AFR taking extra steps to limit coronavirus exposure to first responders

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Fire Rescue is taking extra measures to not only protect the community but keep first responders healthy while they continue to work during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dispatchers are now asking callers more questions to limit exposure. They’re also seeing an unexpected trend.

Calls for service have taken a slight dip during the coronavirus outbreak. No one knows for sure where the virus could be lurking and where someone might be exposed. And with hospitals and clinics busy, people seem to be calling less for non-emergency issues.

“What is happening is that people are self-prioritizing and understanding that if they are calling 911 for health-related issues, that perhaps they could talk to their primary care physician about or perhaps they can go to an urgent care. I think people are understanding that the hospitals’ systems are sort of overwhelmed,” says Tom Ruiz, AFR Spokesperson.

But Albuquerque Fire Rescue paramedics haven’t stopped responding and while they’re out and about, “Any call that doesn’t involve a motor vehicle accident or a traumatic injury our dispatchers are asking the caller a couple of COVID-type questions,” Ruiz says. And if the caller answers yes, those responding wear extra protective equipment. “Masks, eye protection, glove protection and a gown,” Ruiz says.

Firefighters are now also going through a screening process when they start their shifts. “That screening is taking of a temperature and asking him if you have a new cough since the last time you were at work have you developed any COVID-like symptoms,” Ruiz says.

It’s an extra effort that the department hopes will keep them healthy and you. “We can’t respond to the public is our firefighters aren’t able to come to work,” Ruiz says.

Since the department started the screening process Tuesday, one firefighter was sent home because of a fever but did not have COVID-19 symptoms. The department tells us two firefighters are in quarantine after responding to a call involving someone who had COVID-19 symptoms. Three others are self quarantined after traveling out-of-state.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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