How the coronavirus is changing the way first responders work in Lehigh Acres

Posted at 10:50 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 22:50:00-04

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — First responders are the first line of defense during a crisis.

But in order for them to protect our community, they have to protect themselves first.

Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District is taking additional steps to protect its first responders during the Coronavirus pandemic.

It starts when someone makes a call for service.

“Initially our dispatchers are going to be asking them a few more clearance questions to gauge what they’re issue is and if it could possibly be something related to the Coronavirus,” said Katie Heck with Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District.

If a caller meets the criteria of what might be a Coronavirus case, they have to then talk to a paramedic inside the dispatch station.

Dispatchers will also alert first responders.

“That gives our guys here on the truck a little bit more of a heads up to what they might be responding to and what kind of precautions they need to take,” said Heck.

When responding to medical calls, they are also limiting how many responders come in direct contact with the patient.

This includes only sending a fire engine when it’s necessary.

“With those two people that are on the rescue, we try to have only one person need to use that PPE equipment that right now is in scares supplies,” said Heck.

Rescuers have to dispose of gowns and gloves after they’re used, so they want to make sure only to use what they really need.

"When they are responding to these calls for service, where there is the concern that it might be a Coronavirus situation, they will respond with a body gown on, they’ll have the mask on, they’ll also be wearing gloves,” said Heck.

Ambulances go through a cleaning procedure after every rescue, but extra care is being taken right now.

“This is a virus we’re not used to dealing with and we want to be extra careful about that cleanliness that’s going inside the rescue,” said Heck.

Lehigh Acres fire control and rescue has five ambulances in its district.

Heck says they have not taken any confirmed Coronavirus patient to the hospital.

"We’re still here, we’re still responding to calls, we’re just making sure that our staff stays safe so that we can continue serving the community," said Heck.