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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Bloomington-Normal Fire Departments Start To Draw On PPE Supplies

Bloomington and Normal fire departments could potentially face a shortage of PPE for responders due to low supply at hospitals combating COVID-19.

Bloomington and Normal fire chiefs said they have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for now. That includes masks, gloves, and gowns. 

Until Tuesday hospitals had been replacing PPE stock for Bloomington and Normal fire departments to prepare to care for responders. Fire chiefs said they have just begun to use their own stores as the hospitals try to preserve what they have.

Bloomington Fire Chief Brian Mohr said the department currently has a stable supply of PPE, but that could be subject to change depending on burn rate, or the amount of PPE used for calls. Currently, Mohr said, the Bloomington Fire Department has a burn rate of 10 sets of PPE a day.

“We’ve got to be able to restock,” Mohr said. “We’ve got restock on order, but it’s backorder, and you just don’t know when that will become available." 

Mohr said Bloomington Fire Department the average overall call volume reaches 29 a day but has seen a slight decrease to between 24 to 26 over the last few days. Not all of those require use of PPE. 

Normal Fire Department Chief Mick Humer said the department is not now in dire need of a new supply. He said the department learned from past pandemics about preparing for any possible emergency. 

“We kind of started back in 2009 or 2010 with stocking some equipment throughout the different viruses that have come along over the last few years so we’re in pretty good shape,” Humer said. “About six or seven weeks ago, when things started to happen over in Europe, we reordered.” 

Humer said the call volume for patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms has picked up in the last week and a half. The normal PPE usage is to protect ambulance crews transporting three or four patients a day who have respiratory illness symptoms that correspond to the coronavirus. 

Humer said the department will continue to monitor PPE supply and guidelines from Governor Pritzker and the CDC to sustain supply.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Darnysha Mitchell is an Illinois State University student and reporting and social media intern at WGLT.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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