The Monroe fire department is the only local fire department that will not answer medical emergency calls during the COVID-19 crises.
In light of the growing number of Coronavirus cases in the area, Monroe Police Chief Terry Williams, told the city council last week that the top officials of the fire department have decided not to respond to medical emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes, shortness of breath or other non-fire related calls during the Coronavirus crises.
He said residents will not be without service because local ambulance services will still respond.
Many 911 calls involve stroke, and heart attack calls. Usually, Monroe fire trucks arrive critical minutes before ambulance services because they are strategically located throughout the city.
Williams with the concurrence of Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said, “We will still respond to any fire-related call” but it will not respond to non-fire related calls.
Survival rates of Heart attack, no-breathing, and stroke victims is increased if help arrives quickly. Often the Monroe Fire Department, which has trained EMS professionals in every unit, arrives at a home several life-saving minutes before the ambulance.
However, Williams said the COVID-19 virus exposes first responders to contact with possible carriers. He said the department does not have the proper equipment to protect the firefighters from exposure to the virus so Monroe will no longer answer non-fire related 911 calls.
While Monroe, which is a Class 1 fire department, won’t answer calls, other local fire departments will still answer. The fire chiefs of both the West Monroe Fire Department and the Ouachita Parish Fire Department will continue to answer all 911 calls, regardless to Monroe’s decision.
Chief Williams said the city will allow Acadian Ambulance Service to handle medical emergency calls. He said he has confident the company with its 23 ambulances can handle the calls.
On any 911 call, both the ambulance and the fire truck arrive at a scene. On some occasions, the ambulance will arrive at a residence before the fire truck, but fire department’s rapid response time often beats ambulance response time by several life-saving minutes.
Williams told the council that its policy may be reviewed at a later date.
Ironically, ambulance drivers and first responders are exposed to the same risk of COVID exposure as firefighters.
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”