Signs popping up in local yards, extra precautions and a supporter dubbed "RHC Benefactor" are all part of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Rescue Hose Co.
The Rescue Hose Co. is selling two different yard signs. One honors the Greencastle-Antrim High School Class of 2020 and the other frontline responders.
The blue and gold signs lauding seniors say "Congratulations G-A, GAHS Class of 2020!"
"During this time of uncertainty, we wanted to join together to show support of our local graduating seniors. We are extremely proud of our RHC seniors: Riley Bitner, Corey Mowen, Kiana Koons, Taylor Petrunak and Brady Sperry," Cheryl Mowen, Rescue Hose Co. president, said via email. "With the closing of school the remainder of the 2019-20 year, our hearts go out to the graduating seniors. They are missing out on so many things we take for granted: bonding with classmates and saying farewell, their final walk through the schools, getting their yearbooks signed by friends and teachers, internship opportunities, canceled, prom, spring sports and the list goes on.
"Displaying these signs is just a small way to give recognition to the Class of 2020 and let them know we are standing behind them during this ordeal," Mowen continued. "We want them to know that this pandemic is just a small speed bump along the road to their success."
The colorful "Proudly Supporting Our Frontline Responders" signs pay tribute to doctors and nurses, dispatchers, EMS, corrections, fire and rescue, law enforcement and the military.
"The RHC is a part of the frontline responders that are fighting the war on the COVID-19 pandemic," Mowen said. "All frontline responders deserve recognition for their efforts to ensure our safety and protection. The frontline responders risk their lives every day for others and are often unnoticed. COVID-19 is just another level of added risk they face and the unknown is frightening.
"We can't begin to thank the frontline responders enough and these signs are just a small way to display our appreciation. In addition, all essential workers deserve our recognition and we appreciate all their efforts," Mowen continued.
The 24-by-18-inch signs, made C-Ely Signs and Graphics, are $20 each and can be purchased at the fire station, 842 S. Washington St.
Anyone interested in purchasing a sign can call the station at 717-597-8489, send a message through Facebook or show up for cash and carry.
Curbside pickup will be offered Saturday, April 25, from 9 to 11 a.m. Curbside pickup will continuing in upcoming weeks, with information posted on Facebook and the website:
Proceeds will be used to help make up for money being lost on regular fundraisers that have been affected by the pandemic.
"Fundraising is what we rely on each year to help offset our operating costs," Mowen said. "Fundraising during this time of uncertainty, social distancing and the stay-at-home order has been difficult at best."
The Rescue Hose Co. also is facing additional costs associated with the COVID-19, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced decontamination procedures.
Gun raffle ticket sales for April were down and food-related fundraisers such as breakfast, chicken BBQ and HOCO sandwich sales are not being held. Building rentals through the first two weeks of May have also been canceled.
"We decided we didn't want to hold those types of fundraisers at this time because we want to encourage our community to support our local restaurants," Mowen explained. "We are all in this together and we want to see them succeed. Selling these signs was our way to both conduct a fundraiser, recognize and support others, and not have a negative impact on our local businesses."
On the frontline
COVID-19 poses an additional risk for first responders and all calls are approached as possible exposures, with emergency personnel wearing PPE for their own and the patient's safety.
"If proper PPE is utilized risk is minimal. If the patient has been identified as a potential COVID positive patient the crew will don additional PPE," Mowen said.
"We received notification from the hospital that a patient we transported tested positive for COVID-19," Mowen said. "We decided to take a conservative approach and we quarantined the crew for 14 days. Our members' and staff safety and livelihood are our first priority."
The Rescue Hose Co. also has increased disinfection frequency and created a disinfection rotation to ensure all organisms are killed.
"We have limited access points to the station and everyone enters through one area," Mowen said. "Anyone that enters that station is responsible for taking their temperature, documenting and taking appropriate action if their temperature exceeds 100.4°F. Our staff take their temperature at the start of their shift, every 12 hours and at the end of their shift.
"We have set up a decontamination area in the station to include 'hot' and 'cold' sides," Mowen said. "Once personnel exit the cold side they proceed to the emergency shower and they launder their uniform. We have robust decon processes in place and we are definitely advanced in this area. We have put all measures in place to ensure adequate protection for our members and staff."
Physical health is not the only concern during the pandemic.
"Anxiety has been heightened in some of our members and stress levels have impacted some of our personnel," Mowen explained. "We've taken extra steps to mitigate risks at the station and have tried to communicate regularly to our members and staff to help combat stress and anxiety."
The fire station usually is a hub of activity, but Rescue Hose Co. members have been asked to only go to the station to man calls and conduct necessary business.
"The number of members that pop in to the station has drastically decreased," Mowen said. "People are extremely cautious and are taking extra measures to reduce exposure. Morale is relatively good at the station and everyone realizes we are all in this together."
"We have a wonderful community and we have had several people reach out to the station to drop off handmade face masks," Mowen said.
"We also have a special person, we have named him our 'RHC Benefactor,' who has dropped off surgical masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes," she said. "He checks on us every week to make sure we have adequate supplies. When this pandemic started we were critically low on hand sanitizer and masks and we all know the difficulty nationwide obtaining these items. He reached out to us early and he essentially saved us from the start."