Even with fears prevalent and the number of coronavirus cases in the state rising, much of the routine for first responders will stay the same. There will be some added common-sense measures.
At Iredell County Emergency Communications, which handles all emergency calls in the county, the facility is at minimal staffing right now, Director Candy Miller said. Employees are keeping up with social distancing recommendations. Dispatchers are also pre-screening 911 calls to see if the caller or victim is showing any signs of COVID-19. Miller said dispatches are actually down since responders are generally sending the minimum amount of people necessary per call.
“The public’s been really good about the extra questions,” she said.
At Iredell County Emergency Services, not much has changed.
“Right now, everything is (mostly) as it would have been a month ago,” said Director Blair Richey. “None of our daily operations have changed.”
She said some steps are being taken is making sure personal protection equipment is more readily available, along with making sure supplies are being optimized and enough are available.
One example Richey gave is face masks: If EMS responds to a person meeting the criteria associated with COVID-19, a respirator mask for that patient is readily available in a bag instead of stowed away on the EMS truck.
Richey said first responders typically don’t wear face masks even while working with a patient suffering from the flu. She said what’s really going to aid people at the scene is limiting contact to someone who is sick. That could be asking more questions of someone before a first responder is within six feet of a patient, or just sending an EMS unit to the scene instead of it and a fire truck.
As for the law enforcement side, Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell said deputies are giving out citations when possible, but are still keeping to business as usual.
“If an arrest has to be made, an arrest has to be made,” he said.
On March 17, Campbell said the sheriff’s office is temporarily suspending fingerprinting services except for those applying for concealed carry permits. He also said the sheriff’s office will continue to process gun permits by appointment only.
One common thing across emergency communications, EMS and law enforcement is a general higher attention to hygiene and more rigorous cleaning of work spaces.