Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department

The Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department has been facing a variety of challenges and growing pains with the increase in population of both the Town of Nolensville and the entire Middle Tennessee region, but now the department is adapting to face the COVID-19 threat.

On March 14 the department suspended visitation to the fire hall until further notice as a precaution to ensure that they can continue to operate.

In addition to standard operations such as responding to house fires, car accidents and medical calls, the department now has to evaluate how they respond to calls that could bring them into contact with the virus. 

Year-to-date NVFD has responded to 267 calls, a 28% increase over 2019, with 80 calls responded to in the month of March.

That number, NVFD Chief Adam Spencer said, was lower than expected at the beginning of the month due to residents self-isolating over the past two weeks.

Spencer said that one change in response to COVID-19 has been in how they respond to medical calls, saying that they will now dispatch two firefighters to a medical call instead of three or four in an attempt to reduce possible contact with an infected patient, as well as relying on dispatchers screening calls to try and identify possible infections before arriving on the scene.

"If that's the case we actually don't make entry until the ambulance gets there because they have full isolation gowns, face masks and eye protection," Spencer said.

Spencer also said in an email that the department elected to return to an eight-minute rule where crews are not dispatched on a medical call if an ambulance is eight minutes or closer due to the outbreak.

Spencer said that this was done at the urging of the county in an effort to reduce volunteer exposure risks.

"With us being volunteers and even career-firefighters, it's a concern because you don't want to take this home to your family, you don't want to take it back to the fire station and infect your co-workers or anyone else," Spencer said.

"You tend to wear this stuff more going on calls and we're having to manage utilizing and using the masks and the eyeglasses and everything else, so it just adds another layer to managing the logistics of everything."

Spencer said that the real challenge at the moment is getting standard cleaning supplies such as bathroom cleaner, hand sanitizer or all purpose cleaners to maintain the health of the station and his firefighters, adding that they purchase many supplies from local stores that have been hit hard by panic-buying.

The department has seen the donation of some cleaning products, masks and other supplies, but as the on-going pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, the department has a continued need for supplies and funding. 

Spencer said that the best way to continue to support the department is by way of their donation website, and by taking steps to keep themselves and their families safe by adhering to the public health guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and following orders by national, state and local governments to help flatten the curve. 

"Take the shelter-in-place guidelines seriously -- If you don't have to be out then don't go out," Spencer said. "That's the only way we're going to flatten the curve and beat this thing as quick as possible."

In addition to adapting how they're operating, the department is also working to make sure that the most vulnerable have the ability to safely ride out the self-isolation guidelines set out by government leaders and health professionals, by way of offering to pickup and deliver groceries and medicine to the elderly or medically-vulnerable. 

"That's part of what you should do as a public servant is to check on those people and make sure that they have what they need," Spencer said.

Spencer said that anyone in need of the assistance or anyone who knows of someone who is in need should contact NFVD's Lt. Scott McPherson, who has organized teams of drivers to pick up and deliver the essential goods during the health crisis.

McPherson can be contacted by phone at 615-512-7985.

While the greater issues of the future structure and operations of the department will no doubt continue to be discussed as they have for years, Spencer said that the department will not stop adapting to the fluid crisis and continue to respond to emergencies.