Area law enforcement and local fire departments have tweaked their operations and increased the amount of personal protection equipment first responders are using. The goal is to protect personnel as they respond to calls in their communities. That includes limiting exposure and taking added precautions in order to help prevent the virus from spreading.
In accordance with those procedures, dispatchers in both counties have been instructed to ask screening questions. The purpose is to find out if anyone at a scene is displaying symptoms associated with coronavirus before sending out a first responder. That information is being used as departments decide what actions to take while trying to conserve personal protection equipment as it is unclear how long the pandemic will last.
Eliminating any single point of failure
In Champaign County, there have been two confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Health officials believe those cases are unrelated to each other.
One positive case is a female in her 50s, a statement from the Champaign Health District said, and she is currently hospitalized. The other is a female in her early 30s who has not traveled.
Urbana Fire Chief Dean Ortlieb said right now, his department is focused on reducing potential exposure to his personnel while taking precautions that reduce the risk of multiple firefighters being sick at the same time.
“Everything that we are working on is centered around eliminating any single point of failure,” he said.
That includes, on certain calls, having one first responder initiate contact with potential patients while wearing increased personal protection equipment. In addition, it means having equipment available if the situation calls for it.
“We know that we have enough resources for our current load. We don’t know how big this is going to get,” Ortlieb said. He said that the Champaign County EMA has already received a shipment of supplies from a national stockpile.
He added that his department has been using vendors and have been placing small orders.
Ortlieb said they currently have one fire station, but are working on plans to spread out personnel in order to better prevent the virus from spreading. Though no personnel have been quarantined at this point, he said he wants to make sure they will not be in a situation where an entire shift would have to be quarantined at one time.
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