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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Noblesville firefighters to get extra layer of protection against COVID-19

"In this day and age, we have to pretty much figure everyone we come in contact has COVID or potentially has COVID."

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Noblesville firefighters responding to accidents and medical emergencies, which represent the vast majority of their calls, will soon have an added layer of protection, especially now with the pandemic.

"In this day and age, we have to pretty much figure everyone we come in contact has COVID or potentially has COVID," EMS Chief James Macky said.

Macky said instead of continuing to rely on disposable PPE gowns, which he said are becoming more expensive and harder to get, the department is buying 130 washable, reusable EMS suits with $149,000 from the CARES Act.

"Every firefighter is issued a set of gear to enter fire situations," he said. "This gear will be used specifically for EMS runs as protection against COVID and any kind of blood-borne pathogens, body fluids and those types of things."

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Macky said they actually had plans to get the additional protective gear before COVID became an issue.

"A lot of this came about because of cancer awareness in the fire service," he said, noting that firefighters have a higher incidence of cancer because of their exposure to smoke, various chemicals and carcinogens, which gets on their gear, boots and body.

"There's a big push within the fire service to be sure we decontaminate our gear and bodies to help prevent cancer," he said.

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But Macky added sometimes that's just not possible. When done with a fire, firefighters may be sent directly on an EMS run, which Macky said could potentially expose the people they're trying to help to the fire contaminants on their fire gear. Having the EMS suits will help. 

"We want to ensure we're protected, obviously, but that our community is protected as well," he said.

He said the department should receive its first shipment of the EMS suits in mid-February, with all of them delivered by the end of March.