As the COVID-19 outbreak grows, public safety departments are making a few operational changes.
Buchanan County EMS is taking more precautions than before when it comes to its crews, and the organization is facing issues with the number of supplies.
“We’re implementing higher levels of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for staff and we’re implementing the use of hard PPE instead of the disposable ones,” Wally Patrick, executive director of the Buchanan County EMS, said. “As you probably are aware, supplies are at zero and so procuring new disposables has become quite difficult.”
EMS crews are starting to utilize reusable equipment before they run out of certain supplies.
“Instead of always using a disposable N95, we’re using what’s called a PAPR, which stands for Powered Air Purifying Respirator, which is a hard device with a filter built into it through a power unit. Those we can clean off and reuse because the filter remains good,” Patrick said.
The reason that there is a shortage with certain supplies and equipment is the demand for it at this time.
“We’re using it at a much faster rate than we did, so we can’t afford to get down to zero stock. So, we’re trying to be reasonable and not order 10,000 gallons of this stuff, but we are seeing increased usage,” Patrick said.
As for when EMS crews respond to an emergency, Patrick said it’s recommended all crew members wear masks, but it’s up to the medic on the scene to ultimately decide.
Patrick said the public has responded well to this situation, and EMS crews have not received many calls from citizens who believe they have COVID-19.
“We’re not getting what we used to call the “worried well” calls,” he said. “People have been very good about calling when they need help and utilizing other sources for information and that type of thing.”