An EMSSTAT paramedic stands in a white hazmat suit holding a paint sprayer in front of an EMSSTAT ambulance.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

An unlikely duo is fighting on the frontlines against the spread of the coronavirus. That duo is a paramedic and a paint sprayer.

EMSSTAT, the emergency services provider for the cities of Norman and Moore, is cleaning its ambulances after each use with a new process that involves spraying a virus-killing solution inside the ambulance using paint sprayers and foggers. The team who deep-cleans the ambulances is called the EMSSTAT Pit Crew. Paramedic Michael Combs had the idea for the pit crew and with help from the team created this new process.

The process of cleaning ambulances after each patient is important to help stop the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19.

“There is no call that is just a routine call. A patient who fell could be COVID positive,” Paramedic Kenny Hilburn said.

The Cleaning Process

The pit crew team begins by protecting themselves with personal protective equipment or PPE.

“When an EMSSTAT ambulance backs in to the ER our crews don on their chemical suit, N95 mask, gloves and safety glasses. Once the patient has been unloaded the crew goes to work,” Combs said.

The crew works from back to front using either a paint sprayer or a fogger to spray down the inside of the ambulance. The crew members never have to enter the ambulance since the sprayer reaches throughout the ambulance.

A timer is set for 10 minutes to let the virus-killing solution, called Virex, set. After the back portion is disinfected, a crew member will go into the cab of the ambulance wiping down the steering wheel, arm rest, radio, AC/Heat controls and other touched surfaces.

Spreading Safety

Not only is EMSSTAT cleaning its own ambulances using this process, it is also offering it to other ambulances who bring patients to a Norman Regional Emergency Room. In a 12-hour period, EMSSTAT cleans about 20 ambulances.

“The response has been very positive from all the services,” Combs said. “I explained to them we are doing this to protect them and their patients. I don’t want them to be going back to their service area in a truck that has not been cleaned thoroughly.”

McClain-Grady EMS is one of the local ambulance services who has had their vehicles cleaned by EMSSTAT, said Robin Robinson, assistant director at that agency.

“It was a huge relief to know the trucks were clean, especially when this pandemic first started," Robinson said. “Many supplies were on back order or sold out. Using the fogger and Virex was a great idea.”

In addition to the safety of patients, this process also gives paramedics and EMTS working on the frontlines peace-of-mind.

“I have all the confidence that my truck is clean and I’m able to work without fear of contracting the virus from an unclean truck,” said Matt Burleigh, a paramedic with EMSSTAT.

The idea for the pit crew cleaning came to Combs at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It is similar to a deep-cleaning method use to disinfect ambulance trucks, sort and date supplies and inventory items.

About EMSSTAT

EMSSTAT is the paramedic department of Norman Regional Health System, dedicated to the highest quality patient care, patient outcomes and community service. It provides service to Moore, Norman and surrounding communities — an area of approximately 400 square miles. EMSSTAT has an average of more than 16,000 calls for service yearly and increasing call volume each year. EMSSTAT has four stations throughout Norman and Moore to distribute coverage, with the hub at our Eastside Station north of Norman Regional Hospital on Robinson Street and Porter Avenue.

For more information please visit EMSSTAT’s webpage.