New 911 protocols

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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Residents urged to answer questions when calling for emergencies

COLUMBUS—As cases continue to rise around the region, Polk County Emergency Services has changed its response protocol in the last week. 

There were no new cases of COVID-19 in Polk County as of Tuesday morning, with 8 still confirmed as of Monday. 

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Emergency responders are continuing to take 911 calls, but callers are now being screened prior to arrival.  

“The mission of first-responders and EMS is to apply initial medical treatment when

someone calls 9-1-1. Under normal circumstances callers are asked a serious of

questions so emergency services personnel are prepared prior to arriving on scene,” said Polk County Emergency Management Director Bobby Arledge. “Due to the COVID-19 event, callers are now being screened to determine if there is a potential COIVD-19 related illness. This is to protect both the responding personnel, but also the hospitals, and ultimately the community. We cannot stress enough the importance of callers being as forthcoming as possible so we can keep everyone safe.”

People who call 911 until the COVID-19 has passed will now be asked if they are experiencing symptoms related to the virus, which include a fever of 100.4 degrees, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or coughing, or if they have traveled outside of Polk County to known hotspot areas such as California, New York, Washington or outside of the United States in the past two weeks. 

“Patient safety is important, and we must make sure our emergency responders are kept safe so they can continue to provide a high level of care in emergency situations,” Polk County EMS Director Michael Crater said. “When we are alerted of a potential COVID-19 call for help our teams will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) prior to contacting the patient to keep them safe and on the job, and they will proceed to transport patients wearing appropriate surgical masks to prevent further potential infection to others.”

Last week EMS responded to a patient who did not alert responders to their symptoms as being that of COVID-19 and the emergency responders treated the patient, then the patient tested positive for the virus. The responders were immediately quarantined and did not have any contact with anyone else. 

The Polk County Health and Human Services Agency urges all residents to take measures to reduce the spread of the virus by:

 Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.

 Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

 Avoid close contact with people who are ill.

 Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

 Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

 Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.

For more information about the coronavirus and to read the latest guidance on visit, or call the Polk County Message Line 828-722-5086.

People can also call 211 for information.