Local entities, first responders craft plans to deal with coronavirus

As cases increase, borough deals with safety, financial ramifications.

As the Borough of Haddonfield, its residents, various municipal entities and businesses continue to respond to the encroachment of coronavirus, steps have been taken to ensure that public safety is served and local merchants continue to operate.

At a March 16 board of health meeting, Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough revealed that there is no shortage of materials or manpower, with municipal services ahead of a state of emergency declared the following day.

“Supplies seem to be in good shape so far,” she said. “If they start to get short, we’re working with the county and the state to get more. We’re very fortunate in the fact that the police department and in the ambulance department, we have very limited vacation time right now, so most of our employees are around.”

Both Haddonfield police and Haddon Fire Company No. 1 have instituted appropriate measures for assessing and addressing calls to each.

“Of course, we’re following all the recommended guidelines by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for law enforcement, which includes social distancing, protective gear, masks, gloves – the usual stuff that we would do in a situation like this,” police Chief Jason Cutler said.

Cutler added the department will also limit the number of calls handled in public. There will be a system in place where residents can request a report online, and there are plans for mutual aid with six other towns abutting Haddonfield if staffing falls below 30 percent.

“Normally, we would like to go out and do the face-to-face thing, but in this situation, we’re erring on the side of caution, doing everything we can by phone or by email to limit officers’ exposure,” he said.

A full explanation of HPD procedures can be found by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/pg/haddonfieldpolice/posts/?ref=page_internal.

Fire Chief Lou Frontino said his team is also adhering to recommended CDC guidelines, but he acknowledged that there is a need in the future to have a plan in place to address this situation in particular.

“Like our police, if our firefighters don’t need to be involved at any particular point in time, then you can give us a call,” Frontino revealed. “We’re limiting fire response to a full truck, but the officer is the only one who makes communication with a homeowner at the time. And if it’s something that is not needed for fire department services, he’s the only one talking outside. We’re just minimizing all that.”

Frontino also provided an update on how emergency services in the region will be dealt with in the event of staffing shortages from increased coronavirus infection.

“Camden County and Burlington County, depending on how they adjust, they will move and shift EMS (Emergency Medical Service) and ALS (Advanced Life Support) units around the county. The communications center has a plan laid out,” he said.

Residents can receive further updates by visiting: http://haddonfirecompany.org/, or by calling the non-emergency number (856) 429-4308.

Remi Fortunato, a retail recruiter for the Partnership for Haddonfield, emphasized the positives of business development, even as restrictions set in place by borough governance and Gov. Phil Murphy limited public presence in the downtown core.

“Everyone is keeping positive and looking at ways to keep in touch with customers,” she said in a phone conversation with the Sun on March 18. “Fortunately for Haddonfield, we have done exceptionally well this year: a 95 percent occupancy rate before the virus, and the situation is fluid for new leases that were signed just before.

“PFH is concentrating on supporting our business community with communication between borough and business owners,” Fortunato added. “Our owners have that entrepreneurial spirit: they’re focusing on alternate modes of food delivery, while other stores are upping their social media presence, taking pictures of merchandise and posting.”

Fortunato said residents can best help the bottom line by purchasing gift certificates that can be obtained via phone or online, or to engage pickup and takeout service whenever possible.

“Our merchants are feeling very supported by the community – not just Haddonfield, but by people in general,” she explained. “No one’s panicking, and that’s a good sign.”

Fortunato added that https://downtownhaddonfield.com/ will be updated daily as new info develops regarding the various services businesses can provide.