The following Letter to the Editor was written by Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley.
Like every emergency, the Alexandria Fire Department approached this pandemic with the mindset that we will win the fight, no matter the circumstances – and that is NON-NEGOTIABLE. We have found the courage to redefine ourselves and think outside of the box to try new things in response to something we have never faced before.
I believe that together we can all find that courage as we continue to adjust and hold on to some form of normalcy in this current situation.
When I was officially named the Fire Chief for the Alexandria Fire Department in December 2019, I would have never thought our city would be facing an ongoing, global public health crisis within a few short months.
As a new chief, this can seem overwhelming, and make no mistake about it, COVID-19 is one of the greatest nemeses I have ever encountered to-date.
However, I knew what I was signing up for and I want to be battle-tested for future challenges. But I am not facing this alone. Your Fire Department is a team of talented, skilled and prepared individuals who are risking their own safety to respond to every single emergency call we receive.
The inherent qualities of the fire service profession are compassion, care, preparation, adaptability and teamwork, and we get to demonstrate those qualities even more during this unprecedented global pandemic.
I have seen many AFD leaders emerge during the COVID-19 response, and that increases my passion for fire service and for helping the community. And that is the behavior and character I want to see spread throughout our department – especially in times of crisis. I am honored to be a part of the AFD team, and I could not be prouder of the work our members are doing during this emergency.
I want to reiterate that it is important that everyone does their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping your families and our community safe. We’re all in this together.
Over the past couple of months, we have developed new procedures for emergency calls to keep everyone safe as we continue to carry out our mission.
As you continue to do your part by staying home, maintaining physical distancing and donning face masks when in public spaces, your Fire Department is taking every necessary step to keep our members safe and healthy so we can continue to respond to emergencies.
I have served the public in various ways my entire adult life, including eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve, six years in the Alexandria Fire Department, and nearly 30 years in the National Capital Region. Like many of the members of AFD and our regional public safety partners, I have served my community through various local and national emergencies including major fire incidents, mass shootings, significant weather events, mass gatherings, 9/11, H1N1, and now the coronavirus.
Over the years and through all those incidents, I have learned that our response is only as good as our partnerships with the community and other stakeholders. As the city’s former emergency manager, I recognize that the very first responders are members of the community.
The Alexandria community has not disappointed. You have offered your assistance in helping to feed our firefighters and paramedics; identified gaps and developed ways to meet those needs; and created ways to obtain and/or clean our personal protective equipment (PPE).
Now, I acknowledge that after months at home you may be feeling stressed, anxious and even afraid. We understand, because during these unusual times we are experiencing those feelings as well. Through it all, AFD remains ready to assist the community. Because, like the rest of the Alexandria community, we are strong, courageous and resilient.
Stay encouraged. Stay informed. Stay safe and healthy and we will get through this together.
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Staff photo by James Cullum