ST. PAUL - While many people are working from home during the current COVID-19 situation, a list of essential services continue to operate, including emergency services.
"Obviously we are still responding to calls and emergencies, as we had two yesterday. We are trying our best not to gather, and only respond the essential number of members per incident," said Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich, Wednesday. "We are reviewing our training calendar for the year, and will adjust accordingly."
For now, the St. Paul Fire Department has suspended all meetings and training, including regional courses, for the month of March.
As of Wednesday morning, Kotowich has passed on the day-to-day operations of the St. Paul Fire Department to Deputy Chief Henry Thomson.
"While I am still the Director of Protective Services/Fire Chief, my focus will move to operating as the Incident Commander of what we are dealing with, within the Incident Command System for the Region," explained Kotowich.
A media release was posted earlier in the week, by Kotowich, stating that "During this time, I want to assure you that the full response capability of the St. Paul Fire Department is being maintained. We had taken steps last week to limit the attendance of our firefighters to the fire hall, except for during emergency incidents."
At this time, the department will no longer conduct fire inspections on properties, unless an immediate fire or safety issue has been identified under the Safety Codes Act.
Fire permits are also still required for any open burning, and can be obtained from the County of St. Paul by calling (780) 645-3301.
On March 16, RCMP released a statement, detailing the steps being taken to keep members and the public safe.
"In light of recent developments and evolving information surrounding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Alberta RCMP detachments and offices may defer or arrange to provide alternatives for certain services normally delivered in a Detachment," reads the release. "These measures are being taken as the safety of Albertans and our employees is our number one priority. This practice will be evaluated on a regular basis and the public will be notified when normal business resumes."
In St. Paul Sgt. David Graham echoed the sentiments.
"The safety and security of our communities is our number one priority and it will not be affected during this time," he stated.
"We may have non-essential services reduced, so we ask people to call the detachment before attending and be patient as we are taking the health of our employees very seriously," said Graham.
There has been no change to the Alberta RCMP’s response to critical and emergency matters. RCMP would like to remind the public to please continue to call 911 in case of an emergency.
Detachment front counter services (reports of non-injury vehicle collisions, providing statements, fingerprinting for Criminal Records checks) may be deferred to help maintain social distancing as prescribed by Alberta Health, reads the media release.
Before proceeding to a detachment, it is important that people phone the administrative line to verify which services are available.
"As always, if you are feeling unwell or are experiencing any of the symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please stay at home. Public safety is our top priority. The Alberta RCMP thanks the public for their patience during these exceptional circumstances."
On March 18, RCMP K Division released an update to how its handling the situation.
"Effective immediately, Alberta RCMP detachments will be modifying service delivery at front counters and restricting access to public spaces within RCMP facilities," according to the release. For example, fingerprinting for Criminal Record Checks will only be done in exceptional circumstances.
Albertans are asked to consult the provincial directory and phone listed numbers before visiting any detachment.
"If your request requires personal contact with an officer, that decision will be made over the phone," according to the release. "Our Operational Communication Centres are open and fully functional for all emergency calls."
“A number of changes have been put in place to protect the health of our employees and the public. These decisions were made to ensure that there were no impacts to essential services, keeping our communities safe,” said Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, Commanding Officer of the Alberta RCMP, in the March 18 media release. “As Alberta's provincial police service, we have sound business continuity plans in place to ensure Albertans can continue to count on us every day, including during times of public health emergencies.”