JACKSON TWP. Calls coming into the Jackson Township Fire and EMS have been fewer than normal. Chief Tracy Hogue said the calls into his department and EMS have decreased over the past several weeks.
He believes people are making sound judgments about their health and are using Stat Care, emergency rooms and family physicians to help them make health care decisions. The department has seen some calls related to the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
“Our dispatch in the Regional Emergency Dispatch (RED) Center has been screening calls and asking some regulation questions to determine if the person may or may not have any symptoms so that our EMS personnel are aware of it when they respond to a call,” Hogue said.
Executive Director of the RED Center, Cody Post, said the department handles 911 calls for police and fire for 18 areas in Western Stark County.
“Our current procedure is when a call comes in, we ask the standard questions about location and what is happening and the dispatcher will stay on the line with the caller until a unit arrives,” Post said. “Starting on Feb. 5, we also asked whether anyone at the location had been on any foreign travel. If they said no, we stopped asking questions but if they said yes, then we asked where and if they had been around anyone with coronavirus.”
Post said on March 18 the questions were updated and dispatchers began asking additional questions, such as does the caller have a fever, cough or shortness of breath. They also ask if anyone at the location has been under any investigation from any Health Department. The last question is whether anyone at the location is experiencing a severe repository illness or issues.
“When we get calls about a serious fall, heart attack, stroke or other critical emergencies, we ask about the health emergency first then ask the questions about the virus,” Post said.
He added that they don’t ask the questions when a call comes in for a house fire or when someone is performing CPR on a person or other such emergencies.
Post stressed that their questions only gather information for first responders.
“We don’t want anyone to think that our screening determines that a person has the virus or needs tested for it,” Post said. “The questions only prepare our responders for the possibility of responding to a household emergency where someone may have had some contact with the virus. It’s just for the safety of our responders. We want our responders to have the proper gear and equipment on when they arrive at the location if someone there has been exposed to or has been diagnosed with the virus.”
While the calls have been fewer in the past few weeks, Hogue said the department is planning for an increase in volume. He said the big problem is that it’s difficult to predict the volume because the situation changes daily.
“We are as prepared as well as we can be. Our crews are doing a good job with triage and responding to calls. I’m following the recommendations made by the CDC and the International Association of Firefighters. I recommend that everyone go to those websites and review the guidelines,” Hogue said.