North Carolina First Responders Prepping for Coronavirus

Since Monday, law enforcement, emergency management, EMS and fire departments have been in briefings about what they can do to not protect only the community from COVID-19, but also themselves.

by Joyce Orlando, The Star, Shelby, N.C. / March 23, 2020
In this March 16, 2020, photo a North Charleston police officer carries a protective mask around his gun belt while working traffic at Roper St. Francis' North Charleston office in North Charleston, S.C. The coronavirus has the potential to profoundly change law enforcement in the U.S. as police departments are shifting resources and changing how they police while the virus strikes. AP

(TNS) -- First responders are getting ready to tackle the coronavirus if it should hit the county.

Since Monday, law enforcement, emergency management, EMS and fire departments have been in briefings about what they can do to not protect only the community from COVID-19, but also themselves.

"We feel that where we are at is good," said Cleveland County Emergency Management Director Perry Davis.

Preparation for the coronavirus started two weeks ago when communications departments in the county were given a script to ask those calling in with symptoms, Davis said.

Communications will ask if a person has been out of the country, if they are running a fever or have shortness of breath. This precaution ensures that only EMS responds to the call and limits exposure of other first responders, Davis said.

As the virus has spread more precautions have been put into place in all departments.

"All fire departments are being outfitted with gowns and mask if they encounter an individual with it," Davis said.

EMS personnel are already equipped with these.

"We want to make sure we are not exposing all of the first responders to this," he said.

On Wednesday, Emergency Management delivered signs to Atrium Health in Shelby and Kings Mountain to help direct patients exhibiting symptoms of flu or even the coronavirus to drive thru areas to be checked out, Davis said.

An area on Grover Street near the Shelby hospital was blocked off Wednesday afternoon, but there was no activity in the area.

On the law enforcement side, officers are taking small steps to ensure the safety of themselves, the public and their families, said Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford.

"We are trying to think of not just our staff but their families too," he said.

Like many they have canceled public events like their Citizens Police Academy, but they are doing little things like having officers change their clothes before heading home after a shift.

"We have been doing a lot of subtle internal prep," Ledford said.

Another way officers are limiting their exposure in Shelby is limiting some extra services they extended to the community like unlocking cars and helping motorist jump start cars. If people also need an incident of wreck report, they can call the police stations main number and a report will be emailed to them.

"We hope people are understanding," Ledford said. "We are going to take this day by day and keep our staff safe, their families safe and continue to serve and protect the public."

Joyce Orlando can be reached at 704-669-3341 or find her on Twitter @Star_J_Orlando.

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©2020 The Star (Shelby, N.C.)

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