Last year, the Rowlett Fire Department launched Tele-Medic, a screening program that has helped both residents and the fire unit.
When the pandemic started in March, the fire department looked for options and resources to limit the exposure in the city. An EMS committee, which includes six personnel and a medical director met to discuss a solution to fire firefighters being sent out into the unknown. Firefighters Josh Brock and Jeremy Meyers developed the idea of a screening test which would have a list of medical approved questions to ask people.
“It allowed us to reduce the exposure to all of our firefighters and our paramedics and send the ones that were actually needed for that call,” Assistant Fire Department Chief Burney Baskett said. “And it worked very well. We still got it going on today and this is eight or nine months later.”
The Tele-Med program has helped firefighters know any possible COVID-19 symptoms at the location they may be dispatched to. Someone can call and be asked the screening questions in order to assess what possible contagious illnesses the firefighters would be exposed to. They would be transferred to the Tele-Medic team who works 24/7 to answer questions.
“It’s been a very good program for us. It’s been very effective and worked out very well. We save a lot of resources and a lot of exposure to our people,” Baskett said. “It gave our crews a heads up that this might be a contagious situation.”
Previously, an ambulance would be sent to anyone who would call the fire department for an emergency. Along with the Tele-Med program, the pandemic has also affected the amount of firefighters dispatched to a location. The COVID-19 response team is dispatched to locations and has additional procedures.
“It has allowed us to allocate our resources more effectively, allowed us to get them back into service faster, and it’s freed up resources for the other calls that are coming in. On the patient side, it gave them a lot more information about what maybe is going on with COVID-19, resources they would need, and what they would need to go to an emergency room,” Baskett said. “It was a lot of good information on whether they needed to be transported and it gave our guys more information about what they were walking into.”
The program has been helpful to the community and the firefighter department has considered continuing it with some adjustments after the pandemic. The program has also been nationally recognized by other firefighter departments for its reliable resources during the pandemic.
“We’ve been very receptive and so has the public. When you call 911, they’re transferred to another person and they’ve handled that very well,” Baskett said. “We’re very thankful for the patients and helping us get through this. It’s been very well received by the community so we’re happy about that as well.”