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Cornelius News

First responders: There for us, with precautions

Nov. 3. By Dave Vieser. It’s been more than seven months since the coronavirus landed and a significant number of the changes implemented by Police, Fire and EMS Services, to protect both first responders as well as citizens, remain in place.

Some of them may be here to stay.

Town Manager Andrew Grant says the one of the biggest challenges has been coordination of services from both within and outside of Cornelius. “In addition to Police and Fire, 911 Communications, Animal Control, and Lake Patrol, this also meant coordination with our partner entities, such as MEDIC, Mecklenburg County and Meck County Emergency Management, as well as our hospital networks. I can’t say enough about the dedication of all our departments’ employees, especially our public safety staff who have been on the frontline of the pandemic.”

With the nation’s death rate inexplicably higher than COVID-19 data would suggest, the nation’s first responders are doubling down on coronavirus precautions and procedures. It could affect you in the event of an emergency.

Fire and Medic

Cornelius Fire Department Chief Guerry Barbee says that the Pandemic/COVID really changed the way they respond to medical emergencies. “We now require our firefighters to wear N95 masks and safety glasses to all medical emergencies. For calls where patients are experiencing COVID symptoms or are COVID positive our firefighters are required to wear an isolation suit to protect them from possible exposures.”


Barbee added that the suits and other equipment must be decontaminated after each call adding more work to the daily routine.

When asked if he thought these procedures would soon change, he said “not until a vaccine is approved and readily available to the public.”

One fire department change which has been rescinded was the county’s reduced response directive holding back fire apparatus from responding to medical emergencies. “That plan was put into place by Medic at the beginning of the pandemic, but now EMS dispatch procedures have returned to normal.”

It means residents who call for EMS/medical assistance may have a fire truck arrive first carrying medically trained personnel before the ambulance arrives.


Cornelius Police Chief Kevin Black says a similar move to additional Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has been implemented. “We now require Mandatory use of PPE on all medical calls. We also have mandatory daily temperature checks and screening of all personnel reporting for work, and our officers and employees are to wear masks when in public and are unable to social distance.”


Some dispatching changes have also been implemented.

Calls for police assistance (physical presence) are continuing to be screened to determine if the caller is experiencing any COVID symptoms, especially medical calls, prior to sending an officer. In addition, complaints/reports for minor incidents not requiring the physical presence of an officer are being handled by phone.

As to whether any of these changes may become permanent, Black said “mandatory use of PPE on medical calls may become permanent, as well as the continued screening of calls requesting in person police assistance. Ultimately, this will all depend on the release of an effective vaccine.”

One change which Black says has been discontinued involves police training.

“Initially we suspended in-person police training. However, as the situation continued into the fall we adjusted to requirements so we can now safely conduct the required state-mandated, in-service training.”