Saanich emergency services are prepared to handle the impacts and service disruptions that may arise from COVID-19. On March 16 Saanich Emergency response released an emergency response plan for first responders. The response plan has been designed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and includes ways for emergency personnel to avoid exposure to the virus.
Robert Heppel, assistant deputy chief for Saanich Fire, says that crews are informed with proper protocol to prevent the virus from spreading.
The prevention plan includes a pre-trip clean and a full clean of any apparatuses and hard surfaces after a shift. All hard surfaces in a station will have to be disinfected after a shift. All personnel will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) during a medical incident. Personnel is to also disinfect upon returning to the station between calls.
Equipment for emergency responders will include medical gloves, glasses and a N95 mask. Crews are expected to carry a N95 mask at all times for personal situations where they are likely to aerosol bodily fluids.
According to the emergency response protocol, all crew members are to wear PPE equipment upon close contact and assessments of patients that are presenting clinical features of an infectious respiratory virus such as: fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Heppel says that although Saanich Fire has set up protocol on how to handle potential loss in staff numbers, there is currently no shortage of staff. The fire department also implemented corporate policy for crew members experiencing symptoms, or coming back from a trip and needing to go into quarantine.
In the event that an emergency crew member is potentially exposed to the virus during a call, the member must report the incident to their platoon captain. The platoon captain will then advise fire dispatch and contact the on-call duty chief in which the duty chief will contact BC Ambulance Service and Vancouver Island Coastal Health to advise them of the exposure and to ensure proper follow-up and testing of the patient through the medical health officer.