Wilton Firefighters, Police Describe What It’s Like on COVID-19 Front Lines

Wilton Firefighters Take New, Added Precautions on Calls

Wilton Firefighters have released a video about being on the front lines during the COVID pandemic, having to be available for public safety while making sure to keep both themselves and the public protected.

The video features Dave Chaloux, president of the Local 2233 firefighters union, explaining steps the firefighters are taking while they respond to calls–including added safety precautions and protective gear.

“We are responding to calls 24/7 as we always have been and will continue to do so. Please don’t be alarmed if we respond to a medical call dressed in additional personal protective equipment, such as gloves, mask, goggles, gowns, and face shields. Many times it’s strictly precautionary,” he says.

Now, callers to 9-1-1 will be met with additional COVID-19 related questions from the dispatcher, Chaloux explains, and procedures at the emergency call will be different too.

“Please inform the dispatcher if you or anyone in your house is sick with fever, cough or  difficulty breathing, or if anyone is quarantined. You may be asked to meet our members at your front door or even outside. Initial evaluation by our members may be done at a distance of six feet or more until we can further assess the situation,” he says.

The added precautions are being taken “out of an abundance of caution,” Chaloux adds, while firefighters do their part to limit potential exposure.

He concludes with the reminder to continue following recommendations from local, state and federal officials.

Wilton Police See COVID-19 Impact on Day-to-Day Policing

Each day, the Wilton Police Department releases the previous day’s blotter activity to members of the press. GOOD Morning Wilton noticed that call volume for Tuesday, March 17 was unusually low–only 10 calls were reported. We contacted Capt. Rob Cipolla of the Wilton PD to find out if the department had noticed any change in calls that might be attributed to the current call for social distancing and pandemic.

While the call volume for Tuesday was low, Cipolla says it’s not yet a trend. In fact, looking at the last 28-day period (Feb. 17-March 15, 2020) overall, the department is only 10 service calls lower than the same time period in 2019.

However, he has seen a slight dip right now. “To your point, from Monday-Wednesday, March 16-18, we have experienced a drop in calls for service year-to-year with 58 in 2020 and 95 in 2019 during the same 3-day time period. This is something we will continue to monitor,” Cipolla said.

As for the types of calls, GMW speculated that perhaps in a high stress time such as now the department might see a rise in domestic violence calls. Cipolla, who leads Wilton’s Domestic Violence prevention efforts on behalf of the police department, says they’re watching but haven’t seen anything yet:  “We have not seen any unusual impacts to domestic violence related calls for service at this time.”

What has dropped is motor vehicle accidents. “We have seen a significant decrease in motor vehicle crashes. In the last 28-day period (Feb. 17-March 15, 2020) we have experienced a year-to-year decrease in motor vehicle crashes with 28 in 2020 and 54 in 2019. The traffic volume on our roadways as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed has decreased due to school closures and many working remotely from home, which is certainly a variable driving the decrease, while our enforcement numbers during the period are relatively consistent year-to-year,” he said.

Another way to look at it?  “We also take it as a positive sign that there is compliance to our Town’s, State’s, and Country’s messaging around social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and staying home,” Cipolla says.

One other factor contributing to the decrease in blotter report activity is that the department has suspended some non-essential services, including public fingerprint appointments, pistol permit applications and car seat installations.

“These measures were taken to limit non-emergency contact in order to protect both the public and our officers,” he says.

There are other steps the department is taking to mitigate contact and help keep emergency front line channels open. “We are asking the public to report property crimes not in progress to us via phone by calling our non-emergency line, 203.834.6260. An officer will be assigned to take the complaint and the appropriate investigative follow-up will be conducted,” Cipolla said.

In addition, like many of Town Hall departments, the police are moving some administrative functions online, to avoid having the public come in person to the police department. Notably, records requests can be made by calling 203.834.6257 or  e-mailing Records Officer Robert Smaldone.

Social Distancing Compliance–“For my safety and for yours can you please take a few steps back.” 

Cipolla says all of these measures are part of the Police Department’s effort to comply with the new norm of social distancing–a norm that the police are very used to.

“In the police academy we were all taught ‘social distancing,’ but we call it something different–Officer Safety. As a police recruit you are taught that space and distance is what keeps you safe. Inherently the more separation you have the more time you have to react.  Now granted, the context of that was relative to being safe from potential violent attacks. Regardless, the same principles apply. So please don’t be surprised or offended if you hear our officers say, ‘For my safety and for yours can you please take a few steps back.’ Trust me this is difficult at times, especially during those non-law enforcement/community policing engagements that our officers enjoy and have embraced,” Cipolla says.

The goals are two-fold:  Keep the public safe and ensure that officers arrive at work healthy and go home to their families healthy.

Cipolla says he is “incredibly inspired” by the men and women of the Wilton Police Department.

“Our officers deal with crisis every day they put on their uniform. They bring calm to people in need everyday. Certainly, the crisis we are all dealing with now is unique in its nature and scope. What isn’t unique is the level of calm that I see amongst our staff in showing up to work everyday, leaving behind their own families, to serve the community of Wilton in whatever capacity that may be,” he says, adding, “This is an unprecedented time, but we ask that the public stay calm and do their part, we will do ours and this too shall pass.”