Emergency response complicated by  COVID-19

Emergency medical technicians respond to a call in Richfield Friday afternoon.

There is no way of knowing how difficult a situation will be for emergency responders until they arrive on scene. 

This has been compounded by COVID-19. The coronavirus is affecting every facet of people’s lives, but none more so than those who work in emergency services. 

The new dynamic requires police officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters to be more strategic in how they approach each call. For the most part firefighters, emergency medical technicians and police get involved because they want to help other people.

Rural Utah communities depend on people who volunteer their time to be firefighters, EMTs and search and rescue team members.

Without people who are willing to volunteer their time, effort and sometimes mental anguish, providing essential services with a limited tax base would be beyond what local governments could do. Everyone in the community has a shared reliance on volunteers who commit to dropping whatever they are doing to help others who are in need, many times in their most desperate hour.

Now in addition to the untold hours spent training, the irregular schedules and the inherently difficult situations, now officers, EMTs and others have to approach each call for help with strategies for limiting contact. Patients who can are asked to walk out of their homes. EMTs are now responding with an additional layer of personal protective gear. 

With the required 14-day quarantine for people who are infected with the highly contagious virus, it could result in a logistical nightmare for rural departments. All it takes is for one person to become infected. That person may have had contact with two others in the department, who in turn had contact with two others.

It’s easy to see how a department’s availability of personnel can fall like a row of dominos. Even if they don’t get seriously ill, they can’t be allowed to do their jobs. 

The vast majority of those who give of their time do so because they have a desire to help make the community a better, safer place to live.

Providing quality emergency services requires a lot of effort, and at times can be discouraging. These efforts are especially noticed and appreciated in this difficult time.

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