Orange County EMS Prepares For Ebola Response

It’s not likely Ebola would show up in Orange County, but Emergency Services Director Jim Groves wants to be sure everyone on his staff is prepared, just in case.

New screenings are being put in place, starting with the information collected by 911 dispatch operators. Using what’s known as the Emergent Infectious Disease Surveillance tool, dispatchers will question callers about their travel history depending on the symptoms the callers report.

“What we’re trying to do there is not ask every single person that calls 911, ‘have you been traveling?’, but more specifically, when they present certain signs and symptoms we want to be able to narrow that down before we ever dispatch a responder out there, just to prevent any potential spread of an infectious disease.”

Groves says medical personnel will respond to calls as usual, but as a precaution, they’ll add a second round of questioning to patient interviews.

“Have [patients] truly been traveling to one of these suspect countries in West Africa? And if that is the case, have they potentially had the opportunity to come in contact with someone [with Ebola]? If anything indicates a positive answer on that, then our people will don appropriate personal protective equipment to be able to handle that patient,” says Groves.

Next week, Groves will meet with all stakeholders, including firefighters, public health workers, law enforcement officers and hospital staff to coordinate the way they will respond to calls that might potentially involve Ebola infection.

“We’re being as proactive as we can. We’re not going to limit our response to take care of the public,” says Groves. “Everything that we’re doing here is just to be prepared in case anything does happen here that we already have a plan, an agreement and a policy in place that we can handle this effectively.”

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has set up a website to help answer questions about Ebola:

The Carolinas Poison Center has also set up a public information hotline: 1-800-222-1222

OC EMS Works With Department On Aging To Keep Elderly Safe

ORANGE COUNTY-Recently, several local government departments have been focused on collaborating with each other—and for Orange County Emergency Services, that has meant working alongside the OC Department on Aging to help maintain safety in the area’s elderly residents.

OC Emergency Management Systems Operations Manager Kim Woodard says the two departments are currently working on a falls prevention program.

“It’s actually a collaboration between those two departments and UNC Hospitals,” she says. “It’s going to entail basically doing some home visits and some fall safety checklists to help prevent falls in the elderly population.”

With more than 100 employees, the OC Emergency Services Department is one of the largest departments in the county. Woodard says that makes collaborations like this one even more important.

“Emergency services in and of itself is taking four very specific professions and sort of merging them into one department: emergency management, the fire marshal life safety division, emergency medical services, and then we have the 911 side,” she says.

The falls prevention program isn’t the first time that OC Emergency Services has collaborated with another county department; Orange County EMS also just finished work with OC Social Services on a project entitled “Work First.” Woodard says the initiative was designed to keep qualified local residents employed by training them in EMT-related skills.

“We met with these folks and basically talked about how you become an EMT or paramedic, and then we walked them into the community college program that way,” she says. “Many of these folks were single parents who were down on their luck. They had to work with social services for financial assistance, and they had to be either volunteering their time or actually physically looking for work.”
As budget season approaches and the economy recovery slowly continues, many local government employees are thinking about their priorities and whether certain areas of their departments could be facing steep cuts. But OC Emergency Management Coordinator Darshan Patel says he’s optimistic that collaborations like these will be allowed to continue.

“There’s been a lot of discussion in recent times about response times and about the resources that emergency services has, and all that has culminated in a comprehensive approach to looking at the funding requirements for emergency services,” he says. “We feel that we have a strong support base in our commissioners, community partners, and municipalities to support emergency services and take us where we need to go.”

For more on Orange County Emergency Services, click here.