PHOENIX — These days it's just assumed when the Phoenix Fire's Rescue Squad responds to a call, it's for a COVID-19 patient. So they leave the station prepared and once on the scene first responders put on their personal protection equipment (PPE).
In Phoenix, there have been 675 COVID-19 calls since the department began counting in March. Those calls either meet the criteria from a 9-1-1 call or the signs and symptoms a first responder records at the scene suggest the patient may be infected with the virus.
"We're as resourceful as we can possibly be during this time when everybody is struggling to keep up with demand of PPE resources," Phoenix Fire Captain Frank Keller said.
The fire department uses a lot of PPE's and keeping up with the need has been a challenge. High demand, questionable quality and often inflated prices have forced Phoenix to look at every option.
"We follow all the safety guidelines," Keller said. "And under those guidelines we're allowed to use some type of barrier which is the rain poncho."
Clear plastic ponchos, 2,500 were purchased by the City. The ponchos are now part of the arsenal of protection first responders are using out in the field.
"We still have a mixed use of different types of materials we are using for PPE's," Keller said. "As we run out of one we get the next thing on the market and it's approved and safe to use for our members."
Phoenix is one of only a few cities currently using rain ponchos as protective gear. But fire officials say other departments may follow suit since the CDC says they are an effective way to protect against being contaminated.