So I’ve been a little negligent on my writing over the past few weeks. The main reason, of course, is that there are no sports to write about. I try to fill the niche of women’s sports here at BHGP and fill in elsewhere as needed and available. I love being able to share my love for all things Iowa.
For my “real job” though, I am a CPA so the spring is definitely a busy time for me and limits my ability to participate in writing. However, one of the things that always gets me through the tax season is sports, especially the NCAA basketball tournaments, NCAA Wrestling Championships, MLB, and finally the Masters which signifies the end of tax season.
With all sports now on a hiatus, the days certainly seem much longer. As most of you know, the tax season has been auto-extended for three months so my need to work 15 hour days has diminished so that I can now spend some time with my family and handle all of my clients on a more reasonable pace.
However, I also have another “real job” that doesn’t earn any income (hey that sounds a lot like this job JP). For the past ten years I’ve been a volunteer firefighter/EMT in our rural community in west-central Illinois. The higher-ups here at BHGP thought that it might be a bit cathartic and a bit informative to update everyone on the impact that the Coronavirus is having from my point of view.
Editor’s Note: It’s worth noting that writing for the Pants has absolutely no comparison to saving lives. The similarities begin and end with the lack of compensation. As much as we thank you for your contributions to the site, I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for your contributions to society as a volunteer EMT/firefighter. People like you keep the rest of us safe and we owe you a lot more than our gratitude.
I’m going to speak strictly for the EMS side of the coin as a discussion on the political quagmire from both sides of the aisle and a look into the economic impact and the search for the rational investor are definitely beyond the scope of this author and this article.
Many of you probably live in an area that is serviced by a volunteer fire department and perhaps some of you are volunteers or have had parents that were volunteers. For those that haven’t been around this experience, a volunteer fire department simply means that people are volunteering their time to give assistance to those in need on their worst day.
The main difference between paid departments and volunteer departments are that volunteer departments don’t regularly have assigned shifts. While a paid department has people at the fire station 24/7, a volunteer department is usually empty and people come running when their pagers activate.
Volunteers have training requirements assigned by state fire programs so they are certainly competent but the major difference is that repetition is lacking. For instance, our department has around 200 calls a year, but only 10% or so of those are fire related. Let’s say that I’m not around half the time, that means at most, I will deal with five fire related calls a year so the ability to rely on experience is less than the ability to rely on extensive training.
The bulk of our calls are medical related. We have numerous EMTs on the department and we are able to get to a patient before the area ambulance provider so we are providing basic life services on scene in order to try to increase the likelihood of survival for a patient. Again, numerous hours of training are required on the medical side in addition to the fire side for those of us who serve a dual role.
So what has COVID-19 meant to our staff of 20 people? Well first off, training requirements have increased. This epidemic is new to everyone and is evolving quickly so we have daily updates on proper protocols. Our fire district is relatively well-funded so luckily we have the supplies we need at the current time. However due to national shortages, we also know that our future supplies are limited so everyone has their own N95 mask to use on calls rather than being able to dispose of masks after each call.
One of the biggest concerns we face, like many others in the service industry, is what happens if one of our volunteers contracts the virus. If that happens, that person will of course be self-quarantined, but then we have to decide what contact they had with others of us and if we have enough people remaining to serve our district safely. If we’re not available, that could add from five to fifteen minutes for persons with an emergency to wait before the next group of medical personnel can make contact.
Our current protocol has a double check system to see if a patient has any symptoms of COVID-19. The 911 dispatcher that takes the call has a screening sheet of questions that they pass on to us on the way to the call and we have a screening sheet of our own that we use at the door as well.
Before COVID-19, a team of rescue workers would go on scene to quickly and efficiently treat a patient. Now any patient that has any signs and symptoms of the virus but is otherwise not experiencing life threatening conditions, is treated by one EMT who is dressed in the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). While in the past, oxygen treatment was used liberally, many times for the benefit of patient comfort (anxiety), now it is being used only in a critical situation because the ability of the virus to remain active even when on the surface of other materials. The time it takes to disinfect after a call is now exponentially higher than in the past.
One of the biggest challenges we now face is misinformation. In today’s world of social media, nearly everything posted online is treated as gospel by too many gullible people. This led to the run on toilet paper even though this isn’t a virus that really causes more gastrointestinal issues than any other virus. Other people who wouldn’t typically be in the high risk groups are treating COVID-19 like it’s a regular flu bug and that because they’re young and healthy, shouldn’t be forced to practice social distancing. The fact that even if they’re correct and they could get the virus and come through unscathed, that doesn’t mean they aren’t spreading the virus in incalculable ways. But the real answer is we don’t yet really know the impact of this new virus. Reports are currently coming out of healthy, younger Americans dying of the virus. Until more is known, intelligent practices would be the most prudent course of action. Unfortunately in the “me-first” environment that the world has become, these prudent actions are tough to get everyone to buy into.
One positive in all of this is that our total number of calls has decreased over the past couple of weeks. Whether this is because more people are working from home thus decreasing the chances of car accidents or the fact that people are more leery of calling for non-emergency issues that may have caused a call in the past because they don’t want to be around first responders unnecessarily.
One of our favorite expressions is “we do what we do so that we can be there for you on your worst day”. We’ll keep on top of the EMS side of this virus and always be there for our residents. I can certainly tell you though that once we’re through this crisis, hopefully when a vaccine is developed, we’ll come out the other side with more experience than we ever wanted on virus protection and prevention.
Thanks for listening, this has been good to just get out on “paper”. If you don’’t see a post from me in a while, know I’m still around and out trying to do my part to get everyone through these times that have impacted all of us. Hopefully you have also decided that the quickest way back to normalcy is to adhere to the social distancing protocols and making smart decisions.
To leave everyone on a more upbeat note.