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Monday, March 30, 2020

PPE and Masks

As Minnesota’s EMS, fire, and police departments respond to an increasing number of emergency medical calls related to the COVID-19 pandemic, their primary protection is their personal protective equipment (PPE). This is one time when the basics really matter. 

In the blink of an eye, these calls have gone from being high risk/low probability calls to high risk/high probability calls. Be sure your department has reviewed their procedures and recently trained with their PPE for everyone’s safety.

Some reminders:
  • Gloves need to be on before you leave the rig. Don’t wait to find out if you will need them or not. Review the procedure for putting them on — and particularly for taking them off.
  • Review how to put on and safely remove protective clothing. Unpacking gowns or face shields and masks from the bottom of a medical bag at 3 a.m. can be confusing and time consuming if it has not been practiced.
  • Be sure the PPE — particularly the face masks — fits correctly and your responders know what type of protection the mask they are using provides. As with the firefighters’ self-contained breathing apparatus, each responder should have a fit test for the mask they will wear on these calls. That test helps ensure the mask is making the correct seal with their face. Mustaches and beards will need to be shaved off or trimmed to maximize their protection.
  • Your responders need to know how to do a “user seal check” once their mask is on. This involves a positive pressure test and a negative pressure test. They should also know the signs of a mask not sealing and the steps they can take to correct a problem. Here is a very short video that demonstrates the process.
  • Finally, be sure your process for removing and discarding PPE is reviewed and the hazardous waste storage areas are in place. It is very easy to let down your diligence after a stressful call and not follow the protocols all the way through. 
The CDC has excellent guidance for EMS and fire first responders here.

The League of Minnesota Cities has consolidated its COVOD 19 information on our website here. This page contains a variety of resources and is continually updated.

Up next: More COVID-19 Updates

Stay safe,
Rob

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