October 30, 2014
To: All Members of Local 867
From: Derek Balcaen, fire Fighter Paramedic, Executive Board Member
As everyone is undoubtedly aware, the Ebola virus has been front page news for quite some time now. As front line fire and EMS response crews, we have had to re-visit and in some cases create new ways of dealing with these types of calls in order to ensure our safety.
I am writing this memo as an update to the membership on the ongoing preparations and training that we have undertaken in partnership with WFPS, WRHA, and MGEU L911, and WFPSOA.
Here is what we all need to know about the Ebola virus:
-It is transmitted from person to person through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person. (Contact with your eyes, mouth, nose, cuts, etc.)
-It is only transmittable while the original carrier is symptomatic (fever, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.)
-Proper hand washing after contact with any patient is vital
-Supplies of N95 masks, gowns and kits for the truck should be in the halls now
Please make sure all crews are familiar with the Ebola Virus Disease Response EOP 3.04. Since we all know the possibility exists for our crews to unknowingly come in contact with an infected patient on a call, this EOP contains vital information including signs & symptoms of Ebola, proper PPE usage and details of how those calls would be handled. It also explains in what cases our fire crews would be called on to transport a designated sealed Ebola ambulance from HSC to the call location.
An important change to our routine PPE will now include wearing safety glasses on every medical call, and an N95 mask close at hand (e.g. in your shirt pocket). This practice should become as routine on calls as wearing gloves is now. This will be our “new normal” minimum PPE requirement for any and all patient interactions.
Every crew member should have a personal pair of safety glasses, and stores has been advised to provide them without question or point deduction. We are currently also selecting new models of personal issue glasses with cases that will better protect you from fluid spatter. These will also be made available to everyone without cost as soon as stores receives them.
A vital component for success in our response is adequate training. I’m glad to report the department will be providing practical in-station training to every member of our crews starting this week. This training will cover all aspects of our Ebola response including practical donning and doffing of the full PPE required in suspected infected patient calls. This PPE will become a permanent addition to our gear, as it will help protect us in all cases of suspected infectious disease or significant fluid contamination.
Another important development is the ability to test a possible carrier’s blood and get results from the virology lab within 1-3 hours. This is very important to note, because it has been discussed that a suspected carrier in stable condition could be isolated in their home while this blood test is performed, thus limiting needless full-precaution transports.
A new piece of decontamination equipment is also on its way to our fleet. A “Misting” machine has been secured for the department that will be able to decontaminate the inside of ambulances, as well as the cabs of our fire trucks within approximately 30 minutes.
A story that reinforces the importance of proper PPE usage comes from the Dallas FD crew that responded, treated and transported the first reported case of Ebola in the United States. They were with that patient for an extended period of time in the patient’s home and in the unit where they also started an IV. Because of their diligence with their gear, proper PPE usage and hand washing, that fire-paramedic crew did not contract the virus. It is notable their PPE consisted of gloves, eyewear, and mask only.
I would like to thank the various Ebola work groups for their ongoing diligence in creating and adapting our response protocols. This is a large task and the collaboration with management and the various groups has been appreciated.
Other important memos to review with your crew:
-Ebola Virus Response EOP 3.4
-Personal Protective Equipment SP 9.0
-Exposure Protocol GOG, Safety 2.2.4
Please do not hesitate to reach out for any clarification or discussion on the above information.
Executive Board Member
United Firefighters of Winnipeg