WINSTON COUNTY - Winston County 9-1-1 is changing procedures not only for its employees, but also emergency responders they dispatch in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new guidelines handed down by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch just this past week states that for any call from a person who is suspected of having symptoms of COVID-19, certain procedures from dispatchers taking the call should be followed.
“The two critical things we are concerned about one obviously is our employees, and the other is our first responders,” noted Winston E-911 Director Tim Webb.
“We’re trying to keep as sterile an environment as we can for our employees,” Webb added.
The E-911 office has invoked its continuity of operation plan, closing the facility to the public.
“We have not diminished any of our services,” said Webb. “We’re still at the same level of service we always have.”
Customers with any questions, concerns or those needing to do records research are urged to call 205-489-8911.
“We’re being as proactive as we can,” said Webb.
The E-911 communicators, who are certified through the International Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch, are adhering to procedures related to pre-screening calls for any COVID-19 concerns.
“We pre-screen any callers who might have the possibility of having the virus,” Webb said. “Should they meet the criteria, we’re letting our first responders know so they will be aware to take any extra precautions.”
Dispatchers have a list of questions to ask callers to determine whether the caller meets the criteria for COVID-19. Dispatchers will be checking to see if callers have symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever or cough.
If the caller meets criteria COVID-19 criteria, and is able to walk, dispatchers will request they meet emergency responders outside the home to prevent first responders from going inside and possibly coming into contamination, according to Webb.
“Once the ambulance and paramedics arrive, they will hopefully be a little more equipped to handle this,” Webb continued.
“Regardless, if there’s any flu-like symptoms, we are going to let our first responders know. We want them to be as prepared as they can when they go out to the call.
Ambulance service protocol
Tim Brown, regional director of Regional Paramedical Service Ambulance, agreed that when emergency responders arrive, they should ask from a distance if there are any flu-like symptoms.
“If there is, stay out of the house,” Brown said. “Do the social distancing, six foot. Talk to them on the porch.”
Things emergency responders need to ask if the person has had a fever, is if they have had a dry cough, around anyone who has traveled internationally or anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Once emergency responders gather this information, they need to relay it to RPS personnel when they arrive, Brown continued.
If the patient is experiencing shortness of breath, emergency responders can provide oxygen, he added.
Also, RPS is restricting family members or anyone wanting to ride in the ambulance besides the actual patient.
“We have a staff shortage as it is,” said Brown, “so we are protecting our folks.”
Usually, a patient can choose the hospital where he or she wants to go.
“If it is a possible COVID-19 case, they will go to where we say, which is the closest appropriate hospital at that time,” Brown stated.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.