The Key Biscayne Fire Rescue played a vital role in helping village residents stay safe while dealing with COVID-19 -- leading the village’s response to the unprecedented health emergency.

This is a familiar role for the fire rescue department as they are tasked with leading Emergency Management responses to all natural or manmade disasters.

“The Fire Rescue staff was monitoring the coronavirus outbreak before the end of January 2020,” said Fire Chief Eric Lang. “Our first communication with the village staff was on January 31, and shortly thereafter, we started communicating with our residents.”

The Fire Department was one of the first agencies to adopt new protocols, screen personnel and implement mask use, according to Lang. “We quickly adapted to new protocols to address the risk of infectious diseases responses. We assisted in organizing the village to respond to the pandemic, and executing the Village Departments Continuity of Operations Plan.”

Other than performing their usual duties, Lang said the department “addressed sanitation and the safety concerns brought on by posible COVID exposure. We assured that we were keeping both our responders and the community safe.”

They were instrumental in bringing testing to the people of Key Biscayne. “We worked very closely with (Key Biscayne Community Foundation) Executive Director Melissa White and her amazing staff to assure we had the right testing on the key,” he said.

While the entire department was involved in this effort, Infectious Control Officer Keith Bean was recognized as the Firefighter of the Year for his work in 2020. Lang said Bean was engaged “almost daily” in addressing concerns with the virus.

“He assisted with who should go in isolation, who should be tested, and when they were released back to work,” Lang said, adding that Bean also “consulted with many of the organizations within the village that needed the same advice.”

In many ways, the department’s response, while expected of first responders, far exceeded expectations in an uncertain world. “They should (all) be recognized for delivering outstanding service.”

In addition to the physical danger residents experienced, Lang said his people have helped many families cope with mental health issues resulting from the unique stresses of COVID-19.

“The pandemic has been very challenging on individuals and families,” he said. “. The Department has been involved in working with families to address needs surrounding mental health and addiction.”

Lang said Ann Moreno has served as their subject matter expert and “go to” mental health professional. “She continues to work with us on addressing teen risks through our Teen Talk Program. This has been a topic that has not been discussed enough during this past year.”