Florida XC, T&F Alumni Lead Pandemic Frontlines

Theo Washington and his team goes out daily with the goal of trying to stop a fire before it starts. The COVID-19 pandemic has made a very important job much harder.

"From our perspective, it's kind of difficult," he said. "We go out there for inspections, or in case of emergencies or anything like that and the no patient contact, 6 foot rule (social distancing) has kind of been difficult, especially with property managers or building owners who when something does happen in the building would need our help or anything like that."

Washington is a fire inspector for the Orlando Fire Department and has worked there for the past four and a half years.

He says that his department has been very proactive with making sure that the staff has everything that they need to keep them safe while doing their jobs. His department created a custom-made cloth masks for his department to use when working, which are lighter than the N-95 masks, which he called suffocating when he wore them. 

Washington describes the work that he does as a fire inspector as preventative maintenance. The pandemic makes his job harder and dangerous because of the uncertainty of what he's exposing himself to, especially with the COVID-19 virus.

"Every day it's something different," he said. "..Any standing structure within Orlando city limits, we walk into."

Because of the unknown and uncertainty, Washington's boss has created a guideline to make sure that they are safe when they're working and helping others.  

Washington says he's the only certified EMT in his division. He believes that has helped him protect himself and the people he's around during the pandemic. 

"I think it definitely helped me as far as the proper PPE procedures and different things, protecting yourself and dealing with patients. I think that's probably the biggest advantage I have, knowing how to protect myself around people."

Washington is originally from Seattle and much of his family still resides there. The state of Washington has been hit hard from the pandemic so far, and the well-being of his family has been what has concerned him the most.

"..Since this whole thing started...a lot of my family is still there and a lot of my family friends and people they know have passed away," he said. "So that's the thing I've been worried about is my family."

Washington ran track and field as well as cross country for Edgewater High School in Orlando. Washington credits the lessons that he learned as a cross country athlete that has helped prepare him for this pandemic.

"Cross country definitely prepared me for this pandemic by just willpower and mental toughness when doing your duty," he said. "I think like everybody, I know what I signed up for running track and cross country and the same thing with working for the Fire Department. I think a lot of people depend on us to do our job, whether it's operations to make sure the patient is safe, or us to make sure everyone in the building is safe. So I think definitely the willpower, endurance and mental toughness for me."