When the tones drop in the Wheatfield, Indiana area, the Wheatfield Volunteer Fire Department is there, ready to serve at any time. Whether it’s a fire, medical emergency, or assisting with a car accident, WVFD constantly puts their lives on the line to ensure the safety and well-being of their community.
However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheatfield Fire is now not only putting their lives at risk for the visible dangers, but also the invisible.
“WVFD assists Wheatfield EMS whenever they need additional manpower. These types of assist EMS calls can especially bring about an unknown exposure to COVID-19 at any given time,” explained Wheatfield Volunteer Fire Department Lieutenant and President David Myers.
As many know, the COVID-19 pandemic was not something that a lot of organizations were already prepared to deal with. The Wheatfield Volunteer Fire Department had some PPE onboard, but not anything near what they needed.
“Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, our Department had a limited supply of the PPE needed to safeguard our firefighters from the virus. We did have some onboard our apparatus should the rare occasion arise that we needed to put it on. However, masks, face shields, and the immediate use of hand sanitizer during and after a call was not a part of our protocols,” said Myers.
At a lack of all of the necessary PPE, Myers knew that he would have to find a way to
get it in order to keep his firefighters and their families safe.
“WVFD firefighters arrive on scene and walk into the unknown. We may not know what a situation will bring, but we do know that COVID-19 does not stop at the sight of a firefighter. We must find a way to provide our firefighters, and all frontline workers for that matter, with the supplies necessary to keep them safe and healthy, as well as their families that they go home to,” said Myers.
Luckily, non-profit community advocates like the White County United Way exist for organizations that are seeking help. Funding is made possible through the Economic Relief Initiative Grant, sponsored by Indiana United Ways, partnering with Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Community Relief Fund is managed through the White County United Way in partnership with the Community Foundation of White County, the Jasper Newton Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Pulaski County. The fund allows money to be distributed to various non-profit organizations in White, Pulaski, and Jasper counties that need additional financial assistance for programming during these challenging times.
With the monies provided through the Community Relief Fund, the Wheatfield Volunteer Fire Department was able to purchase all the essential, exceptional equipment they needed to protect themselves from the new threat, along with four decontamination spray guns and eight gallons of gear detergent.
“The dangers that we are facing are not only exposure to communicable diseases, but also carcinogens. After every fire, a firefighter's gear is contaminated with carcinogens, and we are required to wash our gear after each fire. WVFD has never had the ability to wash their gear in-house, but now we do, thanks to the grant money we received,” Myers stated.
Myers noted that they are not only proud that they are now able to keep their firefighters healthy along with taking care of and maintaining their gear properly, but they are also proud of the relationships that they have built along the way.
“What we pride ourselves in the most is the relationships we build over time, whether it is a member of the community or one of the amazing organizations like the White County United Way or the Jasper-Newton Foundation. In a world filled with situations that can lead us to sadness, anger, or confusion, we know we can turn to our relationships and positive organizations when we need to, and they will be there for us,” Myers explained.
The White County United Way is honored to help our emergency responders in any way that we can. We want to make sure that those who put their lives on the line everyday are always prepared and provided for, especially during this pandemic.
“We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but we do know that there will always be helpers - those willing to make the world a better place. And with that, our firefighters will stand beside organizations like the White County United Way and the Jasper-Newton Foundation because they are always ready and willing to serve at a moment's notice,” concluded Myers.
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Jordan Day has been with the United Way since May 2020, and is currently working as a Social Media Consultant for WCUW.