Indianapolis EMS Upgrades Protocols for COVID-19 Related Emergency Responses

IEMS uses personal protective headgear to reduce unnecessary exposure. IEMS photo

Effective Friday, April 3, Indianapolis EMS (IEMS) first responders will begin following upgraded status protocols for emergency medical responses to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The upgraded status means paramedics will use their training and expertise, in accordance with established protocols, to begin an early triage process on-scene, determining which patients could be best served by being treated and remaining at home. These decisions aim to help protect non-COVID-19-positive patients from unnecessary potential exposure at a hospital, while conserving critical care treatment resources for emergency departments to focus on those in greatest need during the pandemic.

As medical evidence points to a surge of COVID-19 patients in area hospitals in the coming weeks, Indianapolis first responders are working to ensure all citizens have rapid access to the appropriate emergency medical care during the current pandemic.

The new measures will help reduce burden on ambulance services and emergency departments said Dr. Dan O’Donnell, chief of Indianapolis EMS. “This is going to be a long process, and while we are not overwhelmed, we must make adjustments and further preparations to minimize potential strain wherever possible.”

Coordinating efforts at the Marion County Emergency Operations Center 24 hours a day, leaders from IEMS, the Indianapolis Fire Department, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are taking unprecedented steps to adjust protocols and respond to evolving conditions. Police officers, firefighters, and IEMS providers remain committed to serving residents while also helping to slow the spread of the virus. They are instructed to practice social distancing when possible, wash or sanitize their hands frequently, and wear the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate for each run.

More than 1,600 IMPD officers work in 78 beats across Indianapolis. More than 1,200 IFD firefighters serve neighborhoods from 43 fire stations. More than 350 emergency medical technicians and paramedics make up the IEMS workforce.

Indianapolis first responders who test positive for COVID-19 are self-quarantined at home and monitored for any progression of symptoms. Those individuals will return to work only after being medically cleared by a doctor. Firefighters, police officers, and IEMS providers who have worked in close proximity to someone infected with COVID-19 follow the State of Indiana Emergency Operations Center procedure with regard to notification, testing, and self-quarantine. These protocols aim to reduce transmission of the virus between first responders as well as to community members they interact with.

Residents are also encouraged to continue doing their part to stop the spread of the disease. Anyone in the community calling 9-1-1 is asked to be forthright with the dispatcher about any flu-like symptoms they, or any member of their family, may be experiencing—even if the dispatcher does not ask specifically. Residents should try to meet responders at the door or on the front porch if physically capable. This allows for a quick assessment in an open area and helps reduce risk of unnecessary exposure. Residents not currently experiencing an emergency but who have questions about COVID-19 are asked to call 877-826-0011.