COVID-19 FAQs: Is it safe to call 911?

Yes, health systems and EMS crews are well prepared to keep the community safe

Stephanie Tegtmeier, paramedic, stands by an ambulance in a face mask and paper gown. The graphics on the side of the ambulance in blue and white say F-M AMBULANCE and SANFORD HEALTH.

As Sanford Health clinics and hospitals updated safety measures for COVID-19, so did its ambulance services.

F-M Ambulance Service in Fargo, North Dakota, added personal protective equipment for employees and patients, screening questions for patients, and physical distancing when possible.

Employees work at least six feet apart. They also self-report any symptoms and check temperatures at the start of their shifts.

Related: COVID-19 jitters shouldn’t keep you from the ER

On calls, EMTs assess patients from six feet away. When they need to be closer, such as checking a patient’s pulse, blood pressure or lung sounds, EMTs stay to the side so they’re out of the patient’s direct line of breathing.

Ambulance calls are up

Now first responders are working hard to make sure the community is safe as summer begins and people emerge from self-quarantine. In fact, they’re setting records.

F-M Ambulance Service broke its single-day call volume record on June 16, responding to 132 ambulance calls. The previous record of 125 calls was set in June 2018.

“Call volume is measured every day. Over the last 17 years, the demand for the service we provide has grown as the population of the metro has grown and more public activities require an ambulance to be available,” said Wade Hockert, NREMT-P, manager of ambulance operations at F-M Ambulance Service.

“The call volume includes 911 calls, private requests for ambulance, special events, inter-facility transfers, out of town transfers, mutual aid requests, mass casualty incident responses and standby requests from our other public safety partners. These are actual events that require our staff and resources.”

Why more calls for 911

Typically, F-M Ambulance plans staffing for being able to fulfill 75 requests within a 24-hour period. So far for the month of June, the average call volume has been 100.65 calls per day. Hockert says F-M Ambulance is now staffing for more than 90 requests a day.

“Anecdotally, we can make some assumptions on the cause of the record number of calls. The first assumption can be attributed to COVID-19. Now that more people are no longer self-quarantining and are getting back out in public, we have seen our call volumes rebound,” Hockert said. “The second assumption is that it’s summer — we are seeing more than usual season influx of calls we usually get during the summer months.”

F-M Ambulance Service, owned by Sanford Health, is the only ambulance service in North Dakota accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS). It is the largest provider of emergency medical services in North Dakota and western Minnesota.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Emergency Medicine, Fargo, Frequently Asked Questions

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