Photo courtesy of the Hoover Fire Department.
The Hoover Fire Department practices a response to an Ebola call.
On Nov. 4, the Hoover Fire Department practiced its newly developed response to Ebola. The drill began with a fake phone call to 911. When the “patient” described Ebola-like symptoms, HFD medical director Dr. Sarah Nafziger and EMS director David Hambright were conferenced into the call. After receiving information from dispatch, firefighters at Station 3 responded with hazmat suits and other equipment to take care of the patient and safely transport him to a local hospital without exposing themselves to the disease.
HFD Executive Director Rusty Lowe explained more about the drill and Hoover’s preparations for the possibility of Ebola.
Is our area at risk for Ebola?
Lowe said there is only a “remote chance” that Ebola could make its way into Hoover or surrounding areas. Airports are creating better screening measures and the disease is not airborne, so it can only spread through contact with an infected person’s body fluids.
“There’s been a lot of hysteria about Ebola,” Lowe said. “It’s a very minimal threat here in Hoover.”
So why is the fire department running an Ebola preparedness drill?
It’s just a precaution. Lowe said the HFD tracks global health concerns and creates response plans even if the risk to Hoover residents is slim. He noted the department also has protocols for previous health scares such as avian and swine flus and seasonal problems like heat stroke.
“Since there is a minimal threat out there, we have to be prepared for any situation out there that might arise,” Lowe said. “We just have to be prepared for all hazards.”
The drill was a chance to test out the protocols that the HFD had created with the help of the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
“It was training we felt like we had to do,” Lowe said. “We don’t expect to use it, and we hope we don’t have to.”
How do you feel about the fire department’s ability to respond to Ebola?
“We’re more comfortable with our protocol now because we’ve tested it and our men have been through the drill,” Lowe said.
He said the drill exposed some areas where they need to improve, but overall it went well and the fire department feels ready to handle Ebola or a similar infectious disease.
What should people be worried about?
Ebola may have flu-like symptoms, but the real influenza is more likely to hospitalize Hoover residents.
It’s currently flu season, and a viral disease called enterovirus D-68 is also causing serious illnesses in children in several other states. Lowe said he’s far more concerned with these infections than Ebola. So get your flu shot, wash your hands regularly and don’t worry too much about Ebola.