Montgomery County deploys emergency medical ‘strike teams’

While 911 call volume in Montgomery County, Maryland, is generally down right now, if you do have an emergency, you might be assisted differently during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pete Piringer, the spokesman for the county’s fire and rescue department, said that with fewer people out in their cars, there’s less traffic and fewer accidents. Generally, people are doing a good job of talking to doctors and nurses about their health concerns over the phone or via video.

But when there is a 911 call, he said, the county has activated what it calls “EMS strike teams.”

Piringer explained that emergency medical technicians and paramedics are partnered throughout Montgomery County, ready to respond to 911 calls.

“If you call 911, and you’re feeling sick but it’s not a life-threatening situation, you may get a response from one of these units,” Piringer said.

The health care team will come visit, taking the standard CDC-recommended precautions, for a consultation.

“They’ll make sure you have the best possible medical care, which doesn’t necessarily mean going to the emergency room,” Piringer said, adding that the first response of the “strike team” will reduce the volume of patients coming into hospitals.

Piringer said that generally, emergency calls in the county are down 10% to 15%, but that now, most of the calls are related to COVID-19.

He asked residents to stay as calm as possible during this public health crisis, adding that people can take simple steps to prevent fire calls. “Normal day-to-day fire prevention is still very important,” Piringer said.

For instance, if you’re looking for something to do with some extra time at home, it’s a good time to make sure your smoke detector batteries are fresh. In addition, he said, the No. 1 cause of house fires is unattended cooking.

“There’s lots of opportunities for distraction right now with people out of their routines,” he said. “So if you are cooking, give it your full attention. Don’t walk away and forget about it.”

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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