First responders taking extra precautions in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – First responders may be answering calls differently from here on out. Firefighters and paramedics are taking extra precautions to protect themselves and the public from the spread of COVID-19.

Don’t be shocked if first responders show up to your door in gowns, masks, and protective leggings while dealing with respiratory calls.

“This isn’t necessarily an indication we are diagnosing you with anything. This is because we are going to serve a lot of members in the public in the same day,” said Unified Fire Authority Matthew McFarland. “It is really important to us that we are not going to become the carriers and helping that transmission, and the growth of this throughout our community.”

Unified Fire Authority and Salt Lake City Fire Department unveiled the new protocols Thursday.

“Most of these are spread by respiratory particulates,” said Captain Anthony Burton with the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

To make sure first responders don’t become carriers of COVID-19 dispatchers will ask four main questions dealing with respiratory calls.

“Do you have shortness of breath? Do you have a fever? Do you have a persistent cough? And how long has this all been going on,” said McFarland.

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If a patient answers yes to any of those questions a dispatcher will ask about exposure to COVID-19.

“So if they are hearing that they have a fever, coughing, the same things the government has been presenting us with symptom wise, those will be identified to alert our crews to be attentive that this may be a potential case,” said Capt. Burton.

Matthew McFarland from the Unified Fire Authority in protective clothing

A paramedic in protective gear will establish initial care and stay with the patient until the hospital.

Per CDC guidelines Capt. Burton adds, “We carefully remove those precaution layers and then we dispose of that stuff appropriately. Then we decontaminate ourselves.”

Ambulances used to transport infectious patients will be thoroughly cleaned after each call.

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Department administrators will follow up with hospitals to find out if the patient contracted COVID-19 or another disease. That will decide the time possibly spent in quarantine.

Both departments canceled upcoming public events like civic tours, adopt a school, and CERT programs out of an abundance of caution.

As an added measure Salt Lake City Fire won’t allow the public inside their stations.

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