Alfred, ME — The York County Hazardous Materials Response Team has recently received some much-welcomed assistance from the Maine National Guard in the form of respirator fit testing for first responders within York County.
Since March 30, the team has tested over 500 firefighters, emergency medical technicians and police officers.
Coordinating the effort has been HAZMAT Technician and Air Force veteran Chris Allen. As the Team’s Equipment Officer, Allen has been lining up equipment and matching schedules to get this task done.
“It’s been challenging. Mostly, the materials needed to perform these tests are in critically short supply. The departments pull together and we’ve been able to stay ahead of things.” Allen said.
Respirator fit testing is required for the safety of the person wearing the respirator, as well as for patients receiving care. The test is completed according to guidelines established by the U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The test is done to ensure a proper fit of the mask to the wearer.
The University of New England was able to manufacture the solutions needed to perform the fit testing.
Two weeks ago, the Maine Center for Disease control expressed concerns about respiratory protection at nursing homes and healthcare facilities. There are over 170 such facilities in York County.
On Governor Mills’ order the National Guard was called in to assist, and The York County Team traveled to Augusta to provide training and technical assistance to the Guard teams. “The support we’ve received form the York County Team has been fantastic. Chris really knows his stuff. He’s been a real help” said Chief Warrant Officer David Cheney.
While most Guardsmen have been assigned around the state, several are serving in York County. Since the Guard arrived last week, an additional 117 fit tests have been completed.
“Having the help from the Guard has been great. We’ve been able to get much more done in less time.” Allen said.
“These young Airmen and Soldiers have stepped up to the task. They’re happy to be able to help their home state.” Stated Cheney.