King County fire agencies prepare for response to COVID-19

Fire agencies across King County continue to collaborate closely with Public Health, King County Emergency Services and department Medical Directors to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak. Agencies are taking appropriate safety measures to protect their personnel while continuing to respond to medical emergencies.

Uniform and civilian fire personnel have received general information on how to prevent transmission of the virus, which aligns with recommendations provided to the public:

  • Regular use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer covering all surfaces of the hands and rubbing them together until dry will decrease risk that the virus is transmitted to you or other people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

Firefighter/EMTs and paramedics play a key role in the response to this virus, as they respond to treat sick patients. Fire departments have put various measures in place to help prevent the spread of the virus locally, which starts when someone calls 911. Dispatchers are asking additional questions regarding travel and advising appropriate protective equipment to responding crews when a patient presents with symptoms that could be from COVID-19 disease. When responding crews arrive on scene, they are taking extra care when entering the home, treating the patient and transporting (if required). Once the response is complete, firefighters and paramedics are instructed to follow specific, thorough decontamination procedures before providing care to another patient.

Transporting patients who present symptoms of the COVID-19 virus to a hospital will be avoided whenever possible unless the patient’s symptoms are severe. The Emergency Room will be briefed on the arriving patient prior to their arrival, so the hospital can take necessary action on their end. Members of the public who think they may have contracted the virus and are in stable condition should consult with their primary care physician via telephone, instead of calling 911.

Note: Media should reach out to fire department’s individually for their specific response procedures. Public Health will continue to be the contact for confirmed cases of COVID-19 in King County.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kristin Tinsley, Seattle Fire Department, sfdpio@seattle.gov