On the front lines: How Ansonia ambulance crews protect themselves from coronavirus


ANSONIA, Conn. (WTNH) — When News 8 visited the headquarters of Ansonia Rescue Medical Services (ARMS), three crews were out on calls. One of those was a COVID-19 call to a home where someone had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The crew had to rush the patient to Griffin Hospital. ARMS Assistant Chief Ryan Hunt allowed NEWS 8 to go with him to the hospital. He wanted to make sure his paramedic was okay.

“We’re on our way to help with the decon,” Assistant Chief Hunt said.

Decon is short for decontamination. After each possible COVID-19 call, the first responders go through a process to make sure they don’t possibly carry the virus with them back to headquarters or back home when work is over.

“To kill any potential virus or bacteria that may’ve gotten on their suit over the course of treating the patient,” Hunt said.

The first thing that happens is the first responder, in his Personal Protection suit, is not allowed to leave hospital grounds unless he is sprayed first — all over. The spray decontaminates the suit.

While that’s going on, another member of ARMS is fogging, or decontaminating the ambulance, with more spray. They disinfect the ambulance after each crew uses it.

Then the paramedic who responded to the call is cut out of his suit — from the back.

“We cut the suit from the back to make sure that it’s being peeled forward so we’re not unzipping it from the front and getting any potential contaminants on our uniforms,” Hunt said.

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Once the suit is peeled off, it’s rolled up into a ball and disposed of in a biohazard bag. Then, the paramedic’s hands are sanitized — instantly.

Back at headquarters, they have a special powder and a black light that can pick up any places where there still may be some germs on the paramedic. The paramedic also has to stand in a device that washes or disinfects the bottoms of their shoes for 20 seconds. This ensures that they aren’t literally walking the virus into their workplace.

They also immediately check their temperature.

This is the new norm for many first responders on the front lines. Assistant Chief Hunt said the threat of getting the virus while trying to help others definitely adds stress to their already stressful jobs. It’s one reason why so many steps are being taken to protect those who protect all of us.

“Every call we go on we’re treating it as a potential for this virus,” he said. “We’re trying to get through. We’re doing the best we can.”

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