First responders change protocol amid COVID-19

Shelby McCormack, Contributing Writer

As COVID-19 continues to force people to stay home, first responders have changed their procedures to keep themselves safe as they perform their duties. Both the Frisco Fire Department and the Dallas Police Department are required to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing whenever possible, among other protective measures.
“The fire calls have basically remained the same. However, the EMS calls have drastically changed,” Frisco Fire Department Lt. Don Scott wrote in an email to The Courier. Scott wrote the department now sends only one firefighter/paramedic to evaluate each patient. Before the pandemic, all five firefighters in a crew would go in, so the patient would have all the help they needed, he wrote.
Scott wrote his engine company has encountered two patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. But the practice of sending in only one paramedic ensured that “the only person who came in contact with those patients was the paramedic who makes the initial contact,” he said. And, he wrote, the one paramedic who comes in contact with the patient wears personal protective equipment to protect from exposure to the disease.
Police officers have also changed their procedures. Dallas Chief of Police Lauretta Hill wrote in an email to the Courier that her police officers now are more cautious when responding to calls. However, she said, “In certain situations it is impossible to follow the guidelines completely and still do your job.”
For instance, Hill wrote, masks can become a challenge when worn for extended periods of time. “When dealing with the public, you don’t always get the nonverbal signals that you would get if everyone was not wearing a mask,” she wrote.
Despite their precautions, Frisco Fire Department Capt. Raul Esquibel wrote in an email to the Courier, three people in the Frisco Fire Department have tested positive. They were quarantined until they tested negative, he wrote.
Esquibel said the department now checks firefighters’ temperatures three times a day, and that it instructs anyone who has symptoms to stay home. “If we have anyone exposed in the station, the entire crew is sent to isolation for 14 days,” Esquibel wrote.
First responders prepare for an unpredictable day at work in which they put their lives in jeopardy every day, Scott wrote. The pandemic is just one more addition to the list of threats they face on a daily basis.