Thursday, April 9, 2020

CVTC Offers Fire Facility for COVID-19 Fight

Decontamination site set up for area emergency vehicles

Article Photo - CVTC Offers Fire Facility for COVID-19 Fight

Space inside the burn room of the CVTC Fire Safety Center is set up as a decontamination location for emergency service vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Fire Safety Center will become the focus of efforts to decontaminate emergency response vehicles should the COVID-19 pandemic reach levels that overwhelm current resources. Use of the facility is one of the ways that CVTC is offering its support in the local response to the outbreak.

Kim Nessel, retired Eau Claire fire chief and former CVTC instructor said emergency services already have places and procedures for decontaminating vehicles from contagions and hazardous substances when needed. However, if the outbreak becomes severe enough, those normal procedures may not be adequate to bring the vehicles back into service as quickly as they are needed.

“Eau Claire is a huge regional medical center, and we have a large number of emergency vehicles coming here from all over the area. In a severe outbreak, they would also need to be decontaminated quickly,” said Nessel, who is now working with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department on response to the virus.

Three lanes have been set up as stations for vehicle decontamination (decon) at the Fire Safety Center at CVTC’s West Campus.

“Primarily the decon areas are set up outside of the building, but the center lane has been designed so that if because of severe weather they can’t decon outside, they can go inside the burn room,” Nessel said.

Nessel managed the Fire Safety Center for CVTC when it first opened and is familiar with the controlled environment inside. He added that a personal shower site is available at the facility for emergency service workers.

CVTC is an ideal location for an emergency decontamination site, Nessel said. “Because CVTC provides hazardous materials training for a wide area, there are a lot of resources there that can be deployed and replaced later. It would take three times as long to set up a similar decon site if it didn’t have CVTC’s readily-available supplies.”

Other CVTC resources are also available to be deployed when needed.

“The Eau Claire County COVID-19 Response Team asked if they could borrow squad cars and ambulances for transport of COVID-19 patients to isolation facilities,” said Eric Anderson, associate dean of emergency services. “The Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program has donated the use of four Ford Explorers and the Emergency Medical Services program has donated the use of its ambulances.”

As previously reported, CVTC has already donated personal protection equipment (PPE), ventilators and other equipment from its health and emergency services programs. “We inventoried all FireMedic and Emergency Medical Services supplies, including non-disposable equipment and disposable PPE,” said Mark Schwartz, emergency services continuing education coordinator. “Our disposable PPE, like masks and gloves, were divided up for our 11-county area.”

In addition, CVTC has now made available equipment such as portable radios, self-contained breathing apparatus, thermal imaging cameras, a HazMat trailer, generators, level A training suits, oxygen tanks and cardiac monitors.