Temple and Belton police and fire departments were prepared for the first days of a shelter in place declaration associated with COVID-19, officials said.
Temple Police Department’s patrol efforts haven’t stopped, spokesman Chris Christoff said.
“We want to reassure everyone that the safety and security of the city of Temple continues to be our top priority, “ Christoff said.
If anyone violates the terms of the order, Temple Police will first give a warning. If the person continues to violate, then the department will consider other options, Christoff said.
Protective equipment, which includes gloves and masks, were given to all officers to help protect them from the coronavirus spread.
Some changes have been made to decrease the chance an officer will become sick and to keep patrols operational, Christoff said.
All community-oriented events like Coffee With a Cop and all classes were canceled or postponed until further notice.
Police officers’ viewpoints
Community Oriented Policing Services unit (COPS) and school resource officers are now supporting patrol teams.
Sgt. Chris Miceli is a member of the Temple COPS, he said Wednesday.
Serving during a pandemic overall seems normal right now, Miceli told the Telegram.
“We’re (COPS members) close to the public, but this pandemic keeps us separated. We always shake hands, but we can’t now. There is very, very little interaction,” Miceli said.
Miceli isn’t shocked with the arrival of COVID-19, he said. One new virus after another has come every two years or so.
“It’s out there. We deal with a lot of communicable diseases every day,” Miceli said.
The atmosphere in Temple is really calm, he said. People are abiding by the declarations made by Bell County.
“But it feels like we’re working Christmas morning,” Miceli said. “No one is out and about.”
Belton Police Sgt. William Hamilton and Officer Gerardo Torres on Wednesday described the traffic on the road as “less,” but said it’s like any other time of crisis.
“It’s business as usual,” Hamilton said.
Torres and Hamilton mentioned the things that are harder for them to handle. For Torres, it’s difficult to constantly reassure people that they will be fine.
“I’ve been an officer for five years, and I’m still learning how to deal with people during crisis times,” Torres said.
Hamilton brought up the huge influx of questions the public has that could be answered if they would just read the order, he said.
Some non-sworn staff members are limiting time in the office.
Just like Temple Police Department, all public appearances, visits and training classes were canceled, Temple Fire Chief Mitch Randles said Tuesday.
The department modified all plan, review and inspection processes to maintain social distancing.
“We’re making emergency responses as usual,” Randles said.
When firefighters join Temple Fire & Rescue, full personal protection equipment is issued as part of normal operations. Eye protection, exam gloves and N95 masks are available if a situation arises.
Firefighters are routinely wearing N95 masks at this time as Bell County contends with COVID-19, Randle said.
Capt. Victor Hulsey serves with Temple Fire & Rescue. Although a pandemic crossed his mind because of the extra commitment his job entails, Hulsey didn’t think it would happen during his lifetime, he said Wednesday.
Coronavirus changed a lot of things in his personal life. He has three children who still live at home, and two are asthmatics and have compromised immune systems, Hulsey said.
New safety protocols are practiced at the station, and they sanitize everything the best they can to make sure nothing is spread to the people they are trying to help, according to Hulsey. He sanitizes things even more stringently for when he goes home, and things from the station don’t go home with him.
“Despite this being a scary time, I believe it will all be OK,” Hulsey said.
Firefighter Stephanie Rauch feels more comfortable being a part of the fire service as she deals with this virus, she said. The frequent updates help her stay very informed.
It’s very important to “make sure we’re all in the know” and communicate between shifts, Rauch said.
“Trusting our personal protection equipment and the crew makes it easier to handle,” she said.