Durham changes emergency response requirements during coronavirus pandemic

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fewer first responders may arrive for certain emergencies in Durham due to new guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus has changed so many things around the world over the last few months. Now, Durham County and the City of Durham are changing response requirements for certain emergency calls.

Get the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina.

Firefighters will now only respond to the most critical medical emergencies. Critical medical emergencies are things like cardiac arrest and motor vehicle accidents.

EMS will continue to respond to all medical emergencies and can still call fire crews if additional aid is required.

The changes are designed to help limit first responders exposure to COVID-19.

"The less (sic) number of responders we have going to something the more chance we keep people available," Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi said.

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Durham Emergency Services Director Jim Groves said the changes will reduce first responder exposure by 50 percent without changing response times to urgent calls.

Crews will also now arrive on scene wearing gowns, masks, eye wear and gloves.

"They are stepping up and showing up and they are responding to this community as if nothing has changed-other than how they look when they arrive and walk in the door," Groves said.

By reducing the number of first responders at non-urgent calls each division is also helping to preserve the amount of personal protective equipment available for use.

"These temporary changes are in response to the COVID-19 crisis that has gripped the nation, and will only be for the duration of the pandemic," Durham County EMS Assistant Chief Van Vleet said. "We continue to urge our residents to stay home during this time, and only travel for essential needs, such as food and medical appointments. Together, we can slow the spread of this virus and return to normal as soon as possible."

Volunteer fire departments in Durham County will continue to assist on calls as needed.

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