Protecting the protectors: First responders taking precautionsFree Access

There’s no question so many different healthcare professionals as well as emergency responders have emerged as heroes in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of them are working long hours and risking their health and safety by caring for those who have contracted the virus.

But those same professionals are also risking their health and safety any time they care for people they might not be sure have the virus.

When it comes to emergency response in Mariposa County, responders are following specific protocol to stay safe. That protocol has been issued from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state guidelines.

Mercy Ambulance operations manager Jesse Figueroa said Mercy’s professionals are following steps to ensure safety at each emergency response they arrive at.

“When we’re dispatched to any (instance with) possible flu-like symptoms, they pre-alert us through dispatch, so all of the first responders — CAL FIRE, Mariposa County Fire and Mercy Ambulance — all have that pre-alert to know they need to use universal precautions, so we don’t walk in and find out they have flu-like symptoms,” he said.

Figueroa said responders will “garb up” before arriving to a call location.

“At this point, what our region is requiring from us, if there are flu-like symptoms, they require us to wear a mask with a face shield or goggles. You have to have eye protection and a mask, and a gown with gloves,” he said. “Some of the suits are full body suits and others are the gowns we put on. They cover the full front.”

John Morgan, battalion chief for CAL FIRE and the Mariposa County Fire Department, confirmed firefighters are also following very specific guidelines.

CAL FIRE officials have been provided with detailed steps to follow when responding to calls. Morgan provided a flow chart of several different instructions firefighters are to follow when it comes to responding to an emergency call in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

All patients are presumed high risk at this point, so one of the biggest things being done is reducing the number of responders who approach the patient, if possible.

“Basically, we are limiting responder exposure by wearing additional PPE (personal protective equipment) and approaching patients with only one responder unless additional personnel are required,” he said.

Morgan confirmed Figueroa’s statement, that all emergency responders are also notified in advance by dispatch of any potential risks to the responders.

“Our dispatch center is one-in-the-same; we all listen to the same frequencies. They ask the caller a series of questions to try and determine the nature of the call. They advise all incoming resources whether additional PPE is needed (known as “universal precautions”) and all resources confirm with dispatch that they understand the need,” he said.

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