Emergency runs change during the COVID-19 pandemic

by Mary Helen Darah

Sylvania Township Fire Department Lieutenant Ryan Sedlock and his team are facing new challenges during the pandemic. “There is now no such thing as a ‘simple run’ anymore,” Lt. Sedlock explained. “We currently have to consider every run a potential COVID-19 case. We are still responding to every and all emergencies. That hasn’t changed, but the protocol has. We now send in one individual with PPE (personal protective equipment) to assess the situation as the rest of the team stays outside. Before we would have four or five people on a call entering the house. Our goal now is to limit the people in the home to avoid contact.The driver of the ambulance is not involved at all to curb exposure. The person entering the home gets a temperature reading and checks for symptoms and then reports to us outside. If the patient is exhibiting flu-like symptoms or has a fever, we get ‘gowned up,’ which can include wearing surgical gowns, an N95, APR or gas mask, gloves and eye protection. We cannot set anything inside the house. We do most of our work outside now. It has been an interesting change for us.”

Another time consuming practice since the pandemic is decontamination. “After every run we have to decontaminate the truck,” stated Lt. Sedlock. “We have a victory sprayer, a deacon sprayer, and a UV light that hangs inside the unit for at least 30 minutes. We want to protect us but especially patients as well. It takes time to get our units back in service after every run. Every time we disinfect. Even if it is not a Covid patient, we still need to decontaminate after every run. If we have a Covid patient, the truck is out of service and every inch of that truck is sprayed. An ionized water decontamination sprayer is used. The spray disinfectant can get under handles and every nook and cranny to get the virus off surfaces. We also have a ‘covinator’ which is a box that looks like a file cabinet. We put our gear, masks, shoes, blood pressure cuffs, etc. inside. It has a UV light that will decontaminate our gear in a minute.”
The Lieutenant wants the public to know that if they have an emergency they can call 911. When doing so, they will be asked a series of questions. “Make sure you answer those questions to the best of your ability for our safety,” said Lt. Sedlock. “We got a call from a person who fell in their bathroom. We get that a lot, especially with our geriatric population. We arrived at the scene and began assessing the patient. It was then that we discovered that the patient had a temp of 102 and had been sick for a couple of days. We asked the patient if they told the dispatcher that information and they said they didn’t have time to tell them.”

Lt. Sedlock feels that the current situation brings a great deal of new “stressers” but the Department is doing a great job of coping with the new environment of care. “We will continue to follow the ever-changing CDC guidelines,” he stated. “Please remember we are still here 24/7 to help if you have an emergency. Call 911 and we will be on our way to help. We may look a little different, perhaps looking a bit intimidating while wearing gas masks, but we are here to protect you.”

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