Md. fire departments frequently disinfecting ambulances during COVID-19 crisis

Confronting the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland fire departments have stepped-up the frequency of disinfecting ambulances in order to keep patients and emergency medical responders safe.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service said that specialized decontamination units have been established outside each hospital in the county.

“These are teams of two firefighters that are specially trained. They will have the equipment necessary, and the appropriate disinfectant … to clean each and every unit,” Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer said.

He said that all transports to the hospital will get decontaminated upon arrival in an effort to lessen turnaround times, “our back-in-service times.”

According to procedure, when a patient is taken to any of six hospitals in Montgomery County, the transport vehicle is decontaminated by a special team, while the ambulance crew is inside the hospital completing the patient transfer.

Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., second from left, sanitizes the shoes of his fellow volunteer EMT workers Alexandra Sachs, center, and Katherine Weber, right, after he finishes spraying an ambulance before they go out on calls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., second from left, sanitizes the shoes of his fellow volunteer EMT workers Alexandra Sachs, center, and Katherine Weber, right, after he finishes spraying an ambulance before they go out on calls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington.

Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington.

Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington.

Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington.

prince George's county fire
A Prince George’s County Fire and EMS staff wears a hazmat suit. (Courtesy Prince George’s County Fire and EMS)

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Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., second from left, sanitizes the shoes of his fellow volunteer EMT workers Alexandra Sachs, center, and Katherine Weber, right, after he finishes spraying an ambulance before they go out on calls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Volunteer EMT Ronald Felix, a full time police officer for Montgomery County, Md., sanitizes an ambulance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
prince George's county fire

In Prince George’s County, each patient transport vehicle operated by County Fire and EMS is carrying decontamination equipment.

While Prince George’s County has not deployed decontamination units to hospital grounds, it has equipped each ambulance with necessary disinfectants.

“We have decontamination equipment in every, single one of our patient transport vehicles,” County Fire and EMS spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said.

The department conducts decontamination operations at each fire station, as well.

“We also have decontamination equipment at every, single one of our fire stations, and that process involves our providers putting on a hazmat suit,” Donelan said.

In previous weeks, ambulances were decontaminated after carrying a patient suspected of having the virus that causes COVID-19.

“We’re doing this on all calls now; we’re doing this decontamination process after every, single patient transport,” said Donelan. “This keeps our first responders safe and this keeps our patients safe.”

WTOP's Dick Uliano reports on how first responders have changed what they are doing.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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