First responders working in new world while heeding COVID-19 guidelines

Published 12:21 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

As social distancing and hand washing become the norm for Americans in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus, thoughts turn to first responders who come in frequent contact with people and how they may be responding.

The folks at Acadian are utilizing the personal protection equipment, or PPE, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“All of our ambulances are normally equipped with this equipment and proper donning and doffing of procedures are included in our annual training,” according to information from Acadian. “Ambulance crews are following our established procedures for infectious and communicable diseases for ambulance and equipment decontamination.”

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And, like many EMS agencies across the service area and country, they have received a number of calls from persons with suspected exposure.

Their dispatch centers are screening every call for COVID-19 symptoms and notifying the ambulance crews to utilize the CDC recommended PPE as a precaution.

They also have protocol in place if there is a confirmed patient, as well as protocol in case a medic shows symptoms.


Law enforcement

Nederland Police Chief Gary Porter said the department is taking the common sense approach and limiting contact with the public.

“We are still performing our duties within reasonable guidelines of social distancing,” he said. “We are open for business; if someone needs us we will be there for them. We’re just not making as much casual contact as before.”

The police department can’t stop functioning though.

For example, if possible the officer will not go into a house or confined area but will do so if necessary.

Porter said he is pleased with what he is seeing in the public, which is not as many people out on the roads.

“I’ve been around town and it looks like a huge percentage of the population is adhering to the restrictions,” he said. “I’m not seeing much street traffic and not seeing too many people at businesses unless it’s a drive-through. I want to give a shout out to the citizens. I’m not seeing any kids hanging out in big groups. I think our citizens are doing a good job to do their part in all of this. Hats off to them.”

The Nederland police chief said common sense is the way of things, so if you do call an officer they won’t be shaking hands.

“Don’t take it personally,” he said. “We’re trying to do our part not to spread anything.”

Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said they are doing as much as they can electronically; meaning instead of an officer going out for a report they will do this over the phone if possible.

Also, if they need to speak with someone they will have the dispatcher ask if the person can step outside of their home or business so they may talk in an open space.

“They have the possibility to be in contact with numerous people and this affects our safety as well as theirs,” Lemoine said.

Police vehicles get a thorough cleaning as well. Officers use hand sanitizer when they get in and get out of the vehicle and wipe down anything they normally handle in the vehicle from door handles to panels, radio and more. And if they share a vehicle with another officer the vehicle is cleaned at the beginning of the shift and at the end.

All local and countywide law enforcement are working under the new guidelines, including the Jefferson County Correctional Facility.

“Law enforcement, attorneys and arrestees entering into the JCCF through public access or the vehicle sally port will be screened for COVID-19,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Crystal Holmes said. “This consists of specific questions and body temperature reading.  If symptomatic, testing and isolation will be implemented. Law enforcement and attorneys who are experiencing symptoms will not be allowed into the facility. The arrestee will be screened and isolated if required by our medical staff.”

Visitation at the jail was suspended on March 13 and the medical staff is monitoring inmates and following CDC guidelines and Jail Commissioners Standards in place, she said.