First responders, dispatchers take precautions amid coronavirus concerns

NOW: First responders, dispatchers take precautions amid coronavirus concerns

First responders in the Milwaukee area are taking the usual precautions and extra steps amid concerns about coronavirus in the U.S.

Capt. Dan Tyk at North Shore Fire & Rescue said his firefighters and EMS are handwashing before and after every call, and they're disinfecting all equipment weekly -- if not daily.

"The precautions for us are literally sometimes changing by the hour or the day depending on the guidance that the CDC and our medical directors are putting out," Tyk said.

His team is ready for the virus, but at the moment they have a limited supply of the special N95 protective masks. The masks require a "fit test" that allows it to provide a seal over the wearer's face.

"We've been trying for over a month to procure more (masks)," Tyk said.

He said 911 dispatchers in Milwaukee County will now ask additional questions to anyone who calls 911 and has flu-like symptoms

"Previously if you called and said, 'Hey I'm having trouble breathing,' you would just sort of get the, 'Hey, stay on the phone with me. We have help on the way.' Now you're going to be asked some additional questions about whether or not you have a fever (or) if you have any signs of a lower respiratory issue like coughing and sneezing," Tyk said.

Crews will then be notified on the way to help protect you and them. First responders may call patients with flu-like symptoms on the phone before coming to their door. They may choose to send one responder at a time to a residence instead of the usual two or three responders.

"That's the problem with this virus," said Bell Ambulance paramedics supervisor BJ Van Engen. "It looks like a lot of other viruses so we have to take precautions on most of our calls."

Bell Ambulance dispatchers will also go through a few extra steps on 911 calls.

"(It's) so we have somewhat of a head's up before we get on scene. If that is a possibility, we will mask up before we go in," Van Engen said.

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