As you’ve been wandering safely around the streets of Tacoma you may have seen signs of support for the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic — #ThankYouHelpers, rainbows in windows, We Got This Tacoma, and other rallying cries have appeared throughout our communities. The people who see these the most might be Tacoma’s firefighters. While many of us stay home, they are still serving the needs of our community, fighting fires, and frequently being the first responders in medical emergencies.
Tacoma’s more than 400 firefighters appreciate your support in these times. Tacoma Fire’s role has shifted during the pandemic. They are often the first visit in an Emergency Medical Services situation, and they still focus on fire prevention and suppression.
Firefighter Allyson Hinzman, a number three on an engine that operates in Hilltop, is one of the firefighters who focus on medical needs. The number three’s role is to assess the situation, judging what kind of medical attention is necessary, and how many firefighters and ambulance staff may be needed.
As her engine heads to calls on nearly empty roads, they pass those posters, paintings, and signs. Allyson is especially thankful for those messages from the community, as well as everyone who is doing their part to home during this pandemic.
“I’m really thankful for that, because it is a community effort. We’re here to serve them. We’ve definitely seen that not only have we been really blessed with community members just showing their support – saying ‘thank you’ when they see us driving by in the engine and doing what they can to just make sure there’s support with signs or things like that. We’ve seen an additional approach, they’ve taken to say, ‘hey, maybe this is something I would have called for EMS before, but I’m going to call my doctor instead’. Or I might choose to go home instead.”
By staying home, there is less of a threat of spread of the virus. By moving non-emergency calls to the nurses-line or standard care, it means that emergency services like Tacoma Fire can focus on those who need immediate aid. Tacoma 911 has expanded their staffing to help filter those calls, which helps Tacoma Fire succeed, too.
Like all of us, firefighters like Allyson and her crew have had to change their behaviors. While the world changes rapidly around us, these brave first responders stay true to their mission. They are doing this to serve their community, as always.
Now, that service involves new layers of protective gear and procedures, particularly on medical calls. On the all-too-frequent calls for treatment, they are now covered in PPE. The good news is, at this time there is no shortage of respirators or goggles. The City of Tacoma and Tacoma FD were able to stay ahead of those needs.
Tacoma understands the change in outfit, and welcomes them into their homes and essential workplaces.
“We come in kind of looking, unfortunately, like an alien sometimes. We are in these gowns now, respirators and goggles. It’s not necessarily aesthetically as friendly as we might have been before. We come on the scene and they’ve been totally receptive to that and just really understanding so we’ve really appreciated their support.”
That new approach also means that communication between Allyson, her officer, and her other teammate is different. Their non-verbal cues have shifted – more hand and arm signals, less use of the eyes for example.
It helps that Allyson’s officer is a former paramedic. He’s a dual-specialist like her – medicine and fire prevention wrapped in one heroic PPE-clad fire suit. His experience combines well with their engine’s expanding role serving the community’s medical needs.
Whatever their dress, these helpers in red are serving us in new ways – saving lives and property while helping us towards turning the dial of life back to normal.
Even with all the new gear – skin-tight goggles, masks, gloves, and gowns – the heart is the same. Allyson is Tacoma born, Tacoma raised. Most of her family is still in the South Sound. Like so many involved with Tacoma Fire, Cheney Stadium is part of how she relaxes in the summer sun.
She’s Tacoma by nature.
She’s on a team of helpers serving the city that raised her. The pandemic didn’t change that. When the call comes, they answer it. The sense of duty and love for our communities power Tacoma’s fire stations and engines.
Since the outbreak, Allyson has been separate from her family’s traditional dinners. She doesn’t want to be a vector to spread the virus. There will be a day when they see each other face-to-face. For now, like so many of us, she’s staying in touch with technology.
She is looking forward to family dinners again, towards baseball and soccer at Cheney Stadium, and a Tacoma that’s gathering in sunny parks and bustling restaurants. Like you, she misses those things.
We’re going to get there because of heroes like Allyson Hinzman in the Tacoma Fire Department, their partners in Tacoma PD, EMS, and our health care providers.
We will someday gather to cheer on our teams because non-essential workers are staying home and physically distant. We’re going to have our day in the sun by wearing masks when we do need to go out.
Until then, we are going to keep putting up those signs thanking helpers, waving at the fire truck that goes by, and knowing that these people are heroes risking themselves to keep us healthy – before the pandemic, during it, and long after it is a memory.
Allyson Hinzman, and all of Tacoma Fire, are Defiantly Tacoma.
About Tacoma Defiance
Tacoma Defiance is the USL Championship affiliate of reigning MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC. You can follow The Future of Champions on Twitter (@TACDefiance), Facebook, and Instagram (@tacdefiance). We are #DefiantlyTacoma.
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More information on social distancing and how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 can be found at Tacoma-Pierce County Health. The most up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is affecting events at Cheney Stadium can be found here.