MERIDEN — Since the pandemic began, firefighters have learned that people don’t think much about face masks when they’re fleeing burning homes or have just been knocked about in a car crash.
That’s why the Meriden Fire Department carries extra disposable masks in every vehicle it has, and why the 10,000 masks a Meriden company donated on Tuesday will come in handy, Fire Chief Ken Morgan said.
Besides the masks, Medline Industries Inc. gave firefighters 2,500 small hand sanitizer kits. Firefighters will use both items themselves, give them to people at calls, or make them available to other city workers, if necessary, Morgan said.
The donation was Medline’s first large-scale “good neighbor” initiative in Meriden, said Russ Blakeslee, director of manufacturing at the Medline facility that is the primary tenant at 550 Research Parkway. It was Applicare before being acquired within the last three years.
The company wants the city’s emergency-service workers to be healthy and safe.
“We appreciate all that they have been doing to support the community,” Blakeslee said.
The company employs about 100 people in Meriden manufacturing 4 million of the hand sanitizer pouches per month and distributing medical tools, such as the masks. It is among three Medline distribution centers in Connecticut, with the others in West Haven and Danbury.
The masks will likely supply city firefighters for at least 100 days. Every day, firefighters use 75 to 80 masks, which are a fraction of a $78,800 annual budget account that the department devotes to equipment purchases. About 85 percent of that amount goes to regular firefighter turnout gear, Morgan said.
“It’s nice when we don’t have to ration these,” Morgan said Tuesday. “We burn through them pretty rapidly.”
Firefighters also average 19 medical or fire calls a day where extra masks might be needed, Morgan said.
“We’re glad that the community came together and gave us these,” Morgan said. “It benefits everybody in the city.”
Those who refuse to wear masks in public or who organize or attend large, private parties without them can face fines in Connecticut of $100 to $500, according to a state initiative announced in September.
The penalties include $100 for failing to wear a protective mask in public, $250 for attending a private gathering that exceeds state limits set early in the pandemic, and $500 for organizing such events.
Limits for most private gatherings include 25 people indoors and 100 individuals outdoors.