MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Making sure those who treat the sick don't get sick themselves is the challenge facing police and fire departments all across America.
During Wednesday’s health department briefing, Chief Alvin Benson with the Shelby County Fire Department talked about the precautions his staff is taking while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benson says PPE, personal protective equipment, is as critical to the men and women in his department as it is to hospital workers. Shelby Fire’s first responders wear masks and gloves, and risk running low on supplies just like doctors and nurses.
Chief Benson also says ambulances are being cleaned and disinfected twice as often now. WMC Action News 5 cameras were rolling as a Service Master crew, in full hazmat gear, worked on a Shelby County Fire Department ambulance, wiping everything off and spraying disinfectant on surfaces.
Shelby County’s first responders, says Benson, are taking no chances with coronavirus.
“Imagine if paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement officers are overcome,” he said, “at such a level that they can’t do their jobs. And that is our challenge. How do I keep our people safe? How do we provide the necessary care to the individuals in the community that need it while keeping social distancing and keeping our people safe in the same way?”
Chief Benson says they’re seeing an uptick in calls to 911 from people reporting symptoms of COVID-19. He urges citizens to call their doctors first and only call 911 for a true emergency so the system isn’t overloaded.
Shelby County firefighters and paramedics are also following social distancing guidelines while at the fire station. Chief Benson gave high marks to the cooperation right now between Memphis city and Shelby county’s first responder agencies and both mayors.