Life of a First Responder during COVID-19



Left to Right: Nicole Castetter, Jessica Castetter, and Chuck Castetter at the Upper Saucon Fire Department Open House

COVID-19 has played a significant role in our lives since early March. For the average citizen, this means staying home, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a mask. However, not everyone has been able to experience this luxury. 

Frontline workers have had to put their lives on the line so everyone else can begin to adjust to a “new normal.” Senior Jessica “Jessie” Castetter is a junior firefighter with the Upper Saucon Fire Department who knows this fact all too well. 

Castetter has been forced to make adjustments not only in her personal life but also in her career training. Instead of getting the typical hands-on experience that she’s used to, she needed to take the second best option: completely virtual meetings.

“It’s really hard, to be honest, since I have such a hard time focusing,” she said. “I also feel like I am not learning as much as I used to. I think the information has gone right out the window…which is really embarrassing because I have been here for four years!”

The Zoom meetings vary between online trainings and monthly information sessions she attends with her mother and father, who are also members of the Upper Saucon Fire Department.

Another side effect of these virtual meetings is losing personal connections. Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to damaged relationships for many people, so it’s no surprise that this happens in the workplace too. 

“I was just starting to build acquaintanceships with some of the people down there (at the fire station), but now I am backing up again,”  Castetter said.

Perhaps if things were different, Jessie would be spending time with her fellow firefighters working on different team building exercises. They would also work together on different strategic plans in cases of emergency.

Either way, she enjoys being able to live the firefighter lifestyle.  

Sadly, enforced regulations have prohibited Jessie from engaging in typical firefighter activities. Social distancing has ruled out the possibility of any sort of team-focused practices, and the mask mandate makes wearing the equipment much more difficult. All of this has made going on call much more of a risk.

“You always have that dread in the back of your head,” Castetter said. “Am I going to get injured? Am I going to get sick? Am I going to die?” 

This uncertainty can lead to uneasiness, and COVID-19 doesn’t help the situation.

“So yeah, it really is scary to have that fear in the back of your head at all times.” Castetter said. “Especially in a situation where I go on a call with someone who is sick and I don’t know, and I am closer than six feet and around them for more than 15 minutes, I could get COVID. That’s a bit concerning.”

Castetter is more than prepared for any obstacle that life throws her way, because this career has taught her to stick through it, and never give up.