MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis Fire Department has a new, innovative tool these days to fight the spread of COVID-19. The Moonbeam 3 is a portable device that uses ultraviolet light to kill the coronavirus. Memphis Fire uses it to sanitize ambulances to protect EMS crews and the patients they transport.
Inside a cheery yellow capsule that stands about three feet tall is a germ killer now hard at work for MFD.
“We want to make sure that our personnel are safe and we also want to make sure that the patient compartment is nice and clean and sanitary for the next patient we pick up,” said EMS Deputy Chief Angie Shelton-Sullivan.
Shelton-Sullivan says the MFD has three Moonbeams to disinfect every ambulance in the fleet.
“So they’ll do it after they get a patient and also do it once a month just as a maintenance cleaning,” she said.
The maker of the Moonbeam says tests show the light destroys 99.9% of the virus. It zaps COVID-19 on high touch services.
Crews still wipe down their rigs by hand, but the Moonbeam is added security. The UV light can be more effective than chemicals. But there’s an issue.
“The UV process runs anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes in the back of the ambulance,” said Shelton-Sullivan.
The ambulance must be taken out of service while it’s cleaned, and right now with more patients filling local ERs, MFD needs every unit on the road.
“So currently with the Moonbeam, it actually adds time to their out of service because they will clean and then have that process done,” said Shelton-Sullivan. “Once we have the installs that are permanent in the back of the unit, then that will actually help decrease their downtime.”
Permanent UV lights are now installed in 21 of MFD’s 32 frontline ambulances.
“Those run for about 30 minutes,” said Shelton-Sullivan. “Also, they can run while they’re at the hospital waiting to offload the patient and be ready to go when they get back in service.
Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Memphis firefighters and paramedics are still adapting, getting busy killing the coronavirus while doing what they do best-- saving lives.
“That’s one of the things with COVID-19,” said Shelton-Sullivan. “It’s very contagious. And the Moonbeam has been very effective as a secondary disinfectant. So we’re just taking every precaution we can.”
Each Moonbeam costs $37,000. Because they’re portable, they can also be used to clean a room or entire facility, if needed.