Indiana county 911 to alert first responders of possible coronavirus cases

Any information known prior to responding will help paramedics take better precautions.


Image: Michael Gil/Wikimedia Commons

The Tribune-Star

By Howard Greninger

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — While Indiana has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, Vigo County’s Enhanced 911 system will soon allow dispatchers to notify emergency responders that a patient may have the virus.

We use priority dispatch, which is what we use for police and fire and medical dispatching,” said Vigo County 911 director Vickie Oster. “We have to be certified in that every two years.”

Under that system, the county is covered legally for any lawsuit involved in first responses, Oster said.

The county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system “has been updated for the coronavirus. I am waiting on a medical director to sign off so that we can use it,” Oster said, adding she expects to meet with Terre Haute Regional Hospital to get that approval this month.

“When they call in for an ambulance when they are sick, and if they have been out of the country or think they have something like coronavirus, we would ask that they let us know that,” Oster said.

We have protocols for cardiac arrest, pregnancy and others and this will be a protocol for coronavirus,” Oster said. “We had protocols before for things like this such as anthrax.”

Any information known prior to responding will help paramedics take better precautions, said Jeff Fisher, chief of the Terre Haute Fire Department, which provides emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
Fisher said the information, for example, will allow the department to use face masks.

“The main thing for the masks is to have it on the patients,” to prevent a spread of the virus, Fisher said. “If someone sneezes, up to 6 feet away you are still in a contagious area,” Fisher said.

“Our responders can put one on also, but there is no 100% [way] from anyone getting it,” he said of a virus.

“We have been taking people to the hospital with the common flu, with SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome], and we made it through that and we will make it through this, too. The coronavirus is new and people are talking about it, that is why it is getting all the publicity now,” Fisher said.

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