During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that a number of vehicles operated by first responders will transport individuals with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. Here are guidelines to consider during disinfection to ensure that first responders and healthcare professionals are protected from infection from this deadly disease.

Whether using a police cruiser or ambulance to transport individuals, it is important that a policy is designed and implemented to ensure that routine cleaning is completed on a constant basis. By taking the time to put these actions to work, first responders can continue to keep themselves and others healthy.

What Is COVID-19?

To fully grasp the severity of the situation regarding the novel coronavirus, it is helpful to gain some perspective through knowledge of the disease. While information is being updated by the day, as of now leading scientists and medical professionals have learned that the novel coronavirus is a brand new strain of coronavirus – the same virus family that causes common colds and other severe respiratory infections such as SARS and MERS. 

Due to COVID-19 being a novel virus, this particular coronavirus poses a risk to the entire world population – as nobody has experience being infected and thus gained any kind of immunity. Studies from hospitalizations have shown that a small percentage who is infected may require hospitalization that can lead to death. This stark reality makes knowing what steps to take to avoid infection incredibly important. 

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to surge, it is likely that both healthcare and front-line first responders will quickly become overwhelmed with call to aid and transport individuals who are exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19. This has led to many precincts and hospital systems requiring new guidelines – in partnership with the WHO and the CDC – when responding to COVID-19 calls. These guidelines seek to keep both the patient being transported and those responding safe and healthy.

Guidelines for Vehicle Disinfection Following Transport of COVID-19 Individuals

Due to the high infection rate and the danger posed by the novel coronavirus, It is important to fully understand and implement a comprehensive disinfection and cleaning strategy after transporting individuals who may be suspected of having COVID-19. Compiled below is a step-by-step process for your consideration:

Wear All the Necessary and Provided PPE

Before cleaning, all EMS or first responders should be wearing full PPE protection to ensure that any presence of infection on surfaces or in the air are not inhaled or come into contact with the individual.

Immediately Open All Doors of the Vehicle

The first step to take once an individual who is suspected of having COVID-19 has been removed from the vehicle is to immediately exit and open all doors. This allows for full air exchanges throughout the vehicle.

Wipe Down and Sanitize the Entire Inside of the Vehicle

Once the doors are open and the air is flowing, take an EPA registered disinfectant and spray down the back seat area, the steel cage divider (if present), all seats, seat belts, steering wheel, air vents, and door handles. Let the disinfectant dwell for the amount of time recommended by the disinfectant and then wipe off with a clean cloth. This will ensure that any air droplets that may carry infection are destroyed throughout the vehicle.

Keep a Consistent Log of All Cleanings

In order to keep everyone involved abreast of this developing situation, it is vital to keep updated documentation of the cleaning and sanitation of vehicles. This may include checklists for cleaning, as well as a log of any vehicles that have responded to cases that have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Prepare Before Transport With Regular Cleaning Protocol

The best way to prevent infection from coming into contact with first responders – especially vehicles that transport multiple individuals such as ambulances – is to set up and maintain an increased sanitation regimen. This should include full sanitation cleaning prior to each trip to respond to a medical call, whether it is a suspected COVID-19 patient or not. 

This process should include using cleaners and water to fully disinfect the transport vehicle. The cleaner should be used to pro-clean the entire vehicle before using an EPA-registered disinfectant to fully sanitize commonly used and touched surfaces within the vehicle.

Increased Vigilance Means Saved Lives

While this method of added cleaning to the routine of first responders may seem excessive during a time when calls to respond are increased, the difference may mean lives saved – both of the patients being transported and those who are responding to the call for help. By developing and implementing a cleaning and sanitation regimen for both pre and post-travel across the board, first responders can continue to serve and treat patients in dire need while keeping themselves healthy to fight another day.