• Atlanta Northcutt

Local ambulance employees take extra precautions

By: Atlanta Northcutt -- Reporter for the Southern Standard

Warren County ambulance service workers from C Shift include, from left, Michael Holland, Marie Turpin, Zack Gray, Bridget Evans, Tim Alexander, Heather Miller and Alan Farrar.

Warren County ambulance service employees Tim Alexander, back, and Michael Holland demonstrate how to wear the personal protective equipment needed when treating a patient with COVID-19.

Each day, ambulance service personnel are the first on the front lines providing care to those injured or suffering, and now individuals who may be infected with COVID-19.

Two members of Warren County EMS C Shift picked up and delivered a patient confirmed to be infected with coronavirus to Saint Thomas River Park Hospital.

“We took all of the appropriate safety precautions with our emergency protective equipment and used extra precaution with our truck by covering every cabinet and surface with plastic,” says EMT Zack Gray. “We didn’t hesitate once we received the call from the dispatch center.”

Those on the front lines always wear face masks and gloves, but the more protective N95 masks are being worn during this time. If an individual is suspected to be infected with COVID-19, a face shield and Tyvek full body suit will also be worn to provide an extra layer of protection between first-responders and patients.

The Tyvek suit and full protective equipment can take up to 10 minutes to put on and must be worn until employees arrive back at EMS headquarters, where staff must shower and change clothes.

C Shift supervisor Bridget Evans said any calls regarding respiratory problems, fever, cough, flu-like symptoms or the elderly are being handled with extra precaution.

Employees are screened each morning with their temperatures being taken and answering health-related questions. 

“EMS is a tough bunch,” says Evans. “If any of us were to experience those types of symptoms we would stay home, but none have had to call in sick.”

Eleven employees who make up C Shift are parents or expectant parents.

“My biggest fear is taking it home to my kids,” says EMS employee Tim Alexander. “It doesn’t bother me if I get sick. That’s what I signed up for, but I don’t want my toddler to get it.”

“You don’t want to take it home,” adds EMS employee Marie Turpin. “You don’t want to be the reason someone else suffers.”

The EMS staff practices all safety precautions and knows which symptoms to look for in order to prevent spreading any illness to loved ones or to others.

The medical responders say the community has shown an outpouring of support.

“We’ve had food and supplies donated to us,” says EMS employee Heather Mills. “The community has been phenomenal.”

“I don’t think any of us feel like we’re heroes,” adds Turpin. “It’s just what we do and what we were called to do.”

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