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Police, fire staff seek to gear up, continue services

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 25, 2020

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Sterling Heights public safety staff and rescuers are thankful for assistance in keeping them safe so they can keep others safe.

Over at the Sterling Heights Police Department, Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said his organization is still fully operational and a lot of its services can be done online by utilizing the Police Department website. That includes getting copies of reports and making certain payments, he said. 

“We went to great lengths to keep our employees as socially isolated as possible, and our shared work area has been reduced,” Dwojakowski said. “And some of our staff is working, telecommuting from home. Some of our clerical (staff) is working directly out of their house on cases. And patrol officers are in their cars answering 911 calls as they always have.”

Dwojakowski said officers and other first responders have been “holding our breath” as they have tried to obtain rare and valuable personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and eyeshields, and hand sanitizer. He credited a few Home Depot locations in Sterling Heights, Shelby Township and Rochester Hills for helping police gain access to supplies such as masks and gloves. 

“It’s been difficult for everyone, including hospitals,” Dwojakowski said. “We’ve really appreciated our local businesses coming through, including Home Depot in Sterling Heights. They had about 100 masks for our first responders, and we can’t thank them enough for coming though for us.”

While the virus continues its spread, police said officers may wear a mask or gloves depending on the situation for which they’ve been deployed. And in some cases, officers might ask callers to deal with police outdoors.

“Please do not be offended. Our main goal is to always keep everyone safe during this current community health issue,” a SHPD FAQ guide states.

The police FAQ guide advises residents to be wise when requesting nonemergency aid, as Dwojakowski notes that only the department’s front desk is open to the public. While the department will still tend to emergencies, when in doubt over something that might be addressable via phone, call (586) 446-2800, ext. 9, police said. 

At the city’s Fire Department, Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said the coronavirus has forced his department to deal with a couple of new issues pertaining to training and personal protective equipment, or PPE. He said the latter is essential for keeping staff from being exposed to the virus. 

“It will be very difficult as we proceed because we think we’re going to see a lot more cases as this progresses,” Martin said. “First responders across the nation are struggling to obtain the PPE, so we have to use those things sparingly.”

Martin also said people will need more access to testing, and he added that his department is dealing with concerns over cleaning equipment to avoid cross-contamination. Also, fire staff is taking precautionary measures to get information about a call beforehand, so they don’t make contact with an infected person while unaware, he said.

Find out more about the Sterling Heights police and fire departments by visiting www.sterling-heights.net.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.

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