 calls.

This took place Monday during a telephonic tabletop exercise that included Cantwell, McKinley, Tri-Valley and Anderson Volunteer fire departments. Representatives from Denali National Park and Clear Air Force Station also attended.

The scenario for the exercise was a patient calling 911 who presented COVID-19 symptoms, including difficulty breathing. They discussed how to respond, with guidance and protocols provided by medical director Dr. Marc J. Dumas in Fairbanks.

“The three medical directors of various Interior fire departments are coordinating to ensure all of the departments are responding uniformly to protect first responders,” according to Chris Noel, emergency planning and project coordinator.

Currently, all the departments have necessary personal protective equipment, he said. An ambulance at Tri-Valley and at Anderson will be dedicated to these particular 911 calls to minimize risk of cross-contamination, he added.

The message from these first responders is this: Stay home, whether you are sick or well. That will minimize risk to communities and health care providers. Treat symptoms with rest, hydration, and it is suggested that Tylenol be used as a fever reducer. If symptoms worsen, call your health care provider. If you have difficulty breathing or other serious symptoms, call 911.