0320_DNR_COVID Fire EMS_2

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County firefighters say they don’t have a shortage so far of personal protective equipment, such as those pictured, but the situation could change.

While first responders across the country, including in Augusta County, run low on personal protective equipment, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County firefighters say their supply is sufficient, for now.

Personal protective equipment, often referred to as PPE, includes gowns, masks, goggles and gloves. First responders say the equipment is critical to protect themselves against the new coronavirus.

Rockingham County Fire and Rescue Chief Jeremy Holloway said Wednesday that his department has a decent amount left.

“We’re not in great shape, but we’re not in terrible shape,” Holloway said.

Harrisonburg Fire Chief Ian Bennett said the city is in the same situation.

“Obviously, it’s a concern if it continues, but we’re not immediately concerned,” Bennett said.

Both agencies coordinate together, and if one were to run out, the other would share its PPE.

Holloway said Shenandoah National Park rangers donated their supply to Rockingham County.

He also said the county has an order for more supplies but didn’t know when to expect them to arrive.

Both Bennett and Holloway said that the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center is playing a key role in helping first responders know when to use PPE and when not to.

Dispatchers screen callers to see if they have symptoms of the new coronavirus, including a cough, fever or shortness of breath.

Based on the responses, firefighters and EMTs adjust what precautions to take.

On Tuesday, Augusta County Fire and Rescue requested that the community donate personal protective equipment.

The department asked for medical, surgical, dust, N95 and homemade face masks as well as protective gowns and tyvek suits. In addition, it is seeking hand sanitizer, with 60% or more alcohol, and disinfecting wipes along with other cleaners.

The supplies can be dropped off at 115 Dick Huff Lane in Verona Mondays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Bennett and Holloway said Harrisonburg and Rockingham County aren’t to the point where they need solicit donations, but the county would stockpile any it receives.

In the last week, many across the country have taken to social media to show off homemade face masks they have made to donate to local first responders.

Both chiefs said it’s unclear if they would be effective because they don’t know how they were made, but in a pinch, they’d used them.

“Something to filter your breathing is better than nothing,” Holloway said. “We’ll take what we can get.”

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6267 or pdelea@dnronline.com. Follow Pete on Twitter @pdelea_DNR

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