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In times of crisis, few organizations are more essential than our local and state governments. They ensure systems and resources are in place to keep our society and economy safely in motion. But who ensures that the halls of government are kept safe?

Meet Chuck Fitzgerald, Sergeant at Arms for the Arizona House of Representatives. Not only is he in charge of physical security, he’s responsible for safely reopening critical operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We spoke to Mr. Fitzgerald about his initial concerns and why he ultimately chose Alen Air Purifiers to protect Arizona lawmakers and staff. His insights are full of valuable tips for anyone tasked with bringing people back to work safely during COVID-19

Alen checked all the boxes. The units were quiet, they were attractive, they came in different sizes, and they did the job we really wanted them to do.

Legislating During COVID: From First Response to Safe Reopening 

Alen: Please describe your role and responsibilities at the Arizona House.

Chuck Fitzgerald: I maintain the physical plant and property. In my second role, I’m in the mix with the elected representatives as they debate and vote on bills where I’m responsible for, as we say, decorum and civility on the floor of the house.

Alen: How did the Arizona legislature first respond to COVID-19?

Chuck Fitzgerald: The major concern was the safety of the people in the building. How do we bring people back into the building safely and allay fears?

There are the obvious things: everybody needs to wear a mask, we have hand sanitizer everywhere, we’re pretty good about social distancing, we’re holding smaller and shorter meetings.

But the other concern is air quality. Especially since the virus is transmitted in the air through droplets. What could we do for air quality?

The first thing we decided to do was to use air purifiers, something to scrub the air. I was given the task to go find one.

How do we bring people back into the building safely and allay fears?

Searching for the Perfect HEPA Air Purifier

Alen: Can you describe your research and decision-making process for selecting HEPA air purifiers?

Chuck Fitzgerald: The first question I asked was, 'Is this thing quiet?'

I looked at purifiers installed in classrooms by a friend who is Superintendent of Schools in my community. I didn’t like them. They were pretty noisy actually…very disruptive. I looked at a half dozen different purifiers installed in schools, county offices, and government buildings.

Alen: Why did you ultimately choose Alen over other brands?

Chuck Fitzgerald: I had never heard of Alen. The first thing that caught my eye was how stylistic they are. Others look like canisters I wouldn’t want in a room.

Sizing was also very important. We needed different sizes for different rooms.

Alen checked all the boxes. The units were quiet, they were attractive, they came in different sizes, and they did the job we really wanted them to do.

Where HEPA Air Purifiers Made a Difference

Alen: Where do you use the Alen air purifiers and how have they worked so far?

Chuck Fitzgerald: We put them in places where people congregate like clerk and page offices, all of our public hearing rooms, conference rooms, and congregate offices.

When we first put them in, people were very curious. It was almost like a Christmas gift. I got the sense that people were feeling more comfortable with one more layer of safety.

I would say people are excited. I’ve even seen people standing around them having a meeting, almost like a campfire.

Alen: What feedback have you received?

Chuck Fitzgerald: People wanted to know about the size differences. We explained that we did the math to get the right unit size unit for each room.

Everyone has since become fans of these things. From our initial 6, we’ve ordered 14 more.

I would say people are excited. I’ve even seen people standing around them having a meeting, almost like a campfire. We’ve even used that term: this is our new campfire, or this is our new water cooler, even though also have new water coolers!

The purifiers have also given us the opportunity to educate people on the different things we’re doing here at the House. We talk about how this is just one more way we’re making things safe.

The purifiers have also given us the opportunity to educate people...about how this is just one more way we’re making things safe.

Tips for Reopening: Protect People & Peace of Mind

Alen: What advice would you give others tasked with safely reopening essential in-person operations?

Chuck Fitzgerald: There are two considerations: One part is physical. Is the virus around and how do we get rid of it? How do we minimize exposure to it? Like many other government agencies, we’re putting in plexiglass, we’re removing seating, we’re limiting access.

The other part is perception. How do people feel about what we’re doing? How do people feel coming here, do they feel like we’ve done everything we can do? That’s very important to us.

We live in a very political world, and the legislature is the center of all politics, so perception is reality. We’re checking temperatures, we’re wearing masks, we’re doing everything we can to allay fears.

Schools are said to the safest place for kids right now because of all the things they’ve done. And we feel that this building will also be one of safest places.

I got the sense that people were feeling more comfortable with one more layer of safety.

HEPA for Healthy Buildings Beyond COVID

Alen: How do you view the relationship between HEPA purification, virus prevention, and day-to-day wellness going forward?

Chuck Fitzgerald: Once we’re past the pandemic, we’re still going to have HEPA air purification in the House of Representatives. What we’ve discovered since we put these in is that our air feels better.

This is a very old building and we believe people tend to be sicker in this building vs. newer government buildings. We’re going to be here for some time, so HEPA is going to be part of any equation.

These HEPA filters, our relationship with Alen, the things we’re putting in place—it’s more than just COVID. It’s going to help with the flu, odors in the building, and other germs. We know our air has not been great in the building. The pandemic has forced us to fix it.

My wife and I bought a few Alen purifiers for our home and we love them.

Alen: I understand you purchased some Alen purifiers for your house, can you talk about that?

Chuck Fitzgerald: Not only do I like what Alen's been able to do for the Arizona House, my wife and I bought a few Alen purifiers for our home and we love them.

We have one in the bedroom and one where our family room, living room, and kitchen come together.

My wife would fall under the category of a high-risk person, so we’re trying to do everything we can to clean the air.

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