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Effingham County EMS enhances precautions during COVID-19 pandemic
Bob Summers
Effingham County EMS Operations Manager Bob Summers sprays a hospital-grade disinfectant into an ambulance Thursday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We operate as if everybody has it.
Bob Summers, Effingham County EMS operations manager
Bob Summers
EMS Operations Manager Bob Summers sprays disinfectant high and low inside an ambulance Thursday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Safety seeps into every nook and cranny of Effingham County EMS and its equipment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, EMS workers have been spraying the agency's five ambulances with a powerful disinfectant between uses. The disinfectant is transformed into a mist by an atomizer.

“We spray it into the back of the unit and the cab of the unit to kill the germs,” EMS Operations Director Bob Summers said Thursday. “The coronavirus is one of the things it kills, among others.”

After the interior of the ambulance, including the stretcher, is sprayed, the doors are closed.

“We wait about ten minutes for the mist to settle and do its job,” Summers said. “It doesn’t require a wipedown. It’s the same stuff that is used at the hospital.”

Summers said the disinfectant sprayings might remain part of the EMS routine even after the coronavirus is gone.

“It’s very possible because it keeps the units clean, keeps them sterile,” he said. 

Because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Summers doesn’t know if Effingham County EMS has transported a patient infected with the coronavirus.

“We operate as if everybody has it,” he said.

Before entering a residence during a call — except in the case of extreme emergencies — the paramedics and EMTS perform interviews designed to determine if someone inside might have highly contagious disease.

“We need to know if someone in the family has it or if they have been in contact (with a coronavirus victim),” he said. “We need to know if they have been out of the country or in a particular area before we go into the house.”

In additional safety efforts, the EMTs and paramedics keep spray bottles filled with disinfectant handy. They also wear disposable clothing, including masks.

At the end of their shifts, EMS personnel remove their uniforms and put them in a plastic bag before heading home. The paramedics and EMTs also shower and put on a new set of clothes before departing their station.

EDITOR'S NOTE: See the May 27 edition of the Herald for a special section dedicated to Effingham County's first responders.