New safety gear protects EMS workers

By Elena Cawley, Staff Writer Employees of the Coffee County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will now be safer while performing their duties thanks to new personal protective gear, announced EMS Director Michael Bonner. The department has also acquired new powered cots that will replace the manual cost previously used to transport patients, Bonner said. “We are very pleased with the new turnout gear,” Bonner said. EMS employees wear the protective clothing when responding to hazardous situations. The gear is also easy to see at night, which is important for the safety of EMS employees. “I feel very comfortable with the way it looks at night,” Bonner said, in referencing the new equipment. “Employees should be able to be seen.”

The new turnout gear meets National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1977 and NFPA 1951 standards, according to EMS Operations Manager Paul Tibbs. NFPA 1977 standards establish requirements for clothing to protect against the effects encountered by personnel performing wildland firefighting operations. NFPA 1951 standards establish requirements for EMS personnel involved in search, rescue, treatment, recovery, decontamination, site stabilization, extrication and similar operations, according to “EMS employees use the turnout gear in cases of car crashes or if they are in a hazardous area,” Tibbs said. “If they will be crawling in the vehicle, around broken glass, they would have the gear on. They would just slip it over their uniform.” The county has paid for the new protective gear, which has a price tag of $36,177, according to Tibbs. “We ordered 50 uniforms,” Tibbs said. “That covers our full-time personnel as well as our part-time personnel.” There are 33 full-time employees and 14 part-time employees working for EMS. “We started issuing the gear out today (Nov. 21),” Tibbs said. “The next few days, we will be issuing out the helmets. Once the helmets come in, we will issue them out as well.” EMS employees had similar protective gear before. However, this gear has an expiration date and can be used for a period of 10 years only. “These outfits are not recommended for use after 10 years because the material breaks down,” Tibbs said. “We ordered the new protective outfits because many of the older ones were close to reaching the expiration date. We want our people to be safe when they are in hazardous environments. And it’s a TOSHA (Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirement. When employees are going to be in a hazardous environment, they need protective clothing.” The new gear is lighter and not as bulky, which makes it easier for first responders to maneuver, according to Tibbs. Tibbs commended the ambulance authority for supporting the decision to purchase the new protective gear. “The turnout gear, as well as the new powered cots, are going to help and protect our employees,” he said. New powered cots In addition to having new protective gear, from now on, EMS employees will use powered cots, instead of the manual cots used until now. “The powered cots also came in,” Bonner said. “The new features make them pretty snazzy.” The county has purchased five cots from Stryker EMS for about $80,000. Bonner hopes the new powered cots will reduce the risk of back injuries for EMS employees. The new cots will allow the first responders to raise or lower patients with a touch of a button. All primary five ambulance units will have a powered cot.