Crew members for the City of Sunrise Fire and Rescue normally ride out of station 72 into dangerous situations, but the details of their work have never mattered more than they do this spring.
Lt. Warren Stoeber and his team respond to P-36 calls. P-36 is the code for infection disease. This call Thursday, was an elderly woman with a fever and a cough. Her husband is already in a Broward County hospital diagnosed with COVID-19.
“There’s nothing to compare it to. Everything is just completely different. The extra safety precautions we have to take, we’ve never seen before," Stoeber said.
The crew suits up with gowns, gloves, masks and goggles for every call that could be positive for coronavirus. Stoeber calls the hospital what he has.
“This is what I signed up for. Absolutely. Of course we’re all crossing our fingers and doing everything that we can to play it safe," he said.
Sunrise Fire and Rescue Chief John McNamara tells NBC 6 total calls have gone down, the many traffic crashes that usually happen don't because of the stay-at-home orders. Now, they average around five COVID-19 calls a day and expect it to increase in the days ahead.
“Families are more concerned about their loved ones bringing this home but understanding that they have a job to do. It’s a very difficult balance. It’s one we’re confronting more now than probably we ever have before," McNamara said.
Normally the time from call in to the crew returns to the station takes an hour. Adding the safety equipment and precautions extends each call by 20 to 30 minutes.
Photos: How Sunrise Paramedics Respond to COVID-19 Calls
“One of things we’re challenged with today, is the uncertainty of this type of call moving forward," McNamara said.
After each call, the crews uses a decontaminate electrostatic spray to clean themselves and the vehicle. The same problems plague them as they do first responders across the country: supplies running out and manpower stretched.
Sunrise plans to start a tele-medicine triage system to understand more about each call before they arrive. Crews are learning new life as the country tackles COVID-19.