Volunteer rescue departments prepare for coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 6:17 PM, Mar 19, 2020

MALVERN, Iowa (KMTV) — Emergency rescue departments in rural towns in Iowa are preparing for the spread of coronavirus to their communities.

Though there are no reported cases of coronavirus yet in Mills County, Malvern Volunteer Rescue is preparing for possible cases in southwestern Iowa.

"We're doing all we can to be ready for it," said Doug Shere, the Malvern Volunteer Rescue chief.

Earlier this week the department posted on Facebook changes they're planning to limit exposure to its staff. Moving forward, one volunteer will enter houses to do evaluations of a potential patient. If someone needs to go to the hospital they'll be brought on to the ambulance and the rest of the evaluation will be done there.

"This will help minimize the number of people coming in contact with the patient, reduce the number of minutes that we're in the confined spaces and will hopefully limit the number of crew members that are exposed," said Andrea Mills, the department's assistant chief, who has been with the department for 10 years.

"I think they have to protect themselves too and do whatever they can to protect the community," said Tom Mulholland, a Malvern business owner when discussing the role the volunteers play in keeping the community safe. "If they get sick, we're all in trouble."

Like so many small towns, supplies and resources will be the department's biggest hurdle. Currently the department has all the supplies it needs. However the department doesn't keep a lot of supplies on hand because supplies can always be order ordered but that could soon change.

"I foresee us probably running out of supplies in the future and see us not being able to get them," Mills said.

If exposed to the coronavirus, the volunteers will be required to quarantine for 14 days. There are 12 people on staff at Malvern Volunteer Rescue so even if one or two people are quarantined it will affect the entire department

"If we have 3 of us that stay in the house for two weeks, it really puts our response team down to a minimum," Shere said.

Until the outbreak hits Malvern, the volunteer group is planning to do whatever it takes to help out a fellow neighbor.

"When things like this arises everybody bands together and we do what we can to help each other out," Mills said.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman's story in the above video.

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